Graduate Studies

Grad School Interviews and You

Posted by Jonathan Williams on Nov 18, 2016 12:40:50 PM

Your graduate school application has been accepted and you've been asked to come in for an interview. Congratulations! You're well on your way to starting your journey toward your Master's Degree!

But why is the interview necessary? Hasn't admissions already seen your work? The problem is, while they liked your writing, meeting face-to-face helps the faculty know you, the student, ahead of time. If they know who you are, they will be able to better work with you to transform you into the graduate student you want to be.

As a result, acing the admissions interview is an important part of the process. Keep in mind the following things you'll be ready for your grad school interview.

Be Prepared

If you go into an interview without any preparation, you'll be caught flat-footed and could potentially leave a bad impression. Be ready and be confident. You'll have several things to keep in mind for preparation.

First, not every interview is the same. Some grad school interviews will be one-on-one: just you and a faculty member from the college. Others will involve multiple faculty members, some of whom you may not work with on a regular basis. Find out the format ahead of time and how you need to present yourself.

Second, ask questions about the college that aren't readily available. Demonstrate your knowledge for the panel so that they can see how passionate you are about your field. Graduate admissions, especially for the best schools, want students who truly want to learn and grow in their chosen fields.

Third, rehearse before you go. Practicing out loud and getting comfortable with your answers and questions will make the interview flow. Consider preparing a list of topics you want to discuss with the admissions panel. Think of parts of your background that are relevant for your field in case the panel asks you to tell them about yourself.

Be Professional

Your grad school interview isn't something to take lightly - you will be expected to present yourself as a professional. Graduate schools don't want a person who won't take things seriously. A few simple actions can help with your professional image.

First, be on time. If you can't make it to one scheduled appointment, why should the panel expect you to be consistently on time? Show that you can be responsible with your time. Rescheduling is also frowned upon unless you have an absolute emergency.

Second, dress the part. If you show up in a t-shirt and jeans, you're telling the panel that they aren't worth the time is takes to dress well in the morning. You don't need your Sunday best, but don't dress like you're grocery shopping. As a part of your appearance, consider how you're communicating non-verbally. Check yourself in a mirror: stand up straight, use power positions, and don't let yourself look stressed.

Third, act like an adult. Sleep well the night before, eat a good meal, don't have gum in your mouth, and shut your phone off. You're responsible for yourself in this interview. Don't bring your parents, significant other, or pet along for the ride.

Be Persuasive

Last but not least: be persuasive. Convince the panel that you are the best possible fit. Don't ride on your amazing application, and don't think you can't be persuasive. It's easier than you think.

First, show your interest in the program. Be honest with the panel about why you want into this program, and show your enthusiasm! You're there for a purpose, let them know what that purpose is.

Second, share information about yourself with the panel. Freely explain things in your record, but don't make excuses. Making excuses makes the panel believe you won't take responsibility. Discuss your goals for the program and what motivates you to pursue those goals. Think of scenarios that require problem solving and explain how you would solve them.

Third, demonstrate to the panel that you have a character before you start showing off. Grad schools want students who are not only good at what they do, but also of good, ethical character.


The admissions interview can be a frightening process, but it doesn't need to be. Be prepared, professional, and persuasive, and you'll ace the interview!

Tags: Interviews, professionalism, persuasive, preparation, Grad School