Many graduate schools require students to take an admission interview as a part of their application process. As nerve-wracking as it sounds, it’s a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the graduate program you’ve applied for and showcase your strengths. 

Grad school interviews are the last step of the application process and making it to this stage is a big accomplishment – it means they’re considering you as a prospective student. So, you’d want to prepare adequately and put your best foot forward on the interview day. 

To help you prepare, we bring to you some of the most common grad school interview questions you may encounter and tips on how to answer them.       

Why Graduate School Interviews Are Important

The graduate school interview is a major step in the acceptance process. It is the last stage of the application process and graduate schools only conduct interviews with candidates they are seriously considering accepting into their program. 

The purpose of graduate school interview questions is for the university to form an idea of you as a person and assess your interpersonal skills, how you might fit with the program, the faculty, students and staff at the school. It is also a chance for you to ask questions to the interviewer which can help you decide whether the grad program is right for you.  

Tips for Grad School Interviews

It’s important to properly prepare for a graduate school interview because it can make or break your chances with your dream university. Finding a spot in the gradual school of your choice can be a turning point in your education and even set the tone for your future opportunities. Here’s a step-by-step plan on how you can prepare to ace your grad school interview. 

  • Research the university.
  • Brush up your interview skills. Practice mock interviews with yourself, family, and friends so you get more comfortable answering and asking grad school interview questions. 
  • Prepare a list of questions that you can ask the interviewer(s).
  • Call the grad school for appointment confirmation. Be sure to follow all directions and protocols they specify for the interview. 
  • Dress appropriately.
  • Show up with confidence.

Grad School Interview Questions and Answers

Below are common grad school interview questions you may be asked and sample answers to help you construct your own unique responses. 

1. Tell me about yourself

This is the most common question in interviews and is usually used to open a line of communication and assess how you prioritize information. To answer this question, list your main achievements, interests, experiences and personal values. Think about how these can relate to your ability to be successful in the graduate program you’re interviewing for.  Personalize your answer so that the interviewer can understand your goals and personality and they seem genuine although professional. 

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

You need to be specific while answering this question. When applying to a grad school, you should have a clear understanding of what makes their programs unique and why you would like to study there. Focus on how the program you’ve applied for is different from the others and highlight how these qualities are essential for achieving your academic and professional goals. Mention points about the curriculum that align with your learning style or needs. By showing that you’re passionate about that particular program, you may be able to convince the interviewer that you’ll work hard for their program’s success. 

3. Why should we accept you? How will you contribute to our program?

The institution would want to know the benefits you’d bring to their program. Academic success, awards, achievements and publications can all contribute to the success of a graduate program. To prepare this answer, research extensively about the program and align your goals and interests to the department’s latest work. Mention any specific goal that you have and how you plan to pursue that. 

Sample Answer – While at my undergraduate school, I worked with some of my professors and the Academic Success department to publish my papers in an academic journal. A couple of my essays have been accepted so far. I can use the resources around me to accomplish my goals. I intend to keep publishing innovative research that would corroborate the great work your department is doing. 

4. Why are you interested in this field?

Your response to this question should be more than genuine enthusiasm for the field and how you love the things you’ve studied so far. You need to have specific reasons for why you’ve chosen this particular path. Your answer should cover points like what you love about the field, why you love those things, what this field can offer that you can’t find in other disciplines, etc. 

5. What are your career goals?

Graduate schools look for students who are ambitious and have a strong sense of purpose within their chosen field. With this question, the interviewer will want to ascertain that the graduate program you’ve applied for will support you and help your academic and career goals. 

Answer by clearly laying out future plans in your chosen field, why you’re committed to the field and how this program can be the perfect stepping stone towards accomplishing those ambitions. 

6. What are your research interests?

 Put your interview prep to good use here by mentioning specific work that the school does, besides talking about professors whose works fascinate you. Connect these details to your own interests and try to showcase your passion for the work you intend to do. Discuss your previous research work and possible applications of such research. Cite examples of how you have pursued your interests in the past 

7. Tell me about a time when you failed.

Try using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to explain an occasion when you failed and learned from your failure. The interviewer wants to assess your attitude towards failure and see how you can overcome challenges. Most graduate programs are rigorous and need students who are adept at overcoming failures. Mention the incident when you failed and highlight how you learned so much from that mistake. Finish off by stating how you feel failing is the best way to learn, provided you can seek out improvement and ask for help. 

8. Describe your greatest accomplishment. 

Share one of your proudest moments, which will not only indicate your potential for success but also things that you value in life. Relate your accomplishment to why you want to pursue the grad school degree and how you’ll strive for excellence. Plus, explain your reasoning for choice so that the interviewer can understand your core values. 

9. Where else are you applying?

This is a tricky question that needs to be answered with honesty. At the same time, you should be able to clearly demonstrate why this particular grad school would be the preferred choice for you. The interviewers would want to be rather certain that if they extend an offer, you’ll accept it. At the same time, you should cover your bases and apply to other schools if that works for you. Begin with the name of one or two schools where you’ve applied but mention why this school remains your top choice, why you want to study here. 

10. What are your hobbies and interests?

Interviewers prefer well rounded candidates with varied interests who can apply their skills to various environments. Grad programs are known to be difficult, so your hobbies must help manage stress. Consider mentioning hobbies and interests that require creativity or teamwork. 

Sample answer – I love tending to my garden when I’m free. It is a very relaxing and rewarding activity and I also find gardening intellectually engaging. It fascinates me to learn the proper balance of nutrients that a plant needs to grow properly. Although I dream of being a doctor, which is quite different from my gardening hobby, I think I love being able to tend to both plants and people. 

11. What have you been reading?

The kind of books you read indicates your intellectual ability and curiosity. So, select books or articles that you can connect in any way with your academic interests and goals.  

You can start by saying that you read books of all genres, but you’re inclined towards reading books related to your field or your personal values. Talk about a book you liked, its genre, what it is about, and what you think about it. 

12. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Interviewers ask this question to verify your attitude and self-awareness. As you’re about to pursue a graduate program, your focus should be on developing your academic skills and experience and you should possess a strong understanding of areas where you’d want to improve. 

Make sure you provide relevant strengths and irrelevant weaknesses while answering this question. Try to mention strengths that enable you to bring positive attributes to the program. For example, your strengths can be effective communication, attention to detail and ability to solve problems creatively. 

Final Thoughts

We hope with these grad school interview questions and tips, you’re now ready to tell your stories in a natural and spontaneous way. The best way to prepare for an interview is to practice, practice and practice. 

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