Your graduate admission interview is your chance to show grad schools you’re not only the perfect fit on paper but also in person—because meeting admission representatives in person allows you to showcase how you could add to the school’s community. During the interview, you can also learn more about the school and ask any important questions you may have. While not all grad schools will offer interviews, it’s essential to take the time to prepare if the opportunity does arise. Here are a few tips to help you through the grad school interview process.
Before the interview
Leading up to your interview, there are a few things you should be doing to ensure you’re ready to discuss yourself, the school, and your goals for the future.
- Do your research. Whenever possible, you should find out who your grad school interviewer will be. Often, it’s an admission counselor or representative, but it could also be a current graduate student or professor. Doing some research on the interviewer can help you tailor questions to fit their background or discover mutual interests to discuss.
- Nail down why you want to attend the school. While you can likely talk about your activities and accomplishments at length, a harder question to answer off the top of your head is why you want to attend the particular program you’re interviewing for. Take time to learn about the school, program, and faculty as well as how these elements fit your needs and can help you achieve your goals. You should also read through the program’s coursework so you can pick out a few interesting highlights to mention.
- Practice! Either with someone else or in front of a mirror, review common interview questions. Record yourself to see how much you fidget and to hear the tone of your voice and how confident you sound. This will help you see if there’s any room for improvement. Here are some common interview questions to prepare:
• Tell me about yourself.
• Why do you want to attend this program? Why are you pursuing an advanced degree?
• How will you contribute to this program?
• What are your career goals? How can this program help you achieve them?
• What’s your proudest achievement?
• What are your research interests?
• How have your experiences helped you prepare for this program?
During the interview
Now that you’ve done the work preparing for your interview, there are a few things you should focus on while you’re in the thick of it.
- Be confident. Whether the interview is in person or via Zoom make eye contact and act as natural as possible. Find a good positioning between sitting too stiffly or too relaxed. Take note of the name(s) of the interviewer(s) when they introduce themselves to reach out to them later.
- Showcase your personality. At this point, the interviewer knows you’re academically qualified; now, they want to see if you’re a good fit for their school and program’s community. Grad schools are competitive, making interviews seem overly serious, but it’s okay to show your personality (when appropriate). In fact, it might help make you more memorable!
- Ask questions. This part of the interview is critical to showcase your interest in the program and what your priorities are on campus. You can ask things like:
• What type of student tends to succeed in this program?
• What are alumni doing a year after graduation? Where are they working?
• What are things people find surprising about this program?
• What type of work can I do as a research assistant? When can students do teaching assistantships?
After the interview
Once interview is over, you’ll likely feel relieved! But the your work isn’t done yet. Write a quick note to your interviewers to thank them for taking the time to interview you and reiterate your interest in the program. The grad school interview is just one step in the admission process, but it’s critical to your success. If you properly prepare, demonstrate your interest in the program, ask insightful questions, and follow up to showcase your determination, you’ll be on the right track to getting accepted to your dream program.