Overview and Intended Audience
This section includes guidance for admissions officers, admissions committees, and interviewers regarding ideas for conveying your school’s culture in a virtual context both in and outside of the interview process. This section covers the following topics:
- Medical school website
- Medical School Admission Requirements™ (MSAR®)
- Social media
- Structured virtual social events
- Second look days
- Preparing for virtual interviews
Your medical school’s website is the primary resource for potential applicants to find information. It is important to ensure that the website has updated and accurate information (e.g., deadlines, contact information). It is also helpful to include information on the following, if available:
- Medical school leadership.
- Featured news.
- Faculty profiles.
- Departments and centers.
- First-, second-, third-, and fourth-year curriculum.
- Alumni pathways and historical match rates.
- Key initiatives.
- Strategic plan.
- Community information.
The website may also include videos that showcase the facilities, town, and people associated with the medical school such as faculty, current students, and staff. This allows applicants to get a sense of the school’s culture and environment before interviewing.
Since social media has become a part of modern culture, the preferred social media platforms have continued to change and evolve. Considering this, it is recommended that medical schools confirm which platforms are most popular with the majority of their applicants in a given application cycle and hone their social media efforts accordingly. By actively utilizing these channels, medical schools can share content that focuses on the educational experiences and daily lives of current medical school students, giving applicants valuable insights into their future journey in a way that’s easily digested by their target audience. While research and educational content remain important, additional efforts should be made to showcasing the medical school’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. As Strumpf, et al., reported in 2023, underrepresented in medicine applicants place significant importance on an institution’s social media presence when making decisions about attending. Therefore, leveraging social media offers an opportunity for medical schools to not only inform, but also engage with, a wider audience of prospective students.
The table below provides ideas for digital substitutes that can be used to address common applicant questions:
|Common In-Person Applicant Questions||Digital Substitutes|
Does the medical school curriculum support research?
Is there a community among the medical students and do they have time for extracurricular activities?
What is it like to live in the medical school’s city or community?
Structured Virtual Social Events
Applicants highly value opportunities to gain insights into medical schools through structured virtual social events. These events provide a platform for applicants to interact with current medical students in an informal setting, free from the pressures of the admissions process. By engaging in such events, applicants can better grasp the unique culture and atmosphere of the medical school. While the nature of these events may vary depending on available resources, here are some examples that schools may consider implementing:
- Virtual breakout rooms. These smaller group settings create a welcoming environment where applicants can comfortably ask questions and engage in discussions.
- Student-led social hours. By excluding faculty, applicants can freely connect with current medical students and gain authentic perspectives on the student experience.
- Open discussion sessions. Incorporating preformatted discussion topics along with dedicated time for applicant questions allows for both structured and spontaneous interactions.
To further foster open communication, schools may also consider offering an anonymous survey where applicants can submit questions they may feel hesitant to ask openly. This provides an additional avenue for applicants to seek information while respecting their privacy and comfort levels.
Second Look Days
(This option may not be feasible for institutions that participate in a TMDSAS match.)
If you wish to maintain virtual interviews while providing applicants with an opportunity to experience an in-person visit, an alternative to consider is the implementation of a “second look day.” In a survey conducted by the AAMC among American Medical College Application Service® applicants who were invited to interview in February 2023, it was evident that applicants have a genuine desire to visit medical schools and their communities in order to better understand and appreciate their culture and fit. Similarly, medical schools also aim to welcome applicants to their campuses and communities for the same reasons.
Applicants expressed that they could effectively assess culture and fit by visiting medical schools of interest after receiving acceptance offers. By limiting these visits to admitted students only, the equity of the admissions process would not be compromised. Moreover, this approach would alleviate the financial burden and environmental impact associated with unnecessary travel. Importantly, these visits could be conducted without any influence on admissions decisions.
Implementing a second look day provides a valuable opportunity for admitted applicants to have a more comprehensive understanding of the medical school they may join. It allows them to interact with faculty, staff, and current students, and explore the campus and surrounding community. By tailoring these visits to admitted students, medical schools can strike a balance between accommodating applicant preferences and maintaining an equitable and efficient admissions process.
