Top 10 Grad School Interview Questions

GradSchoolHeaven.com founder and Harvard graduate Giulio Rocca discusses the 10 most common interview questions asked by graduate schools.

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Abridged Transcript:

Today, I’ll be talking to you about the 10 most common graduate school interview questions. Some schools, particularly when applying to doctoral programs, will invite candidates to an on-campus interview. These interviews are generally frightening to candidates because there’s not much in the way of guidance as to what to expect.

1. The first is to tell me more about yourself. There’s a good chance you’ll be asked this question. The most important thing that you want to do is to have a synthesized answer, no more than one or two minutes, that showcases your personal, academic, and professional accomplishments in a nutshell. In other words, a kind of preview. Don’t go on a rant, and don’t go on a tangent!

2. Second, you may be asked: why are you interested in this field? Again, go back to your personal statement and think about what you wrote in that statement and try to expand on it. Perhaps you can go deeper into some of the reason that you discussed or introduce addition reasons that were not discussed in the personal statement. in either case, try to make a compelling case as to why this particular field is what you were born to do.

3. Third, why are you interested in our school? This is almost certainly going to be asked in the interview process. Think about specific elements of the program that set it apart — the faculty, the facilities, the curriculum, student activities, job placement record, and other reasons — and make a compelling argument once again.

4. Fourth, what are you going to research? This is particularly relevant if you’re applying to a doctoral program, but for master’s applicants too there’s often a master’s thesis and this is something that you can mention. In answering this question, you don’t necessarily have to have a definitve answer that you’re going to be held accountable to, as much as you want to demonstrate that you’ve conducted some preliminary thinking on the subject and that you’re a serious candidate for such research.

5. Fifth, think about your strengths and weaknesses; your interviewer may very well ask you to talk about them. For strengths, pick ones that are relevant to academia, for example critical thinking, quantitative abilities, qualitative abilities, research capabilities, and so forth. And with respect to weaknesses, try to pick weakness that are really weakness turning into strengths; so, for example, if you’re a soft-spoken individual you might say that your weakness is that you’re occasionally soft-spoken but that you’ve taken steps to be more assertive.

6. Sixth, you’ll probably be asked, in so many words, why they should accept you. Have a bullet-proof answer for this question. Talk about your personal, academic, and professional achievements, discuss your long-range plans and how you plan to take full advantage of the university’s resources to make them come true. You want to convince them that they’re not going to be wasting an admissions spot with you.

7. Seventh, you may be asked to discuss your career goals. If you’re applying to a doctoral program, it’s usually appropriate to discuss the probability of teaching, and if you’re applying to a master’s program you can also discuss the possibility of extending your studies in a doctoral program or professional applications.

8. Eight, you may be asked where else you’re applying. This is a very difficult question to navigate. If you answer and provide full details about all the place that you’re applying to, you may dilute your application to the university in question. On the other hand, if you’re too secretive you may alienate your interviewer. A possible middle of the road approach is to indicate that you’ve applied to a number of other universities, without being too specific, but reiterate how important it is for you to be accepted to the one that you’re talking about today. Reiterate your desire and how much you’d love to have a position in the program.

9. Ninth, you may be asked to discuss what you’ve read recently. Ideally, you should be able to cite scholarly publications, whether it’s journal articles or books published by academics that demonstrate that you’re connected with the community.

10. Tenth, you may be asked if you have any questions for the interviewer. Think about these questions carefully; you can prepare them ahead of time so you’re not nervous. Try to ask questions that either delve more deeply into the interviewer’s background and research interests or that explore aspects of the program that are not obviously stated on the web site or the marketing materials of the university.

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