Graduate School Admissions Interview: Dos and Don'ts

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If you have been asked to come in for an admissions interview, congratulations! You're one step closer to being accepted into graduate school. The interview is the final evaluation stage in the graduate school application process. Come prepared ​and you are more likely to leave a lasting positive impression on the interviewers. Remember that the purpose of the interview is to get to know the applicant beyond his or her paper application. This is your chance to distinguish yourself from the other applicants and show what makes you a better candidate. In other words, it's your chance to show why you should be accepted into the program. An interview also gives you the opportunity to explore the campus and its facilities, meet professors and other faculty members, ask questions, and evaluate the program. During the interview process, you are not the only one being evaluated but you too are given the opportunity to evaluate the school and the program before you make a decision.

Most, if not all applicants, view the interview as a stressful experience. Help ease your nerves by learning more about what's entailed and, specifically, what you should and should not do on your graduate admissions interview.

Things You Should Do


The Day of the Interview:

  • Arrive early (at least 15 minutes early).
  • Dress appropriately – Look neat and professional. (No jeans, t-shirts, shorts, etc.).
  • Bring copies of your resume (or CV), papers, and/or presentations.
  • Be yourself.
  • Be honest.
  • Be confident.
  • Be friendly.
  • Be polite. Shake hands with the interviewer or anyone else you meet during your visit.
  • Address the interviewer by their title and name (e.g. Dr. Smith).
  • Make eye-contact.
  • Be respectful and courteous.
  • Be alert and attentive.
  • Remember to use body language to convey your interest. Don't fold your arms. Lean forward (slightly) to indicate interest.
  • Express your ideas and thoughts in a clear straightforward manner.
  • Demonstrate your interest in the school and program in a passionate and enthusiastic manner. Let the interviewer know that you are really interested in attending their school without stating it directly.
  • Discuss your achievements.
  • Discuss your goals (career and graduate school goals).
  • Discuss flaws that exist on your academic record (without making excuses).
  • Be consistent in your answers. Also, make sure your answers are consistent with your application.
  • Ask questions. Knowledgeable and specific questions that show you have done your homework are a plus (e.g. questions about the school, program, or faculty).
  • Ask for clarification if you don't understand the questions.
  • Sell yourself.


  • Try to relax.
  • Send a very brief thank-you email after the interview.
  • Stay optimistic.

Things You Shouldn't Do


  • Don't forget to do your research on the school, program, and faculty.
  • Don't forget to prepare answers to common questions.
  • Don't cancel or reschedule the interview unless you'd like a rejection letter.

The Day of the Interview:

  • Don't be late.
  • Don't come unprepared.
  • Don't forget that excess anxiety can impair your performance. Practice deep breaths to relax.
  • Don't forget interviewer names.
  • Don't talk too much. Sometimes candidates talk rather than face an awkward pause. Always make sure that you are saying something worthwhile and not just filling gaps in the conversation
  • Don't interrupt the interviewer.
  • Don't forget to smile.
  • Don't lie or exaggerate about your accomplishments.
  • Don't discuss negative information.
  • Don't make excuses for weaknesses.
  • Don't criticize yourself or other individuals.
  • Don't try to be funny.
  • Don't speak in slang.
  • Don't curse.
  • Don't become emotional.
  • Don't talk about controversial or ethical issues (unless asked to).
  • Don't answer your cell phone or text (Turn it off before the interview or don’t bring it at all).
  • Don't answer yes or no only. Provide details and explanation.
  • Don't let your answers reflect only what you think the interviewer wants to hear.
  • Don't forget to thank the interviewer before you leave.