Applicants invited for an interview have passed the preliminary screening and are now being carefully considered for admission. The impressions made in a personal interview are extremely important, particularly for those students with grades and OAT scores that are marginally competitive.
The interview provides applicants with opportunities to discuss their personal experiences and motivation for a career in optometry. Interviews are also an opportunity for an applicant to draw attention to any aspects of their application that merit emphasis or explanation. Make certain you present yourself in the best possible light by preparing thoroughly for your meeting. Think about how you conduct yourself among current students and staff during informal meetings, too. These interactions still create an impression of who you are and how you present yourself may come up during a post-interview discussion.
Preparing for an optometry school interview consists of two key things: 1) interview practice and 2) doing your research.
Since most admission committee members are experienced interviewers who want to learn about the “real” person, you should be forthright and open in your meeting and not try to “game” the interviewer. The interviewer will be attempting to have you respond without using your memorized answers. Rehearsed or canned answers are usually easy to spot. That said, it is important that you have given thought to the possible questions you may be asked during an interview and have practiced delivering your responses with clarity and precision. Further, how you speak and your body-language during the interview is often times more important than the content of your answers. Practicing good eye-contact and posture will go a long way to make sure your interview is a success.
On campus, the UGA Career Center assist students with interview techniques and mock interviews. Mock interviews are integral to realizing your interview strengths and weaknesses before the real thing. Also, keep in mind that the Fall semester is a very busy time for the Career Center and that you may not always be able to schedule a mock interview before your actual interview date. Therefore, consider beginning interview practice in the Spring before you apply and scheduling another mock interview in August or early September. You may also have close friends or other people that you trust help you conduct a mock interview.
The Pre-Health Advising Office is also a great resource for learning more about what you can expect in an interview and tips for preparing. Be sure to schedule an appointment with a Pre-Optometry Advisor or stop by walk-in's to discuss specific details about interviewing.
Do Your Research
In addition to honing your interview skills during a mock-interview, it is also incredibly important that you do your research before even stepping foot on campus for your interview.
Know the school!
Before your interview, investigate the optometry school thoroughly by reviewing the program web site. Ask yourself: Why do I want to attend this optometry school? What specific opportunities does this school offer me (e.g., community outreach, new facilities, research, innovative curriculum)? What could I contribute to this class?
Try to talk with current students to get an accurate sense of what the school is like from a student perspective. You’ll want to impress your interviewer with not only your potential for success but also your interest in his or her specific institution. You can demonstrate these qualities not only through your answers to the interviewer’s questions but by the questions you ask as well.
It is also important that you know yourself well. This means knowing exactly what you put on your application. Too often applicants forget the specific experiences or activities they may have included in their OptomCAS or secondary applications, or even their personal statement. You do not want to be caught off guard by an interviewer asking you about something that you listed.
Begin preparing by reviewing your record, as you may be asked questions regarding your GPA, OAT scores, grades on specific courses, or who your letter-writers were. Have a good explanation for any grade missteps or withdrawals. Next, consider your overall strengths and weaknesses. Be introspective. Many interviewers will ask what you consider your greatest weakness or strength. Or similarly, what is a time that you failed or were disappointed? They may ask you how you believe your friends would describe you. Try not to be coy ("my great weakness is that I am a perfectionist") but instead, give real answers and some anecdotes that support your answer. Finally, consider your motivations for wanting to enter optometry school and be able to explain them in a clear manner. Try to answer the following questions: What are you hoping to accomplish? What are your goals and why is this the path for you? What else would you do if you did not get into optometry school?
Know the profession!
Every interviewer will be attempting to measure your motivation and knowledge in some way. They want to enroll students who understand what is ahead of them both in optotmery school and beyond. It is important that you have read and experienced things within the profession.