The Graduate School Interview
After you've turned in your application materials, some
programs may request to interview you. An interview is a chance to explain and display your talents, and for you and the
school to learn more about each other. The interview might be conducted
in person at the school, or by phone. Not all schools do interviews. Ask each admissions office if they do.
Tips for Grad School Interviews
(phone or in-person)
- Build rapport. You'll work very closely with the faculty of
the program. Therefore it's essential you fit well with them. Present yourself as a confident, open,
capable student. Note the connections between the program (including
its faculty and research) and your own background and goals. Build a
rapport and show an interest in your interviewers.
- Do advance research! The program's faculty information is
probably online (most post bios and CVs). Familiarize yourself
with the academic background, publications and research interests of
professors in the program, and/or your potential interviewers. Also note aspects of the program that make it stand out from other programs.
- Prepare. Write out and memorize 2 or 3 talking points. Be sure to express those during your interview when you have an opening to do so. Also prepare at least 5 questions to ask the interviewers. Plan to ask about assistantships or other opportunities that
would allow you to gain practical
- Follow up. Promptly send a thank-you note to the program director and any students or faculty you interacted with at the interview.
- Learn more about interviewing. Browse our Effective Interviewing Guide. It focuses on job interviews, but many of its tips apply to any type of interview.
- Practice. You can do practice interviews online anytime. Record the interview if you want to, and choose your questions.
- Read. Visit our office to browse books and handouts about interviewing and grad schools.
In-Person Interview Tips
- Be positive and genuine the whole time.
From the moment you step on campus until the moment you leave, you're
being interviewed—by instructors, office staff and current
students. You're also being compared to other applicants competing for
the same spots. Treat every interaction as an opportunity
to demonstrate you'd be a quality addition to their program. Smile, be genuine,
and show an interest in everyone you meet.
- Dress professionally and be on time! This projects the attitude
that you're serious about being a successful student, and you understand
the demands of graduate school. When in doubt about appropriate
clothing, wear a suit. Get more clothing tips on our What to Wear to a Job Interview page. The tips there are applicable to any professional situation.
- Bring a briefcase or nice bag. Keep in it a writing pad, pen,
and copies of your resume/cv. Use it to store the business cards
you gather during your visit. Throw in some snacks and water.
- Be prepared to answer questions about any weaknesses in your application. For example, if you have a low GRE score or GPA, you may be asked about it.
- Prepare to be sociable. Often you'll attend a get-together
the night before the interview. You'll meet and dine with current
students and faculty in a relaxed setting. Be mindful of etiquette and
limit yourself to one alcoholic beverage if others are drinking. It's
best not to drink at all, so you can be in top form that night and the next morning.
- At some point in a day-long interview, you might be asked to participate in a group project.
You'll be placed with other students or applicants and asked to
brainstorm together or create something. The interviewers will
observe you during this, taking note of both the results and the group
dynamics. While you're in the group, speak up and share your thoughts
and opinions, but don't dominate.
Phone Interview Tips
- Dress up and use good posture. That might seem
unnecessary for a phone interview, but it can really impact the way you express yourself verbally. It'll help you stay
professional and confident during the phone interview.
- Be aware of your voice quality. Speak loudly enough to be
heard, and articulate yourself clearly. Avoid "up-talking" or
"swooping" your voice at the end of statements, so they don't sound
like questions. If you're really nervous, remember to breath slowly and
relax as much as possible.
- Eliminate all potential interruptions and background noise. Let your roommates know you can't be interrupted during the call. Turn off the TV, music, computer, and nearby cell phones.
- Monitor your conversational pauses. When you need a moment to
think, say so. The interviewer can't see you and
won't be able to see your "let me think a minute" body language, so
don't leave them hanging.