Grad School Interview Questions: Examples and Answers

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

grad school interview

Interviews can often be a source of stress for students, and the ones for graduate school are no exception. Generally, a graduate school interview is an opportunity to showcase your strengths, demonstrate your knowledge of the institution, and impress an alumnus or member of the faculty who might play a role in deciding your admissions outcome.

While being a little nervous might be inevitable, it is possible to feel confident on interview day if you’ve prepared beforehand. Keep reading to learn more about the grad school interview questions you might encounter, so that you’ll feel ready on the big day.

Is Getting a Grad School Interview a Good Sign?

One of the first questions grad school applicants have about interviews is what it will mean for their admissions chances. Generally speaking, being invited for an interview is a promising sign. For some graduate school programs, the interview represents the final stage in the admissions process, suggesting that the institution is seriously considering offering you a spot.

While an interview invitation is exciting, it’s by no means confirmation that you’re going to be admitted. That said, it is a reason to celebrate! You wouldn’t have gotten this far unless the program liked you above the other applicants. The interview is one of the most important parts of the process and gives you a chance to highlight your academic interests and achievements, so it’s essential to prepare beforehand.

How Do I Stand Out in a Grad School Interview?

The best way to stand out in a graduate school interview is by demonstrating that you’re prepared, you’ve done your research, and that you’re ready to make a positive impact. One of the best ways to do this is by practicing graduate school interview questions so that you feel ready for whatever comes your way.

In addition to reviewing the questions, make sure you’re up to date on interview etiquette. Seemingly small gestures like writing a thank you note can have a big impact and showcase a student in the best light possible.

What Should I Expect From a Graduate School Interview?

The worst thing you can do is go into an interview unprepared. To avoid that scenario, students should research graduate school interview questions, rehearse the process, and strive to find information that specifically relates to the program they are applying for.

Many graduate school interviews will include a mixture of specialized questions about your subject area and more general questions about your experiences. These interviews may be one-on-one or there might be a panel of university staff present to take notes and ask questions.

Speaking to a group of strangers might sound daunting, especially if you’re more on the reserved side. Luckily, there are interview tips for introverts that quiet students will find particularly helpful. At the end of the day, the most beneficial thing any student can do is research and review grad school interview questions and answers.

Top 8 Graduate School Interview Questions

Students should read through how to prepare for a college interview to get a sense of exactly how they might want their conversation to go. While the ins and outs of the interview will vary depending on the program that you’re applying to, there are a few overarching questions that every applicant needs to be prepared to answer.

The strongest responses directly answer the question that was asked while simultaneously demonstrating the speaker’s interest in the program and how they will use what they learn to achieve their long-term goals. Below, we’ve listed some of the most common graduate school interview questions and answers:

Q #1: Tell Me About Yourself

Open-ended questions can cause some students to go off-topic but it’s best to offer a concise answer that reveals a bit about your personality and how it relates to what you want to study and your goals.

Q #2: Why Our School/Program? 

Why our school questions are the ultimate opportunity to demonstrate that you’ve done your research. If possible, try to call out specific courses you want to take, faculty you hope to learn from, and opportunities you’re interested in.

Q #3: How Will You Contribute to Our Program?

This question gives you an opportunity to set yourself apart by focusing on the unique skills and experiences you bring to the table. Whenever possible, be specific about the ways you want to get involved on campus.

Q #4: Why Are You Interested in This Field?

Let your passion for the topic you’re interested in shine through. You can describe what got you interested initially, what you’ve accomplished so far, and what you’re hoping to do in the future.

Q #5: What Have You Been Reading?

There are many reasons why outside reading is important for students, and graduate school interviews are one of them. Admissions officers are looking for applicants who are curious, academically engaged, and eager to take their knowledge to the next level. Make sure you can name a few books and discuss them in detail.

Q #6: Where Else Are You Applying? 

This might feel a little strange to answer but focus on the common denominator that connects all of the schools that you’re applying to: your passion for, and growing expertise in, the subject of your choice.

Q #7: Tell Me About a Time You Failed

It might feel uncomfortable to talk about a time you didn’t succeed right away, but it also gives you the chance to show how you learn from your mistakes. Instead of dwelling on what went wrong, focus on how you’ve grown from this challenge and what you plan on doing differently going forward.

Q #8: What Questions Do You Have For Me?

No matter how the rest of your interview went, make sure to ask a few thoughtful questions at the end of your conversation. Asking questions shows that you were paying attention, that you’ve done your research, and that you’re eager to learn even more.

Questions to Ask Your Interviewer

When it comes to queries, not every question is created equally. In addition to reviewing grad school questions and answers, students need to ask some thoughtful questions themselves. Here are a few examples:

General questions

  • What are some of the career opportunities that your alumni have gone on to pursue?
  • What kinds of internships and experiential learning opportunities are available?

Preparation questions

  • What do your most successful alumni have in common?
  • What advice do you have for admitted students looking to maximize their success?

Background questions

  • What drew you to this field of study initially?
  • What developments in the field are you most excited about?

Questions Not to Ask In an Interview

While there are plenty of good questions that applicants can ask, there are also a few that should be avoided, such as:

  • What are the parties like on campus?
  • How much money did you make starting out?
  • How often do students fail out of the program?

If you’re really looking to ace the interview and conquer the application process with confidence,  a graduate school admissions counselor can guide you along the way. Learn more about how you can benefit from graduate school admissions consulting.


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