How have your experiences serving others contributed to your personal growth?
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How have your experiences serving others contributed to your personal growth?

Introduction

How have your experiences serving others contributed to your personal growth?

Then my brain shut off.

I didn’t prepare for this question, I prepared for a lot of other questions, but not this one.

How was I going to answer it, what did they want to hear?

Honestly, though how have I grown from my service to others?

This is a common question that you will get whether you are applying to medical school or to residency.

You will get it in both the interviews as well as on your medical school secondary applications.

Within this post is a good framework for answering this question and hopefully it will help you nail this question without hesitation.

Which, really is the point of the Interview Question Series of posts.

These are all typical interview questions for both medical school and residency, and the entire point of these posts is to help you have prepared answers that are going to make the committee remember you!

How have your experiences serving others contributed to your personal growth?
Going to the Interview!

How to answer this question

Think about the times you have served others

  • What about those experiences did you enjoy.
  • How did your outlook change based on those experiences.
  • Did you do anything differently when serving others after those experiences.

These are all questions to ask yourself before you can put together a good response to this common interview question.

Lets Break that down a little more

Think about the times you have served others

To get into medical school, volunteer work and service is typically something you have to do.

A lot of this volunteer work or service will be related to serving those in “needy” situations.

When I think back to my pre-med days, there is a soup kitchen that I volunteered at.

This is a perfect type of volunteer experience for you to do, or to reflect on. If you have helped those that need it in a situation like this then by all means use that to start your reflection and formulating an answer.

What about these experiences did you enjoy

It is so important when talking about your service to others that you show your enjoyment about it.

Many pre-med students will do service and volunteer work because it is “one of the boxes that needs to be checked”.

Whether you did it because you wanted to, or because it is what you should be doing, you need to convey your enjoyment about the opportunity.

For example, the volunteer work I did at a soup kitchen allowed me to take time out of my life, and give back to others that may have not had the opportunities I have had, or never had the guidance I had.

I grew up with great support and direction provided to me, which allowed for me to have the neccesities of life.

Many of those I was serving never had those opportunites, so to give something to them was a unique experience.

Then tell a story to them about it, reflecting why you enjoyed it.

We all love stories.

For example

One person in particular, who mentioned he had been homeless and cold for much of that winter talked about how greatful he was that we provided him with a coat and a jar of peanut butter. Those are very simple things that many of us don’t recognize the importance of, and it was a great experience to be able to provide that for that man.

I hope that can give you a reference for coming up with your own experience to talk about.

How did your outlook change based on those experiences?

This is a pretty simple question to reflect on right?

Doing this will help you to really nail down the personal growth part of the main question we are trying to answer here.

Reflect on what you felt and maybe some changes in how you interact with people, or things you do differently because of the service you have provided.

As an example:

When I think about my experience at the soup kitchen, I think about how it made me very grateful for all of the things and people I have in my life.

It also makes me understand the importance of giving back.

What is the Importance of Serving Others

This is a common question that will undoubtedly come up around the same time that someone asks:

How have your experiences serving others contributed to your personal growth?

Answering what the importance of serving others is actually pretty simple if you have gone through the information above and actually came up with good thoughtful answers.

This question is really just an expansion of reflecting on your personal growth.

For example

For me personally the importance of serving others is two fold.

The first part is giving back. I have had a fortunate life and have struggled a few times, but overall there is always food in my fridge and a roof over my head.

The second part is that it brings you back to the purpose of life. When we serve others that is when we experience the absolute purest form of joy.

Conclusion

This is one of the Interview Question Series posts, and the point of these posts is to help you really start to understand and break down the questions that you will  be asked on interview day.

If you have made it this far, don’t forget the main question:

How have your experiences serving others contributed to your personal growth?

Prep for this question, and be ready to answer related ones to it.

I hope this has been helpful to you.

Interviews and secondary applications can be tough and overwhelming from time to time, and hopefully this will serve as a source of information for you to help build your confidence going into interview season.

If you have any concerns or questions about the interview process, then be sure to mention them in the comments below.

Thanks for reading

Sean Kiesel, DO, MBA

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