How to Prepare for a Graduate School Interview: 5 Interview Questions

Preparing for a graduate school interview can feel overwhelming. Yet, with guiding steps and a thorough understanding of common questions, the process becomes much more manageable. Our team has conducted hundreds of graduate school interviews and we have a few tips to set you up for success.

Are Graduate School Interviews Important?

Graduate school interviews are an opportunity to highlight your skills, your goals, and how your personal mission aligns with the program’s mission. This is your opportunity to introduce yourself directly to the program. You bring your experiences and personality to life when you’re able to talk face-to-face with the program representatives.

A well-delivered interview, coupled with strong application materials, will definitely help your chance of admission. Try not to overthink it but definitely come prepared. 

Access our guide to graduate admissions for tips and resources for the entire application process. 

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Where to Begin with Interview Prep

Start your interview preparations early. Familiarize yourself with the interview process and give yourself enough time to prepare. Double-check our application checklist for the program you are applying to. 

Using the program’s website or the resources they provide, familiarize yourself with what the university and the program value, making sure your plans align with their objectives. Explore the faculty in the program and find a few courses that are particularly interesting to you. 

When you have a good understanding of the university or program, you’ll be better prepared to answer questions in the interview, both about yourself and your interest in the program.


Common Questions in a Graduate School Interview & How to Answer Them

We conduct graduate school interviews often, so have some expertise in this area. We know that everyone brings something different to the table. Some have strong work histories or are exceptional storytellers. Others have a long list of research experience and top-notch references. 

But the common factor in the most successful interviews is this: the ability to articulate your goals, accomplishments, and aspirations to the interview team. That’s why it’s important to prepare with some of the most common graduate school interview questions.

Question 1: Why Do You Want to Join This Graduate Program?

Universities ask this question to gauge your motivation and dedication to the program and discipline. Articulate your reasons for choosing this particular program and how it relates to your career plans.

Lean into the research you’ve previously conducted about the program. Are there particular courses you’re eager to take? Is there a faculty member with expertise that aligns with your interests? Does the mission of the institution align with your personal mission?

Being able to share the reasoning behind your interest will establish you as a qualified and dedicated candidate. 

Question 2: Can You Tell Us About Your Research or Work Experience?

Your past experiences provide insights into your abilities and interests. Discuss your experiences candidly, focusing on the lessons learned and their connection with your academic pursuits. Tie what you have accomplished with what you hope to gain from the graduate program. 

Don’t stress too much if you’re making a significant career change or you feel your experience doesn’t align with your desired program. Work to draw comparisons between your past and future and don’t be afraid to be bold.

Question 3: Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

This question evaluates your aspirations and planning abilities. Sensibly connect your future plans with the specifics of the graduate program you're applying to. Make sure the career outcomes in the program fits within your desired 5-year plan. 

Your interviewer will admire your ability to plan ahead, dream about future career goals, and chart the course to get to that point.

Question 4: How Do You Handle Stress or Overload?

Life as a graduate student can be considerably demanding. Illustrating your resilience by sharing times when you've successfully dealt with stressful circumstances can highlight your problem-solving capabilities. 

Use this question as an opportunity to tell a story. Think about a few key instances in your career or life that articulate a variety of positive traits you possess. Keep these stories in mind as you interview. Being able to share these stories will give interviews a better understanding of who you are and how you’ll engage within the program.

Question 5: How Will You Contribute to Our Program?

Universities look for students who would enrich their community. Make sure to share your past accomplishments and the unique skills you can bring to the program. 

This is a complex line to walk. You want to remain humble while still demonstrating you have unique and desirable contributions to make to the program. Don’t be afraid to take time to highlight what makes you a particularly qualified candidate.


We’re Here to Help

Here are your key takeaways: start your preparation early, be clear in showcasing your alignment with your chosen school, and get comfortable with answering common questions.

A final piece of advice, be honest and confident during the interview. Remember, with the right preparation, you are fully capable of achieving your goals.

We have a robust list of resources to help through the admission process. Access our guide to graduate admissions to get a thorough understanding of what comes next in your journey to a graduate degree. 

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About the Author

Southern Adventist University

Southern Adventist University

Southern Adventist University is a private Seventh-day Adventist college in Collegedale, Tennessee. Our practical graduate programs equip you with in-demand skills and experience that transfer directly into your career path. We hope to help you accomplish your dreams!

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