Interviewing

By Dr. Carina Beck, Director, Allen Yarnell Center for Student Success, Montanta State University

The process of in-person interviews for admission to graduate schools varies on the continuum between no interview to an in-person campus visit, with most schools leaning towards no campus visit until after being accepted into the program.

As you develop your action plan, develop a column in your spreadsheet that determines if, and when, an interview is required for admission. Follow these instructions, since as Dr. David Shorter from UCLA remarks, “most programs do not favor campus visits from prospective students before they have been accepted. Campus resources are already taxed with current students. Some places do not want to privilege those applicants who can afford to travel or those who are local. Keep in mind: You will have plenty of time after you are admitted to visit the department and talk over questions of fit.”

In rare cases, when you are asked to interview prior to program acceptance, take the experience seriously. Preparation is the key to confidence and your goal is to appear likable and competent – demonstrating you are authentically a good fit for the program and will be an asset to the program and discipline. Where possible, use your master spreadsheet to help you develop and anticipate the questions you will be asked. You should expect to understand the concentrations or area of study of the faculty in the department. You should at minimum watch interview prep videos to gain ideas for how to approach the interview. Better yet, schedule a mock or rehearsal interview at your institution’s career center. Where possible have your interview digitally recorded so you can observe where it may be appropriate to modify your interview style.

Finally, you should communicate your ability to “learn and pursue” new information and ideas rather than just your ability to “memorize and repeat” information. Having a pliable and inquisitive mind, shaped with a commitment to work hard will be one of the most important assets you can communicate.

The post-interview process can be taxing. Waiting is never fun or easy, but patience is truly a virtue in this instance. Be quick to write thank you notes and express your interest to be part of the program. Once those notes are sent, wait patiently until you receive requests for further information or until that important letter, email, or phone call is received advising you of the department’s decision. If you receive a rejection or “alternative” notification from your top choices of institution, write a second thank you note and continue to express your interest. It is possible that the institution will eventually have a vacancy on their accept list and you might receive a secondary offer.

Action Items

  1. Note which programs may require an interview (most will not).
  2. Prepare thoroughly, if asked to interview, and interview with confidence.
  3. Follow up with a thank you note.

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