How to Ace Your Grad School Interview

By Lindsey Conger

Your grad school interview is your chance to show the schools that you are not only the perfect fit on paper but also how you could add to the school community. During the interview, you can also learn more about the school and ask any questions. While not all grad schools will offer interviews, it is essential to take the time to prepare if the opportunity does arise.

Here are a few tips to help you through the grad school interview process:

Before the interview

Do your research. Whenever possible, you should try to find out who your grad school interviewer will be. Often, it is an admissions counselor or representative, but it could also be a current graduate student or professor. Doing some research on who will be the person interviewing you can help you tailor questions to fit their background or discover mutual interests to discuss.

Nail down why you want to attend the school. While you can likely talk about your activities and accomplishments at length, a harder question for students to answer off the top of their heads is why they want to attend that particular program. Take time to dig through the website and learn about the school, the program, its faculty, and how these elements fit your needs and can help you achieve your goals. You should also take time to read through the program’s coursework so you can pick out a few interesting highlights.

Practice! Either with a friend or with a family member or in front of a mirror; review common interview questions. Record yourself to see how much you fidget, your tone of voice, and how confident you sound to see if there is any room for improvement. Here are some common interview questions to prepare:

  • Tell me about yourself?
  • Why do you want to attend this program? Why are you pursuing an advanced degree?
  • How will you contribute to this program?
  • What are your career goals? How can this program help you achieve them?
  • What is your proudest achievement?
  • What are your research interests?
  • How have your experiences helped you prepare for our program?

During the interview

Be confident. Whether the interview is in-person or via Zoom, eye contact is always important. Act as naturally as possible. Take note of the names of the interviewers if possible.

Showcase your personality. At this point, the interviewers know that you are academically qualified; now, they want to see how you will fit on campus. Because grad schools are so competitive, it is okay to show your personality (when appropriate)—it might help you be more memorable!

Ask questions. This part of the interview is critical to showcase your interest in the program and your priorities when you are on campus. You can ask things like:

  • What type of student tends to succeed in this program?
  • What are alumni doing a year after graduation? Where are they working?
  • What are a few things that people find surprising about this program?
  • What type of work can I do as a research assistant? When can students do teaching assistantships?

After the Interview

Once the interview is over, you will likely feel relieved! But the work isn’t quite over yet. It is always a good idea to write a quick note to your interviewers, thanking them for taking the time to interview you and reiterating your interest in the program.

The grad school interview is just one step in the process, but it is critical to your success. As long as you properly prepare, demonstrate your interest in the program, and ask insightful questions, you are on the right track to getting accepted to your dream program.


(The writer is a college counselor and tutor at Moon Prep.)

Image courtesy of (Image Courtesy: USA Today)

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