Top Grad School Interview Questions and Answers (Guide)

Grad school interview questions and answers. Numerous graduate institutions ask applicants to participate in an interview as part of the application process. Graduate school interviews enable university personnel to assess your likelihood of success in their program.

These interviews may be conducted by a single interviewer or by a panel of university staff members and will almost certainly involve a combination of specific questions about your subject area and general inquiries about your objectives and experience.

Conducting research on frequently asked questions during graduate school interviews will help you prepare to provide responses that accurately reflect your qualifications.

grad school interview questions

Grad school interview questions

While many graduate schools are highly specialized, interviewers frequently ask comparable questions to ascertain your personality and attitude. Your interview responses should highlight your accomplishments and provide additional information about yourself not contained in your application documents.

Grad school interview questions to prepare for

Here are common grad program interview questions that students get asked:

  • Tell me something about yourself.
  • Why are you interested in studying at our institution?
  • What are your advantages and disadvantages?
  • If you are approved, what will be your greatest obstacle here?
  • What professional experience (or education) have you gained that has prepared you to excel in this program?
  • What are your professional objectives? How can studying here assist you in achieving your objectives?
  • Describe your most significant accomplishment.
  • How do you spend your free time?
  • What distinguishing characteristics do you believe you bring to this program?
  • What about our program most appeals to you?
  • How do you keep yourself motivated? What are your coping mechanisms for dealing with stress?
  • What is your contingency plan? What are your plans if you are not accepted into the program?
  • How would you define teamwork? Success? Leadership? Fairness?

grad school interview questions

Questions to ask at the end of the interview

Questions to ask at the end of the interview.

  • Questions regarding the degree program in general.
  • Preparation for the program—do they value experience more than education?
  • The educational path of the interviewee.
  • The school's culture/environment.
  • What type of financial support is available? Are there any available scholarships/fellowships?
  • What types of opportunities exist for experiential learning? Assistantships in education? Adjunct faculty positions? Internships? Are there research opportunities?
  • What elements play the most significant role in student admissions?
  • Where have the program's alumni gone? Where do they perform their duties?
  • Are students typically expected to publish or present papers?

Grad school interview questions with sample answers

When responding to questions during your graduate school interview, tailor each response to demonstrate your unique abilities, capabilities, and motivations. Utilize the following questions and sample responses to assist you in developing compelling responses for your graduate school interview:

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

This question is frequently asked in a variety of different sorts of interviews and is intended to initiate discussion and assess your ability to prioritize information. Prepare an outline of your significant accomplishments, experiences, hobbies, and personal values before answering this question. Consider the relationship between each of these areas and your potential for success in graduate school. Interviewers ask this question to gain a true sense of your objectives and personality; therefore, personalize your responses and be authentic while remaining professional.

Example

"I've spent the majority of my life studying academics and will graduate this spring from the University of Texas with a degree in economics and studio art. I first became interested in economics during high school, when I created a little business to sell my ceramics. I began reading economics in order to expand my firm and developed an interest in the subject. That business gave me a creative outlet and taught me a lot about commitment. I'm a diligent worker, a creative thinker, and an enthusiast for learning more about economics."

What contribution will you make to our program?

Graduate school interviewers are interested in your potential contributions to their program. Academic performance, prizes, accolades, and publications are all instances of how a graduate program benefits from positive contributions. To properly answer this question, conduct an extensive study on the program and connect your aims and interests to the department's recent work. If you have a specific objective in mind for your field, describe how you intend to accomplish it.

Example

"I knew I wanted to publish some of my works in an academic publication during my undergraduate career, and so I worked with the Academic Success department and several of my professors to learn how to do so. I am adept at utilizing the resources available to me to attain my objectives, as evidenced by the acceptance of two of my essays by academic journals thus far. I'm devoted to continuing to publish cutting-edge research that will bolster the incredible work you and your colleagues are doing in your department."

What are your professional aspirations?

Graduate programs frequently look for individuals who are ambitious and have a strong sense of purpose in their subject. Achieving professional goals and establishing an exceptional career can help advance the graduate program's reputation. Additionally, your interviewer will want to confirm that the program will help you academically and professionally.

Example

"When I began college, I intended to be a conservation biologist, but I am now considering a career in teaching as well. My lecturers have had such an impact on me that I would love to teach college-level conservation biology. However, before I teach others, I aim to conduct field research and write a book about the Midwest's biodiversity. One of my life goals is to develop an interactive program in national parks that teaches about conservation biology."

What are your areas of interest in research?

This question provides an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise in the field for which you are applying. Discuss your previous research and the potential applications of your study when responding to this question. Justify your love for a certain subject and include examples of how you have previously followed your academic interests. Interviewers will almost certainly be looking for someone who has a track record of pursuing their passions.

Example

"While I studied literature from a variety of genres and time periods, my heart belongs to nineteenth-century British literature. I was fortunate enough to find the relevance of Jane Austen and Emily Bronte to our present world when I was hired as a research assistant for Dr. James Brown, my British literature professor, last year. My presentation on the evolution of heroes in literature was recognized with multiple awards at both my university and national conferences. I hope that my research inspires others to explore for strong female characters in literature."

Describe an instance when you failed.

When questioned about failure, consider using the STAR technique to describe how you dealt with and learned from the experience. Interviewers will evaluate your attitude toward failure and your ability to overcome obstacles. Graduate programs are frequently quite demanding and require students to be dedicated to overcoming setbacks. Especially if you're applying for a position in an educational setting, utilize this question to demonstrate your capacity to learn from your mistakes.

