The graduate school interview is an important step in the acceptance process.

Since this interview plays a role into your admission, do your best to prepare adequately. Thisinterview will provide you with a chance to gather information(much like an informational interview), but your focus should be onsetting yourself apart from the other applicants and proving that you are the ideal candidate.

In addition to the general tips that follow,be sure to brush up on the rules of professional etiquette.

Preparing for a Graduate School Interview

To properly prepare for a graduate school interview, be sure to:

  • Research the university or college.
  • Prepare and prioritize a list of open ended questions to ask.
  • Practice mock interviewing with the Career Development Center, family, or friends. Or, log-in to Optimal Resume’s interview module, one of to practice by yourself.
  • Call to confirm your appointment. Be sure you know what the interviewer will expect of you, and follow all directions they offer.
  • Update and bring a professional portfolio. Include a resume or CV, depending on the program requirements. The Career Development Center offers assistance to students (and alumni) who wish to improve their resume/CV or build a stronger professional portfolio for grad school and for job searching.
  • Dress for Success

Grad School Interview Questions

During the interview, you will likely be the one answering most of the questions. Ideally, you should prepare a brief self-introduction, as ‘tell me about yourself’ is typically the first question after you shake hands. Later on in the interview, you will also have sometime to ask a few questions of your own.

Below are common questions you may be asked, questions for you to ask the interviewer, and a few topics to avoid:

Questions to Prepare to Answer:

  • Tell me about yourself
  • Why do you want to study at our school?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • If accepted, what will be your biggest challenge here?
  • How has your professional experience (or education) prepared you to succeed in this program?
  • What are your career goals? How will studying here help you achieve those goals?
  • Describe your greatest accomplishment.
  • What do you do in your spare time?
  • What unique qualities do you think you have to offer this program?
  • What appeals to you most about our program?
  • How do you motivate yourself? How do you deal with stress?
  • What is your plan B? If you were not accepted to the program, what are your plans?
  • Define teamwork? Success? Leadership? Fairness?

Questions to Consider Asking:

  • General questions about the degree program
  • Preparations for the program- do they prefer experience?
  • Interviewee’s educational path
  • Culture/environment of the school
  • What financial assistance is offered? Are there scholarships/fellowships to apply for?
  • What kind of experiential learning opportunities are there? Teaching assistantships? Adjunct positions? Internships? Research opportunities?
  • What factors are most important in admitting students?
  • Where have alumni of the program gone? Where do they work?
  • Do students usually publish or present papers?

Questions to Avoid Asking:

  • Do not ask highly personal questions
  • Do not ask about party life on campus
  • Do not ask pessimistic questions, try to stay positive.
  • Do not ask overly detailed questions

Mock Interviewing

Whether you are applying to Graduate School, looking to secure fellowships and grants, searching for assistantships, or even exploring your career options, you will no doubt be required to attend an interview. The best way to prepare for the stress of an interview is to practice, practice, practice. The Career Development Center at UIS offers mock interviews to give you a chance to practice and get feedback about your interview performance.

Tools for Interviewing

Practice with Optimal Resume’s Interview Module
Med School Interviews (YouTube)
Career Hub Guide to Interviewing (PDF)

Additional Resources