Preparing for the Grad School Admissions Interview

Graduate admissions interviews are formal conversations with a representative from the school that allows you to share your passion for the field, the story of your accomplishments, and your enthusiasm for the school. Not all schools require an interview, if they do or make one optional, you should prepare for it as though it were a job interview. We explore some best practices for preparing and how to take advantage of the opportunity. 

Preparing for your interview

  • Set yourself up for success with an interview time that works best for you. Consider at what points during the day you feel your best and most alert and try to schedule the interview then. If you’re able ahead of time, ask how long the interview will take so you can pace yourself when practicing and make sure your answers aren’t too long winded. Also ask who you’ll be interviewing with. Often it’s a representative from the school but it could include current graduate students or professors. If you’re scheduling the interview in person, see if you’re able to combine it with a campus visit so you’re able to get the most out of your experience and can bring your insights about the school into your interview. 
  • Research, research, research. You should be prepared to speak about specific reasons why this program and school are the best fit for you. Naming particular courses, professors, and offerings there will go a long way in demonstrating your interest and commitment. You can skip the more obvious questions; for instance, any information that you could easily find on their website for example.
  • Reflect on yourself, your accomplishments, and why this graduate school program is the right next step for you. Connect and think about the ways your story relates to and offers evidence of your commitment to the issue area and field, your strengths and skills, and your readiness for grad school.

Example grad school interview questions

Practice your answers. While you don’t want to sound rehearsed, it’s helpful to think about your responses and some questions you may be asked so you don’t feel flat footed during the interview. Here are some examples we pulled together to help get you started: 

  • Why did you choose to apply to our program?
  • In what ways have your previous experiences prepared you for graduate study in our program?
  • What are your research interests?
  • What are your career goals? How will this program help you achieve your goals?
  • How will you bring and contribute to our program?
  • What other schools are you considering? Why?

As you gear up for an interview of any kind, it can be easy to forget that it’s an opportunity for you to ask questions too. An interview is a unique opportunity to gain a better understanding of the academic and social culture of the school, the career trajectory you will have upon graduating, and whether the school simply feels like a good fit for you. While you can expect the majority of your time to be focused on questions for you, don’t be surprised if before the interview wraps up, your interviewer asks you if you have any questions for them. Here are some examples of questions you might ask to help spur your thinking: 

  • How long do most students take to graduate?
  • How closely do students work with faculty? 
  • Is it common for students and faculty to publish together?
  • Where are graduates of this program getting jobs? 
  • What is the student community like?

After the interview

Make sure to follow up after your interview with a thank you note. It’s a small step that can go a long way. This can be either in the form of a handwritten card or email but be sure you’re sending along in a timely fashion. 

Graduate school interviews can feel stressful but they are also a great chance for you to showcase yourself and your talents. It can also be incredibly informative time to ask questions about the school in person and assess whether it’s a place you can see yourself. As you prepare both your answers and questions, don’t forget to simply be yourself. While graduate schools are interested in your accomplishments and ensuring you’re ready for the rigor of grad school, they also want to learn more about you as a person and what you’ll bring to their program.