How to Answer the “Tell Me About Yourself” Med School Interview Question

July 9, 2024
7 min read


Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 12/4/23

Talking about yourself can be difficult, even in a medical school interview. Read on to learn how to answer the ‘tell me about yourself” question for medical school. 

When preparing for medical school interviews, one of the most challenging questions seems to cause anxiety for prospective interviewees. However, it does not have to be this way. 

With ample preparation and following these tips, you can learn how to answer this question thoughtfully in a medical school interview, and can help you stand out. 

How to answer tell me about yourself med school
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How to Answer “Tell Me About Yourself”

This med school question is common in all traditional interviews. “Tell me about yourself” is also common in PA school interviews. When preparing for this question, put things in perspective first.  

As the AAMC puts it, 

“When you’re invited to an interview, you should feel confident — it means you’ve already impressed interviewers with your strong personal statement, letters of evaluation, and academic history.”

Even if you only pick a few experiences/extracurriculars to include in your life story, these experiences will focus on what is important to you and show your character. The interviewers will see how you respond under pressure, react in unfamiliar situations, and interact with strangers, all in a matter of minutes. 

You must dress appropriately for the interview because this can also determine how well you do! 

Female student being interviewed by man and woman

Eventually, as a medical student, you will have to deal with patients, doctors, nurses, and teams of medical staff. The interviewers are looking for traits such as empathy, discipline, and many other qualities needed to be a successful doctor, as reflected by the AAMC’s Core Competencies.  

It is okay to talk about your upbringing or early youthful experiences if this impacted or shaped you significantly. It’s essential to start thinking about how to talk about yourself early in the process. 

Follow our tips below to help you formulate your response to this question.


Think carefully about your experiences. What are your interests and passions, and what gets you excited? What makes you unique? You can offer personal details not in your CV or personal statement. You want to be memorable. 

Think about your life and choose a few personal experiences that will show how these experiences have shaped you. You can ask yourself:  

  • What started my journey to become a doctor? 
  • What experiences cultivated and furthered my interest in medicine? 
  • What are my greatest passions? 
  • What do I, specifically, bring to the table that other applicants may not? 

Most people are not used to talking about themselves. You do not want to come across as boastful. However, you do not want to act too bashful. You want to talk about your accomplishments without bragging. 

Brainstorm for med school interview

Interviewers want you to succeed if you become a student at their medical school. Speaking confidently shows them you are a good fit for their school

Showcasing your traits like being a good problem solver, liking a challenge, or thriving in a fast-paced environment using concrete examples is helpful. 

When you show them that you can handle stress and uncertainty, you show them your character as someone who would succeed in a medical career.

Select Two or Three Main Experiences 

Pick two or three main experiences from your brainstorming list. The goal is to show your strengths and offer the interviewer proof of why you would be an excellent doctor. Communicating your experiences with impressive storytelling can show your best self and leave a lasting positive impression. 

med school interview selection

Use Your Experiences to Respond 

Use your two or three experiences to generate a thoughtful response. Your answer should not be longer than about 90 seconds. Keep it brief; if the interviewer or panel wants to follow up by asking you for more information, they will. 

med school interview brainstorm tips

Consider talking about your most impactful experience first if it makes sense for your response. 


Practice answering questions in front of a mirror to get comfortable. Time your response so it is not too long, and give yourself time to get used to telling your story. 

Once you review your response a few times, it will start to flow and be natural. 

You may want to have a list in point form jotted down to refer to while practicing. That way, your experiences are not memorized, but you will not forget them. Just remember to be yourself.

rehearse for med school interview

Timing is everything, and so is preparation for your med school interview. You may want to practice your response so you do not speak too quickly. If you are at all nervous, this can happen. 

You might also want to practice answering other questions, such as those related to your weaknesses, so that you’re better prepared for the interview

Practice does make perfect, so allow time to practice. Mock interviews can help you ace med school interviews by reducing nervousness while you answer other frequently asked questions besides “tell me about yourself.”

You do not want to ramble on in the interview and lose your focus. You want to be brief and honest while sounding unrehearsed.

