Graduate school interviews can take many forms, including one-on-one conversations, group interviews with more than one candidate, panel interviews with more than one interviewer or impromptu phone interviews.
How can you put your best foot forward? Prepare yourself. Do your homework on the school you want to attend and the faculty. Know your long-term goals: Do you want to teach, go into research or pursue a career in the field?
Before the interview, consider the points you want to make, write down a list of your best skills and qualities, and develop a strategy to communicate your strengths. Be prepared to answer tough questions about your transcripts and explain the reasons for any gaps in your performance.
Remember that most interviewers are looking for these things when you answer questions: the content of your answer, how you organize your thoughts and solve problems, and how you articulate your ideas. Don't be afraid to pause and collect your thoughts before answering a question.
Ready? Let's do a practice round. Following are some sample personal questions that you should be prepared to answer.
- Describe yourself.
- How would someone else describe you?
- Why are you a good fit for our program?
- What are your long-range objectives?
- Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses.
- How and when did you choose to enter this field?
We'll move on to academics next.
- How has your education prepared you for our graduate program?
- Why did you decide to apply to our program?
- What courses have been the most challenging for you?
- Does your academic record reflect your true abilities?
Schools will also be interested in your extracurricular activities, as well as your leadership and problem-solving skills. You might find yourself responding to questions like these:
- What extracurricular activity has been most rewarding to you?
- What hobbies or activities do you enjoy?
- What is your most important contribution to an organization, company or team?
- Describe a situation where you showed initiative.
- Tell me about when you were last involved in a conflict and how you handled it.
- How do you handle stress?
- What are the major trends in your field?
- What world problems bother you most? How would you solve them?
- What do you consider to be the most important developments in this field over the past ten years, and why?
[source: University of Wisconsin/Green Bay]
Read on to learn how you can make a good impression by asking questions in a graduate school interview in addition to answering them.