There were ten of us interviewing, and we were split into two groups of five for our group exercise. My group went first; we were given an ethical scenario and asked to discuss how we would handle it. I felt like this part of the day went fantastic for me; the five of us played off each other very well. We all had equal talking time and each had our own "shining moments" (one of mine was an instance when the conversation stalled; the observer was gesturing that we still had a few minutes to "use up", so I asked, "So has anyone ever come across a situation like this in real life?" and got the talk going again). At the end, when we were asked to reflect on how we had done as a group, I echoed others' sentiments that we had worked well together and added (sincerely), "I'd love to work with any of you guys in a classroom setting." Others also stated that they felt grateful that I had gotten us over the initial "how-do-we-get-started" rough moment by reading the question aloud. It was interesting -- this was the portion of the interview that I'd been most dreading, but it actually turned out to be the segment that I felt most confident about. I wouldn't change a single thing about my performance in that room, and I truly would love to work with those other four interviewees as my classmates. Oh, I can only hope!
Anyway, after the group exercise, I had two individual interviews with faculty members, a woman and a man. Without giving away specifics as to what I was asked, I can say that the woman was very relaxed and easy to converse with; she put me at ease and turned the interview into a real conversation. Of note, her son (now a college graduate) used to be a patient at the pediatric practice that I work at, so we had a few minutes' chat about the doctors there. I felt like I did well with her; I had the opportunity to mention the Duke TIP program (which I participated in as a middle-schooler) and the chance to talk about the current healthcare system and the debate surrounding it. The man was a little tougher; he was clearly just going down a list of questions (most of which were a little more 'psychological' than I'd anticipated), and not making any effort whatsoever to set me at ease by conversing with me. I scrambled a little with him, honestly, because I was having to switch gears so quickly. I did get to put in a few more of my talking points, like the English Channel and my excitement about Duke's international clinical rotations, but most of his questions were ones that I wasn't really prepared for and had to answer on the fly, so I missed a couple of opportunities for good answers, which frustrated me a bit afterward. Overall, it was more than a little disconcerting (my mom seems to think that it may have been a mind game, to see how we reacted), but I still think it went okay. I did get one genuine smile out of him, when we discussed the tricky parts of working with kids (he has two young children). And, to be fair, I was his last interview for the day, so maybe he was just ready to go home. I know I was. :)
Anyway, so here I sit, 24 hours later, and I'm not sure how to feel. I could try to convince myself of a lot of different factors. I was the only one there who worked in pediatrics; that might have made me stand out. They didn't ask a single question about my academics; maybe that means my record spoke for itself. But the truth is, it's not in my hands anymore. I went for a five-mile run this morning, and while showering afterward, I came to a comfortable realization. Sure, I may not have answered every question in the 'textbook' fashion -- the way that a PA interview handbook would have advised me to -- but I showed them who I was. Yes, I did talk about Jean Auel and Harry Potter when we discussed books, instead of professing a preference for thick presidential biographies. Yes, I did say that I played sports as a way of de-stressing, rather than using the cliche, well-rounded answer of 'spending time with family and friends'. But I answered every question genuinely and with a smile. I spoke clearly and confidently, I didn't pause or stumble, I used humor, I engaged the interviewers by asking about their own lives, and at one point, I let my passion shine through about how impressed I was by their program and how badly I wanted to attend Duke. It was not a perfect interview experience by any means, but then again, I'm not a perfect person, and I don't believe they expected perfection. At least, I hope not. :)
I'm trying to look at it this way: this is the number-two PA program in the entire country, and I got an interview. (By this year's numbers, 21% of applicants have been invited to interview, and 8% will be accepted.) I know that I'm good enough and smart enough to handle the curriculum, and they know that too; if I weren't, I wouldn't have been invited to interview at all, let alone in the very first week. I have to believe that yesterday was intended mostly to show them a little bit of who I am outside of the numbers, and I feel as though I did that. If they decline me, I'll know that they did so based on ME, not based on some girl giving scripted answers that she thought her questioners wanted to hear. And if they accept me, I'll know that they did it for the same reason -- that they thought that I, a marathon-running, novel-reading, pediatric-leaning, imperfect young woman, would fit in with the class they're building for 2010, and would represent Duke well.
It doesn't do any good to speculate. Especially seeing as I'm typing this at 2:30pm on Friday. The interviewers met today to discuss the whole week's worth of interviews, so that means that odds are that my fate -- yea, nay, or wait-till-March -- has already been decided. If it's a unanimous 'yes' or 'no', I'll get an email on Monday or Tuesday; if the opinions are split, I'll be relegated to the larger stack to wait until March 1st. No matter what happens, I'm trying to focus on the fact that I am an exceptionally smart and strong individual with many gifts, many people in my life who love me, and much to be thankful for. I am going to attend PA school, I am going to graduate, and I am going to represent the field -- and, thus, my school -- as well as I possibly can. I hope it's Duke -- god, I hope it's Duke -- but if it isn't, that'll be okay too.
Though that doesn't mean I'm not counting the hours until Tuesday. Argh. :)