Before fretting over an upcoming graduate school interview, take a moment to congratulate yourself. Graduate school admission boards only interview those whom they consider a solid potential candidate for their program.
So, how do you prepare for your interview? Practice. Have a parent, sibling, roommate, partner or colleague set up mock interviews. You may think you know the material—because most of it is about you—but don’t become complacent. Your interviewer is likely to ask at least one question that stumps you. Know the different ways a question can be asked.
For example: “Tell me a little about yourself” can be rephrased, “What experiences led you to choose our program?”
You will want to think about who you are—and what your goals are. Know these goals inside and out and be able to talk about your experiences in a way that shows your interviewer that you aim to meet those aspirations. For example, if you want to be a social worker, to prepare for your interview for a spot in a social work graduate program, make sure you’re able to talk about what you learned from your internships, what you learned from your favorite class and professor or mentor, and where you have completed volunteer work. You will almost certainly be asked the whopper of all interview questions: “What are your strengths… and weaknesses?” You have to be able to answer this one with grace. One suggestion would be to describe a time that you faced a problem and how you overcame it. These types of questions are designed to make you think about areas where you can improve—and that’s what you should focus on when you answer.
Know about every aspect of the program for which you are being interviewed. This means online research, calling ahead of time, and asking your mentors their thoughts. Of course, you can ask questions during the interview, but you don’t want them to be amateur questions. You want them to be deeper and focus on the intricacies of the program. You want the interviewer to feel like you really want the spot in the program. In fact, you want it so badly, you were willing to spend a great deal of time on research. After researching, carefully craft some questions for your interviewer.
It seems obvious, but be sure you don’t confuse one program with another, especially if you’re applying to similar programs. Remember your interviewer’s name (maybe review it a couple of times).
Expect the unexpected. When doing mock interviews, have your interviewer ask questions you may not be able to answer quickly. You’ll inevitably be thrown a couple of curve balls.
And again, because it’s worth repeating, practice!