Questions to Expect During a Grad School Interview

Being Prepared Is Extremely Important to Success

Prepare for success on your grad school interview.
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Getting an interview is a significant step toward winning acceptance to the graduate program of your dreams. However, in some competitive fields as many as three-fourths of applicants who are interviewed are rejected. The interview is your opportunity to show the admissions committee that you're a person beyond the GRE scores, GPA and so on. Professors want to determine which students best fit the school and who will be good collaborators and mentees.

  Help them (and yourself) by anticipating questions and considering responses beforehand. Here are some of the questions you can expect.

Questions About Your Personal Characteristics

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What do you believe your greatest challenge will be if you are accepted into this program?
  • How would your professors describe you?
  • Describe your greatest accomplishment.
  • Why should we take you and not someone else?
  • Are you motivated? Explain and provide examples.
  • What would you change about yourself and why?
  • If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

Questions About Your Academic Experiences and Skills

  • 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?
  • In what ways have your previous experiences prepared you for graduate study in our program?
  • Tell me about your experience in this field. What was challenging? What was your contribution?
  • What skills do you bring to the program? How will you help your mentor in his or her research?
  • Why did you choose to apply to our program?
  • What do you know about our program and how does it fit with your goals?
  • What other schools are you considering? Why?
  • What don't you like about your college?
  • Tell me about a professor who you don't like. Why?

Questions About Extracurricular Activities

  • What do you do in your spare time?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • What volunteer experiences do you have?
  • What contribution have you made to your department or school?
  • What was the last movie that you saw?
  • What was the last book that you read?

Questions About Your Goals

  • If you're not accepted into graduate school, what are your plans?
  • Why did you choose this career?
  • How will you be able to make a contribution to this field?
  • What are your career goals? How will this program help you achieve your goals?
  • How do you intend to finance your education?
  • What do you plan to specialize in?

Problem Solving and Leadership Skills

  • Explain a situation in which you had a conflict and how you resolved it. What would you do differently? Why?
  • What can be determined about an applicant at an interview?
  • Define success.
  • How well do you handle stress?
  • Discuss a situation in which you showed leadership ability.
  • Do you think one person can make the world a better place? Why or why not?
  • How will you make the world a better place?
  • Explain an ethical dilemma that you faced and how you dealt with it.

    These are a few ideas of what you can expect. You'll interact with many people -- professors, current students and other applicants. Try to remember that everyone wants the same thing: successful applicants who best fit the program. Be honest and be yourself.