Thursday, January 8, 2015

Tips for Acing the Graduate School Interview

By Sangeetha Shanmugham
Content Marketing Associate, World Education Services 

If you’re reading this, then you're probably getting ready for a graduate school interview. Congratulations! Getting an interview is an important step toward gaining acceptance to the graduate program of your dreams. Keep in mind that not all graduate programs require interviews, but you'll want to mentally prepare yourself for the possibility, especially if you’re applying to a competitive program. Take time to prepare as your performance will determine your admissions fate. Anticipate questions and consider responses beforehand.

The purpose of the interview is to allow members of the department or alumni to take a closer look at your profile. Sometimes an applicant who seem like an impeccable match on paper doesn't measure up in real life. They want to find out whether you have the interpersonal skills, attentiveness, emotional intelligence, and motivation to succeed in graduate school and the professional world.If it’s an in-person interview, then you will have an opportunity to see the facilities and lab spaces as well as ask questions. Don’t forget – it’s just as much your interview as it is theirs! You have the chance to learn more about the school, program, faculty, and students to determine if it's the right fit for you. During the interview, you should be assessing the program just as they are assessing you. Ask questions!

Interview formats differ from school to school. Some programs will request applicants to meet for 30 to 60 minutes with a faculty member, while other interviews entail a full weekend of events with students, faculty, and other applicants. Graduate school interviews are conducted by invitation, but the expenses are nearly always paid for by applicants. In some rare cases, a program may assist a promising student with travel expenses, but it's uncommon. If you're called for an interview, do your best to attend – even if you have to pay the travel expenses. Not attending an interview, no matter how valid your reason may be, tells the admissions team you're not serious about your application.

During your interview you'll have a chance to talk with several faculty members and students. You may be asked to engage in small-group discussions. Make sure you participate, but don't dominate the conversation. Demonstrate your listening skills. The interviewers may have read your application file, but you shouldn't expect them to remember everything about you; be forthcoming about your experiences, strengths, and professional goals, and don't assume they know something.

Here's a list of some of the most common graduate school interview questions to help you prepare for your interview:
  •         Tell me about yourself.
  •         What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  •          If you're not accepted into graduate school, what are your plans?
  •          Why did you choose this field?
  •          What do you know about our program?
  •          Why did you choose to apply to our program?
  •          What other schools are you considering?
  •          In what ways have your previous experiences prepared you for graduate study in our program?
  •          What do you believe your greatest challenge will be if you are accepted into this program?
  •          In college, what courses did you enjoy the most? The least? Why?
  •          Describe any research project you've worked on. What was the purpose of the project, and what was your role in the project?
  •          How would your professors describe you?
  •          How will you be able to contribute to this field?
  •          What are your hobbies?
  •          Explain a situation in which you had a conflict and how you resolved it. What could you have done differently? Why?
  •          Describe your greatest accomplishment.
  •          Tell me about your experience in this field. What has been challenging? What contributions have you made?
  •          What are your career goals? How will this program help you achieve your goals?
  •          How do you intend to finance your education?
  •          What skills do you bring to the program? How will you help your mentor in his or her research?
  •          Why should we take you and not someone else?
  •          What do you plan to specialize in?
  •          What do you do in your spare time?
Good luck! Look your interviewers in the eye, and remember: They asked you to interview because they liked your application. That should give you confidence.

Sangeetha earned her master’s degree in media studies from Syracuse University and a bachelor’s degree in communications from New Jersey Institute of Technology. A permanent transplant, Sangeetha has lived in multiple cities around the world, which has led to her interest in international education. In her spare time, she enjoys frequenting independent record stores, baking and watching old Monty Python sketches.

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