While you should definitely try to anticipate and prepare for grad school interview questions, you shouldn’t stress unnecessarily. That you’ve been called for an interview by the grad school program of your choice is a good sign. It means that your application has passed the first few levels of scrutiny and that the admissions committee is interested in you. They now want to meet you and get to know you as an individual.
Put yourself in their shoes. They already know everything they need about your qualifications and your grades. They have your standardized test scores. They have letters of recommendations for you and they have your own assessment of yourself in the form of your statement of purpose or personal statement. Obviously, these documents have satisfied them enough that they now want to meet you before finally and formally inviting you into the program.
So if you were on the grad school admissions committee, what more would you want to know about a prospective student?
A typical grad school interview is not just about asking and answering questions. You get to see the campus and the facilities. You meet the faculty and current grad students in your department. You interact with the people you may be working with closely over the next few years. The admissions interview is as much about you finding out whether the program fits your needs as it is about the admissions committee making a decision about whether you will be a good addition to their program.
On paper, you match their requirements closely enough so that they have short-listed you as one of the few they will meet face-to-face and obviously, the program has something you like or you wouldn’t have applied. This interview is about you as a person and the questions will be designed to discover your personal qualities, strengths and weaknesses.
Grad School Interview Questions
Here is a short list of the usual grad school interview questions:
- Why do you want to enter this particular program? Why should the program admit you? Where else have you applied and why?
- What are the qualities that will make you a good graduate student?
- What personal experiences made you think you were suited to life as a grad student?
- What would you consider your strengths and weaknesses and why?
- Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
- What subjects did you like in your undergraduate years? Did you excel in the subjects you did not like?
- Describe some events in your life that you consider to be your biggest achievements (or failures)
- Talk about yourself and the things that are most important to you.
- How do you explain this particular weakness or defect? (The interviewer may point to any area in your application where you fall short of the norm)
- If you’re not accepted by this program, what will you do?
- What do you know about our program and faculty?
- Is there a particular faculty member you would like to work with? Why?
My advice to you is:
If you really want to prepare yourself for the grad school interview, don’t get stressed thinking about particular questions. Instead, you should visualize how you will make a pleasant impression on your interviewer(s). Think about your appearance, your attitude, your interpersonal communication, your body language and eye contact. Research the program and its faculty as much as possible. Find out all you can about the research and publications that have come out of the program. Prepare a few questions that you will ask of the admissions committee during the interview process.
It’s not the grad school interview questions that you should really worry about; it’s the way you will project yourself and the personal qualities you would want to showcase to your interviewer(s). How will you show the committee your passion and motivation? How will you impress them with your intellectual abilities? How will you convince them that they will make a good choice if they select you?
References and Resources
You can visit the following pages to see what some universities say about the grad school interview and the questions they may ask:
This post is part of the series: Grad School Advice
This series of articles will make the process of your admission into a grad school easier for you to understand and execute. It will also give you clear definitions and practical tips that will help you negotiate your way through grad school.