My interview process for veterinary school was an interesting one. I was ecstatic to receive news I had made it to the interview process for a few schools, but never truly knew how to prepare. I took the approach that I would answer genuinely and honestly, and however that shook out would put me in a position that appreciated me for who and what I was. I *IMMEDIATELY* regretted that decision after my first interview.
I’ll spare the lengthy process of technicalities, but it was a Multiple Mini Interview where you read a prompt outside the room and spend a small amount of time freely responding to an evaluator that doesn’t interact with you. Often, the prompts have literally nothing to do with veterinary medicine, or seemingly anything else. Yeah, it was about as fun as it sounds. I remember during my first response, I somehow ended up sharing a story of how I was evacuated from a fire in Arizona that the origin was ultimately identified by the metal tags of the dogs that had been present at the fire site. …I’ll let that sit a moment… At a veterinary school interview, my first interaction was about pets burning to death. The reaction I’m sure some of you first had was similar to my evaluator – jaw dropped and quietly staring back at me. The evaluators are not allowed to interact with you, but after I realized what I was doing I had said “I… I think I’m just going to stop now.” And she responded “I think that would be best.” Ouch.
Obviously, that interview didn’t go well. What made matters worse was that it was with my home-state school, and was where I really wanted to go. I was pretty broken up about it afterward, but I had other interviews to focus on. Two weeks later I had one scheduled halfway across the country, but I couldn’t get past how badly I had blown that first interview.
Sitting in the waiting area two weeks later, I was surrounded by nervous applicants all making small talk to calm their own nerves. A humbling effort, as everyone is testing the waters to gauge how they measured up to the other candidates, and you find out that so many of your unique experiences are shared by 3/5 others in the room as well. The tension in the room was palpable, and panic was setting into the eyes of those around me.
“You seem awfully calm…” One of the faculty members said when he came out to check on everyone.
“Honestly, I had an interview two weeks ago that could not have gone any worse. I’ve seen how far down that rabbit hole goes, and I can only go up from here, which is oddly calming.” The faculty member laughed and tried to assure me it probably went better than I thought it did. If only he had known…
I was called into the interview room, and the panel was incredibly warm and inviting as soon as I walked in. It was instantly a much more positive environment, and helped put me a little more at ease. The interview was pretty standard, and I knew it had gone well based on that we had been deep into quality conversation for nearly 35 minutes when the interview was supposed to be capped at 15 minutes. One question stood out to me though right before I had to exit:
“So I see that you attended Clemson University for undergraduate studies. How would you feel about becoming a (redacted) Tiger?”
I paused. I knew what the correct response was, but it would deny so much of who I am. After blowing that first interview, do I go with the smart answer, or with the one that puts my personality into the mix?
“Well, I would love to have the opportunity to attend (redacted) Veterinary School. But you know the adage about Tigers and changing their stripes…”
I looked at the panel, and saw nothing but smiles and and heard nothing but laughter. Looking back on that response, I think that it was a hugely pivotal piece of that interview that made me stand out as a candidate – entirely because I was willing to offer an insight into me as a person. What was even more memorable was how accepting the panel was of some personality, despite the answer being contradictory to their school spirit. It made me feel welcome and encouraged about attending the school for the next four years.
When I matriculated the following year, one of the panel members was an anatomy professor my first semester. I told him the story of that exchange, and he laughed and said that he had remembered that response and had made a note of “Loyalty” on his candidate form.
Once a Clemson Tiger, always a Clemson Tiger!