Although You’re Rehearsing, Avoid Memorizing

Don’t memorize your answer, as it may sound stilted. It’s a great idea to rehearse with a professional to avoid sounding monotone. An interview coach can give you expert feedback on whether or not your answer to “tell me about yourself” for your medical school interview works. 

A professional can identify weaknesses in your story and help you tell your experiences powerfully. 

Avoid Rambling and Telling Your Life’s Story

You know how to respond to ‘“tell me about yourself,” but it can be difficult to keep it succinct, especially if you’re nervous. Telling your whole life story is not what the interviewer wants from this question: avoid unnecessary tangents or elements that don’t relate to who you are. 

Don’t Linger on Your Childhood

While giving some background is important, you don’t want to spend all your time talking about how you dreamt of being a doctor in grade two. 

It’s not the most interesting use of your time: give a quick overview of your background, but ensure you talk about your recent most meaningful achievements, what you like to do now, and what you’re most passionate about. 

Talk About Your Current Goals

You should talk about what you’re doing now, but don’t neglect how you prepare for the future. Do you want to complete your residency in dermatology, cardiology, or another field? What are you doing now to help you toward that goal? 

Remember, the famous med school “tell me about yourself” question can also relate to who you’re trying to become, not just who you are right now. 

5 Medical School “Tell Me About Yourself” Sample Answers

These sample answers can help you understand what your response can look like. Although these sample answers will undoubtedly differ from your answers, they can help you formulate your response. 

Young woman shaking hands with man in office

Sample 1

  • Beginning: I lived in a small town in Michigan on the shores of the Great Lake Huron as a young boy.
  • Middle: I delivered newspapers door to door every Saturday morning to the majority of senior residents in my neighborhood. Some seniors gave me homemade cookies and were so appreciative of my service, especially during blustery winter snowstorms.
  • End: This experience gave me a sense of community and helping others. Later in college, I volunteered in the local hospital’s geriatric department because of my fondness for seniors. My current goal is to provide the best possible end-of-life care to seniors of underrepresented populations. My compassion and respect for our aging population have inspired me to become a doctor who specializes in palliative care. 

Sample 2

  • Beginning: I grew up the son of a pediatrician in the western African country of Cote D’Ivoire, where my parents worked as missionaries.
  • Middle: Living within a different culture and a French-speaking one made me open to new cultural experiences. I saw first-hand how doctors improved a child’s health and life with a simple diet and routine sanitary procedures. My father died of malaria before the age of 60, and it impressed upon me the urgency to make my life goals count.
  • End: I want to become a doctor because of my father. I want to become a pediatrician and help disadvantaged children because I saw how better access to healthcare could improve the quality of life of patients and the community. I volunteered in a clinic with premature babies and babies drug-addicted at birth a few years ago. My experiences in the NICU have led me to an interest in obstetrics, and ensuring all mothers and babies are cared for, regardless of socioeconomic status. 

Sample 3 

  • Beginning: I lived in a multigenerational household on the outskirts of Minneapolis from a young child until I left for college. Living with eight other family members, our house was always loud and full of life. 
  • Middle: My mother worked as a nurse, and my father would often bring me to the hospital with him to pick her up after shifts. I spent a lot of time interacting with staff and patients, often trying to show them any new magic tricks I was practicing. 
  • End: My exposure to the healthcare system and the interactions I had with patients stuck with me throughout my middle and high school careers. I want to become a doctor who puts patient care and empathy at the forefront of every interaction. Volunteering at [hospital name] in college allowed me to interact with patients of all ages, backgrounds, and personalities. My experiences at [hospital name] have inspired me to pursue family medicine, where I can act as a friendly, supportive physician to all. 

Sample 4 

  • Beginning: I lived in New York City with my grandparents from three years old. My parents were out of the picture, and the court awarded my grandparents custody of me. 
  • Middle: I fondly remember baking cookies with my grandmother, playing chess with my grandfather on hot summer days, and cozying up to read books by the fire during long winters. When I was 13, my grandfather suffered from a heart attack. I remember feeling like I was sinking into the dark as I sat in the waiting room. The attending doctor took the time to explain what had happened and what may happen next. Thankfully, my grandfather made a full recovery, and I was filled with hope and comfort as the physician gently explained next steps. 
  • End: My initial introduction to cardiology inspired me to shadow a cardiologist and cardiothoracic surgeon in college. I have volunteered with the American Heart Association and worked for 2 years in a local hospice. My personal experience and volunteer work has inspired me to become a cardiothoracic surgeon – I aspire to be like the physician who gave my grandfather a second chance at life.