Additional Considerations When Preparing for Virtual Interviews
Below are some considerations for preparing for virtual interviews, in particular, regarding the environment in which you conduct the interview and the use of technology.
Identify a suitable environment:
- Identify a private, quiet, and well-lit space where you can complete the interview by yourself. The space should be free of potential distractions and where you can speak freely. To the extent possible, make sure you have control over the background noise.
- Make sure enough light is available (e.g., window, lamp) so the applicant can see you clearly. If you’re doing the interview at night, make sure there’s a lamp available that can light up your face.
- Consider the backdrop you will use during your interview and try to keep it neat and free of distractions.
- Have an outlet nearby in case you need to plug in your device.
Practice using technology:
- Check your microphone and camera to make sure they’re working well and that both the picture and sound are good quality.
- Check your internet speed. You can do this it at SpeedTest.net. Sometimes switching from Wi-Fi to a wired ethernet connection improves your internet speed. If your home’s internet connection is too slow, consider using a space at your school where you can do the interview in a private room with stable Wi-Fi.
- Note how the camera and microphone are positioned so you can recreate a setup that works when you log in to the system to complete your actual interview.
- Make a trial call to someone you know to practice using the software program you will use for the interview and collect feedback on your audio and video.
Peer-Reviewed Articles About Conveying School Culture in a Virtual Context
- Brian R, Wang JJ, Park KM, Karimzada M, et al. Virtual interviews: assessing how expectations meet reality. J Surg Edu. 2022;80(2), 200–207.doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2022.09.019. Epub 2022 Oct 12. PMID: 36241482.
- Finney N, Stopenski S, Smith BR. Applicant perspectives of virtual general surgery residency interviews. Am Surg. 2022;88(10), 2556–2560. doi: 10.1177/00031348221103658. Epub 2022 May 24. PMID: 35610972.
- Huppert LA, Hsiao, EC, Cho, KC, et al. Virtual interviews at graduate medical education training programs: determining evidence-based best practices. Acad Med. 2020;96(8), 1137–1145.doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000003868. Epub 2020 Dec 8. PMID: 33298691.
- Lee, E, Terhaar S, Shakhtour L, et al. Virtual residency interviews during the covid-19 pandemic: the applicant’s perspective. South Med J. 2022;115(9), 698–706.doi: 10.14423/SMJ.0000000000001442. PMID: 36055658; PMCID: PMC9426311.
- Ponterio JM, Levy L, Lakhi, NA. Evaluation of the virtual interviews for resident recruitment due to covid-19 travel restrictions: a nationwide survey of us senior medical students. Fam Med. 2022;54(10), 776–783.doi: 10.22454/FamMed.2022.592364. Epub 2022 Sep 6. PMID: 36350742.
- Robinson KA, Shin B, Gangadharan SP. A comparison between in-person and virtual fellowship interviews during the covid-19 pandemic. J Surg Edu. 2021;78(4), 1175–1181.doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2020.11.006. Epub 2020 Nov 20. PMID: 33250429; PMCID: PMC7678431.
- Singh A, Haddad AG, Krupp, JC. Reply: covid-19, virtual interviews, and the selection quandary: how a program’s digital footprint influences the plastic surgery match. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2022;149(6), 1263e–1264e.doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000009109. Epub 2022 Apr 25. PMID: 35468102.
- Steele TN, Prabhu SS, Layton RG, Runyan CM, David LR. The virtual interview experience: advantages, disadvantages, and trends in applicant behavior. Plast Reconstr Surg Glob Open. 2022;10(11), e4677.doi: 10.1097/GOX.0000000000004677. PMID: 36438459; PMCID: PMC9681621.
- Strumpf Z, Miller C, Abbas KZ, Livingston D, Shaman Z, Matta M. Year two of virtual interviews: longitudinal changes and diverse perspectives. BMC Med Edu. 2023;23(1), 41. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12909-023-04009-6