Example

"I utterly wrecked my first experiment in my Intro to Chemistry course. I recall feeling humiliated, but eventually summoned the guts to meet with my professor after class to discuss how to avoid future errors and review safety protocols. I gained so much knowledge from that one-on-one time with the lecturer and maintained a mentorship relationship with him throughout college. I believe that failing is the finest way to learn, as long as you are willing to seek improvement and solicit assistance."

What do you believe to be your crowning achievement?

Sharing your proudest events with the interviewer demonstrates not only your capacity for accomplishment but also your personal values. Whatever you chose as your best achievement, connect it to why you want to go to graduate school and how you want to pursue excellence. Additionally, describe your explanation for your selection so that the interviewer understands your basic principles.

Example

"My biggest accomplishment is assisting my younger sister in obtaining a college scholarship. My parents did not attend college, and as the oldest kid, I was responsible for completing college applications on my own. When my sister sought assistance with applications and I was able to assist her, I felt quite proud of myself and how much I had grown in terms of knowledge and life skills. When I begin graduate school, I intend to instill that culture of collaboration and shared achievement in my classmates as I learn from and teach them."

What are your interests and hobbies?

Interviewers will be searching for candidates that are well-rounded in their interests and capable of applying their abilities in a range of contexts. Due to the rigors of graduate programs, you will also require hobbies to help manage stress. Additionally, your hobbies and interests can emphasize characteristics that are not readily apparent from your academic background, such as creativity or teamwork. Utilize this question to demonstrate your individuality and establish a personal connection with the interviewer.

Example

"After a long day at work, I enjoy tending to my garden. I find it extremely calming and fulfilling, as well as intellectually stimulating. I enjoy determining the optimal nutrient balance for my plants' growth. Although gardening is diametrically opposed to my objective of becoming a physician, I enjoy nurturing both plants and people."

What drew you to our program?

When applying to graduate schools, you should have a firm grasp on what distinguishes the program and why you wish to study there. While interviewers recognize that prospects frequently apply to numerous schools, demonstrating interest in their specific program might help you stand out as a more attractive applicant. By demonstrating your commitment to their beliefs or procedures, you may persuade the interviewer that you would work diligently to ensure their program's success.

Example

"At a conference, I met the director of your architecture department and was immediately struck by her singular vision. Since that time, I've been intrigued by the prospect of studying at this school and taking her courses. As I explored the program, I was struck by the breadth of the courses and the unusual internship program. I'm a hands-on learner, and your curriculum provides the most on-the-job training."

Have you been reading anything lately?

This inquiry can assist in determining your intellectual capacity and inquisitiveness. Choose articles or books that correspond in some manner to your academic interests and aspirations. Decide on a few important books or magazines prior to your interview that demonstrates your interest in your field and your own ideals.

Example

"As I am completing my honors thesis on early childhood development, I have been reading articles from the Early Childhood Education Journal and other sources to supplement my research. However, as a result of my research into how the brain develops, I am aware of the importance of reading for pleasure, and hence read mystery novels on the train to work."

What are your advantages and disadvantages?

This question is used by interviewers to ascertain your self-awareness and attitude. As a graduate student, you will concentrate on increasing your academic skills and experience and should have a firm grasp on the areas in which you wish to grow. Additionally, this question enables you to articulate the beneficial traits you believe you can contribute to their program. When responding to this question, be candid and explain how you overcame flaws and bolstered your strengths.

Example

"My biggest strength is my capacity for creative problem solving. While working as a medical scheduler, I came across multiple instances of nurses being overscheduled. I was constantly rearranging shifts and delegating responsibilities in order to ensure that all of our patients received exceptional care. My ability to lead people is one of the qualities I aim to enhance. I am sometimes worried about communicating my thoughts, but I believe that working with other graduate students will boost my confidence."

What questions are asked at a Masters interview?

Here are examples of Master's interview questions:

  • How are alumni spending their time six months after graduation?
  • How is college life and culture?
  • What financial aid and scholarship opportunities exist for graduate students?
  • What type of work am I capable of performing as a research assistant (RA)?

How do I stand out in a grad school interview?

Here are ways to stand out in a grad school interview:

  • Stay away from the jitters. Stay calm.
  • Create an unforgettable 'tell me about yourself' response.
  • Allow adequate time for processing your application.
  • Don't make broad generalizations about why you choose their program.
  • Determine your "why."
  • Make a point of highlighting what you can bring to the table.
  • Demonstrate your excitement.
  • Describe your career goals and personal aspirations.
  • Inquire about alternates.

Practice reciting all graduate school interview questions and answers in advance of your interview. Embrace the interview process.

How long should grad school interviews be?

Keep each response to 5 minutes to 7 minutes in length. Interviewers want you to provide an outline of who you are but refrain from going overboard.

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author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), NCDA Certified Career Counselor (CCC), and general career expert. Patrick has completed the NACE Coaching Certification Program (CCP). And has been published as a career expert on Forbes, Glassdoor, American Express, Reader's Digest, LiveCareer, Zety, Yahoo, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, SHRM.org, Process.st, FairyGodBoss, HRCI.org, St. Edwards University, NC State University, IBTimes.com, Thrive Global, TMCnet.com, Work It Daily, Workology, Career Guide, MyPerfectResume, College Career Life, The HR Digest, WorkWise, Career Cast, Elite Staffing, Women in HR, All About Careers, Upstart HR, The Street, Monster, The Ladders, Introvert Whisperer, and many more. Find him on LinkedIn.

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