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  • Writer's pictureJustin Grimes

How do I Prepare For the Graduate School Interview

Some graduate programs require you to participate in an individual or group interview with department members. I know interviewing is wrapped in ambiguity and subjectiveness. You want to convey that you are an excellent fit for the program, want funding, hope to study with Professor Whoever, and want to accomplish your goal of getting into graduate school. In essence, you want them to pick you for admission.

Remember, the interview is another form of Graduate School gatekeeping, where the decision-maker intends to narrow the candidate pool down to applicants that meet their program and funding needs and goals.

What Are faculty looking for in the interview?

In the graduate school interview, they want to know more about your background, interests, goals during and after graduate school, research interests, and why you are most interested in this program. For funding purposes, faculty use the graduate school interview to decide which student they want to work with and will provide funding to support their degree. Lastly, the graduate school interview allows aspiring graduate students to speak aloud what’s on their resume and beyond.

What should I know about the graduate school interview?

Sadly, many admissions decisions based on interviews are rooted in unconscious and conscious bias. Some are based on faculty liking you, funding, and/or what you can bring to the program. Knowing that bias exists is the first part of the preparation, and it’s not your responsibility to identify and fix gatekeeper bias.

You are responsible for your preparation. Although you may not know the specific interview questions, here are 10 basic ones you might be asked.

  1. Tell me about yourself.

  2. Why did you choose to apply to our school/program?

  3. What are your career and/or professional goals?

  4. Why should we accept you?

  5. What do you anticipate will be a challenge for you if you are accepted?

  6. What are your hobbies/interests?

  7. What will this degree help you accomplish?

  8. How will you contribute to this program and field?

  9. Describe the research projects you have worked on, your role, and the outcomes.

  10. In what ways have your experiences and training prepared you for graduate study in our program?

Some of these are basic, and some are more detailed.

What advice do I have for you to nail the interview?

Start with writing down your answers to these questions and practice your response. Another piece of advice I have for you is to Control the Controllable. Here are my suggestions of 10 things to do before you go into your graduate school interview.

  1. Pick out your attire, try it on, and practice entering a space virtually or in person with it on.

  2. Create a Million Dollar 10-second introduction that includes your name, location, and what you do (Ex. My name is Justin Grimes from Little Rock, AR, and I'm a current senior at the University of Arkansas studying Computer Information Systems).

  3. Record yourself doing your Million Dollar 10-second introduction, and watch it.

  4. In your video review, assess your tone and non-verbal communication (handshake, eye contact, facial inflections, odor), make adjustments, and repeat #3 until the Million Dollar 10-second introduction feels good.

  5. Create a digital business card to share your contact info. I prefer to use PopL because it's free and convenient.

  6. Gather the information you want to physically share and place it in the bag, phone, or portfolio you will take with you.

  7. Review the resume you submitted on your application. Remember, if you list something on the resume, they may ask you about it).

  8. Get some rest (6-8 hours sleep before the interview).

  9. Take a brief pause in between questions and repeat as needed.

  10. Please answer the question(s) they ask. Don't bring your rehearsed answers that aren't relevant to the question.

Bonus Advice: Find and speak aloud affirmations that build you up. Before the interview, find and recite that favorite song, prayer, lyric, or quote. I love Meek Mill's Dreams and Nightmares. It led the Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl.

Be patient with yourself. Some people struggle at interviews, while others thrive. Regardless, you can’t prepare for everything, but can control how you show up. You didn’t apply to the graduate program of your dreams to not get in, so don’t let the interview stop you.

The graduate school interview for many aspiring graduate students is critical to their admission into a program.

Would you like a copy of our guidebook "Nailing the Graduate School Interview"? It provides tips for interview preparation, questions to consider before the interview, and what to ask during your interview. How would you like to do a mock interview with an expert with graduate recruitment and admissions knowledge?

Click here to learn more about the Apply to Graduate School Graduate School Interview Service.

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