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How to Ace Your Graduate School Interview

Ana-Marcela Lopez / Abound: Grad »

As you progress through graduate school admissions, you might find that a few schools require you to interview with their admissions committee. That might be intimidating, but it can be a great opportunity to emphasize what makes you stand out against other candidates. Whether it happens in person or over the phone, it will be your time for the committee to get to know you on a deeper, more personal level.

The purpose of the interview is for the admissions committee to further assess your qualifications, motivation, and overall fit for the program beyond what you submitted in your application and personal statement. It may cover a range of topics, such as your academic background, research experience, career goals, and personal interests. The admissions committee may also ask questions to gauge the candidate’s communication skills, problem-solving ability, and critical thinking skills. Below, you will find some tips for how to ace your grad school interview and present yourself in the best light!

Don’t have an interview lined up? Here’s how to get one. 

Schools that require an interview will likely contact you or give instructions for how to get one set up. Easy! If your desired program does not require an interview, however, it wouldn’t hurt to do one anyway; in fact, it could even show the committee how dedicated you are to your academic career. Here are a few general steps you can take to stand out as an applicant as well as a good candidate for an interview:

Submit a Strong Application

The first step in getting an interview is to submit a strong application. This includes having a competitive GPA, strong letters of recommendation, a compelling personal statement, and relevant work or research experience.

Express Your Interest

In your application, make sure your personal statement adequately conveys your interest in the program and why you are specifically interested in attending that school. This can show the admissions committee that you have done your research and are genuinely interested in the program.

Attend Recruitment Events

Some graduate programs may hold recruitment events or information sessions for prospective students. Attending these events can provide an opportunity to meet with faculty and staff, ask questions, and make connections that could potentially lead to an interview invitation.


If you know anyone who has attended your desired program or has connections within the school, consider reaching out to them for advice or assistance in connecting with faculty or staff members.

Follow Up

If you have not heard back from the school within a few weeks of submitting your application, consider following up with the admissions office. You can politely inquire about the status of your application and express your continued interest in the program. Don’t, however, overwhelm the admissions office with numerous emails and phone calls. 

Overall, the key is to be proactive in expressing your interest in the program and making connections with the school. Not every institution automatically invites students to interview; in that case, you are even able to reach out to an admissions officer with a direct request to speak to someone! 

So you’ve got the interview. Here’s how you can prepare:

Once you have your interview scheduled, it’s time to prepare. You can do this by researching the program, reviewing your application materials, and practicing responses to potential interview questions. By preparing well, you can present yourself as a strong candidate and increase your chances of being accepted into the program. Here are 9 interview tips: 

1. Understand the Interview Format: 

Before the interview, research the program you have applied to, or ask an admissions officer, to learn about the interview format. Will it be conducted in-person? Via phone or video conference? Will it be a one-on-one interview, or with a group? Knowing what to expect can help you prepare better.

2. Research the program and the faculty: 

You should have a good understanding of the graduate program and the faculty members with whom you may work. This will help you tailor your answers and show that you have done your homework.

3. Practice Responding to Common Questions: 

Prepare responses to common questions, such as “Why do you want to pursue a graduate degree?”, “What are your career goals?”, and “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”. Practice answering these questions aloud to improve your delivery and to ensure that you can effectively articulate your responses. Get some feedback from friends, family, or colleagues to help you refine your answers.

4. Be Prepared to Discuss Your Research Interests: 

Depending on the area of study, many grad programs include a research component or some other kind of applied learning experience. Be ready to discuss your research/concentration interests and how they align with the program you have applied to. This is a chance for you to demonstrate your knowledge of the field and your enthusiasm for whatever you’d like to focus on.

5. Be Ready to Ask Questions: 

The interview is not only an opportunity for the program to learn about you, but also for you to learn about the program. Be sure to ask questions that are not easily found on the institution’s website. Have specific questions prepared about the program, faculty members, and research opportunities.

6. Dress Appropriately: 

Dress appropriately for the interview, even if it is being conducted remotely. Wear professional attire and ensure that you have a clean and tidy appearance

7. Be on Time: 

Make sure you know the time and location of the interview and arrive on time or a few minutes early. If the interview is conducted via phone or video, be sure to test your equipment beforehand to avoid any technical difficulties.

8. Be Confident and Enthusiastic: 

Show your passion for your field of study and why you want to pursue a graduate degree.

9.  Follow Up: 

After the interview, send a thank-you email or letter to the interviewer. This not only shows your appreciation but also serves as a final opportunity to reiterate your interest in the program.

Remember, the interview is an opportunity for the program to get to know you better and for you to learn more about the program. By following these tips, you can increase your chances of having a successful graduate school interview. Be yourself, be prepared, and be confident! 

Looking for more helpful advice about grad school? Check out the advice section on Abound: Grad. More About Abound: We’re here to help. Abound: Grad School narrows down your options and gets you in touch with schools that we can confirm are Accessible, Affordable, Accelerated, and Advanced. Take a look at the schools we trust and find the program that works for you.

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