Sample 5 

  • Beginning: I was 11, and my family had just moved to Tennessee after living in Boston for my entire life. With a mom and dad and four older brothers, I was always “the baby” of the family. 
  • Middle: During our second week, I woke up suddenly in agony, unable to move my leg. I shouted over to my mom, feeling confused and helpless. I met with dozens of specialists looking for answers. However, no one was able to diagnose me; the hospital became a revolving door. Finally, Dr. [name] took an enthusiastic approach to my care I hadn’t seen with other physicians. His demeanor and enthusiasm made me feel immediately at ease. After my leg surgery, I finally had a sunnier outlook on life I hadn’t for months prior. 
  • End: From that moment on, I wanted to be an agent of hope and answers for others like me. I volunteered at an ER in college and became an EMT. Working in emergency medicine threw me into a world of thinking on my toes and acting quickly in a wide range of emergent situations. These experiences have inspired me to pursue emergency medicine and to always act with compassion and enthusiasm to treat ailments, as Dr. [name] had once done for me. 

These “tell me something about yourself” sample answers are concise, but you can expand more at the end to discuss your current passions. Remember to make the main focus of your answer in the present!

When answering this question for medical school, concisely describe your background, motivation for medicine, what you’re doing now, and your future goals. 

Purpose of the “Tell Me About Yourself” Interview Question

The purpose of the interview question “tell me about yourself” is to let the interviewer see the real person before them beyond your MCAT scores and GPA. Your answer will shine a light on your character and allow the interviewer or panel to see how you would fit into their medical school. 

Will your personality and character fit into their medical school culture? Where do your motivations and passions lie? The interviewers are looking for candidates who will be an asset to the school and can fit in well with the other students. 

The question gives you a chance to connect with the interviewer in a meaningful way. Remember, they want to know more about you! This question is a great jumping-off point and can help steer your interview in different directions, depending on your response.

When interviewers ask about you, they are really asking you to be self-aware, tell them something meaningful, and show what you bring to the table. It’s also a good idea to ask your interviewer questions because it shows that you're engaged.

Female student being interviewed by man in office

FAQs: “Tell Me About Yourself” In Med School Interviews 

If you still have questions after reviewing the sample answers, these FAQs can provide more clarity. 

1. Why Is “Tell Me About Yourself” Such an Important Question? 

This med school question is important because your responses can help steer your interview in different directions. 

For example, talking about a research project you’re working on can invite your interviewer to ask follow-up questions related to the research. Of course, the main purpose is for the interviewer to get to know you! 

2. What Are the Most Important Points I Should Answer for “Tell Me About Yourself?” 

You should give context about your background (where you grew up, how you grew up, etc.), your passions, hobbies, interests, and what you’re doing now related to medicine while subtly describing why you’d be a good doctor and your goals for the future. 

3. How Long Should My Response Be? 

If it is a traditional 30 to 60-minute interview, keep your answer brief, between 60-90 seconds.

4. Should I Talk About Early Experiences? 

You can reference as far back as you wish. You want the interviewers to know who you are as a person. You could go back to your early life if it was influential in your desire to become a doctor. However, ensure you keep the focus on what you’re doing now. 

Getting the ‘Tell Me About Yourself’ Question Exactly Right

According to Harvard Medical School, under the eligibility requirements, the ability to communicate effectively is described as “crucial to the delivery of care.” Your communication skills can make a  good impression during your interview and will be an integral part of your path to acceptance. 

Now that you know how to answer this question, admissions committees will see that you are the right choice for their school based on your passions and experiences. You will rise above the noise and hopefully stand out from the crowd. Your unique life story will resonate with the interviewers.

Make your interview question “tell me about yourself” real. The interview is your chance to put yourself out there. Show the interviewer your real personality and the qualities you possess to make you successful in medical school. It is definitely worth the effort!

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