A RealWorld Student writes:

Dear Prof. Martin:

I’m getting ready to graduate soon, and I’m trying to get accepted into medical school to become the first doctor ever in my family. Being a doctor has been my dream ever since I could talk. My dream college (and first choice) is considering my application for admission, and everything will hedge on my interview with the board. This school is very prestigious, and I know I’ll become a doctor even if I don’t accepted to this school. But I just don’t want to blow this opportunity. I’m so nervous. Do you have any suggestions that could help me stay cool, calm, and collected and ace this interview? Thank you. Also, pray for me

Dear Student:

I’m glad you wrote. I hope that I’m able to share some wisdom that will produce the results you’re looking for.

Your dream to become a doctor reminds me a lot of my dream to teach at a historically black college (specifically Florida A&M University). Ever since the first time I got into teaching, I wanted to teach at FAMU. Initially, two years ago, they turned me down without an interview (for reasons unknown), and I thought I would never get another opportunity. However, God works in mysterious ways, as the cliche goes.

When they had another opening, about a year later, I decided to put in for it again. This time I got an interview, and like you, I was nervous and scared. I didn’t want to blow this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fulfill my dream.

Eventually, everything worked out, and I got the job. I’m here! But what I want to share with you is what got me through the nerve-wrecking ordeal:

1. Be yourself.

If you have to be someone you’re not to get what you want, then you’re not going to like what you’ve become to get what you wanted. I hope that makes sense. If not, let me explain.

FAMU allowed the students to interview me (in addition to the faculty) before hiring me. Of course, my “no excuse” motto is not music to a student’s ears. When they asked me my philosophy on teaching, I had a choice; I could either tell them the truth (I DON”T PLAY and I DON”T ACCEPT EXCUSES!) or tell them something that was more pleasant. What do you think I did? I told them the truth and let the chips fall where they may. Because I knew if they did hire me, I wanted them to know exactly what they were getting.

2. Sell your passion.

They say that nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care. Therefore my advice to you would be to demonstrate your passion, not you prowess. Obviously, becoming a doctor is your dream. Let them feel you commitment through your mannerisms, your voice inflection, in your posture, etc.

Passion people attract and command respect. People want to be around passionate people. You are a passionate person. Let them see that.

During my interview, a student asked me what advice would I give them in picking a professor. I said that they should look the next prospective professor in the eye and ask him or her that if they won the lottery today, would they teach at FAMU tomorrow? That student looked at me and asked me the same question, and I said with all the passion one man could contain, “IN A HEARTBEAT.” I think it scared them. But it worked.

3. Anticipate the tough ones.

What I mean is that you should put yourself in the place of the board or whoever is going to be interviewing you, and think about the toughest questions they could possibly ask you. Then be ready to pounce on those questions with a well thought-out answer.

Here are some ways to anticipate the tough questions:

What are your weaknesses (personally, professionally, and academically)? Be prepared to address them.

What are sensitive issues to you (personally, professionally, and academically)? Be prepared to address them.

What one question you hope they don’t ask? Be prepared to answer it.

What questions would you consider to be unfair? Be prepared to respond anyway.

I think you get the picture. Most people instead of preparing for the worst, they just hope the worst never happens. Get real. Be pleasantly surprised if they don’t ask the tough ones, not shamefully embarrassed if they do.

4. Interview them.

Yes, you do indeed want to become a doctor. But the real question should be do you want to study at their institution. Don’t undersell yourself. You’re a great student (I should know, I taught you). Yes, you would be happier than a bug in a rug to get into their medical school, but you have to truly believe that any school would be lucky to have you as a student. Personally, I wish I could clone you.

Also, you may be working your butt off to get into their school just to find out later that they weren’t worth the effort. Don’t let that happen. Ask them the tough questions that are important to you — how student-oriented are they; what kind of facilities do they have; how’s the faculty; what do other students think of them, etc.

Remember, they are not doing you a favor by accepting you, you’re doing them a favor by accepting them. As much as I wanted to teach at FAMU, I still felt they were getting more out of the deal than I was. If the school doesn’t accept you, just consider it THEIR loss.

5. Go with your gut.

Even if the interview goes well, if your heart tells you something is wrong, don’t rationalize the answer. I have a saying, “Your head will accuse, but your heart will either convict or acquit.”

Last but certainly not least,

6. Pray.

Before I do anything, I ask God in prayer that “His will” will be done. So even if things don’t work out the way I planned, I know God’s plan is better. For example, when FAMU turned me down the first time, it was for less money. When they offered me the job the second time around, they had to pay me $13,000 more. Go figure. But I tell you this, I liked God’s plan better than mine. If everything would have gone as I had planned, I would’ve gotten the job the first time (for considerably less). Just pray to do and be your best.

I hope this advice helps. Remember, live AND interview purposefully!

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