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How to prepare for a grad school interview

June 22, 2021
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A formal interview is a common part of applying to a graduate degree program. This is an opportunity for the admissions committee to learn more about you and your career goals, and it is your chance to ask a few questions of your own to get a feel for the program and its expectations.

That does not mean that an interview isn’t stressful. The key is to know what to expect and prepare in advance: from learning common grad school interview questions to deciding on the questions you want to ask yourself. Learn more about some of our tips on how to prepare for a grad school interview from Marquette University.

Do your research.

There are easily a dozen reasons why you decided on the program you’re applying to. It may be that you were interested in an online program, or you are aware of the program because of its school’s reputation. Before your interview, it is important to take time to research further into the program and its curriculum. This way, you can bring insightful questions to your interview.

Also, remember to research your own application. If a personal statement was a part of the admissions documents you submitted, be sure to look it over again. Your interviewer has most likely read your essay, so you should expect to be able to speak to and elaborate on what you submitted.

Practice your answers.

Much like a job interview, there are very common grad school interview questions to expect: Why do you want to earn this degree? Why do you want to attend this school? What do you hope to accomplish with this degree? You should also be prepared to answer questions about yourself: for example, your strengths and weaknesses, a time you might have experienced failure, a time you succeeded, favorite undergraduate classes and even your hobbies.

It’s important to prepare your answers to these types of questions in advance. Even writing your answers down in outline form can help you organize your thoughts and remember them later on. If you know that you tend to struggle articulating yourself, practice saying your responses out loud a few times. Rehearsing talking points might seem like going above and beyond, but chances are, there are several past projects or work experiences that are very likely to come up during your interview. It’s critical to be able to speak about them with confidence and without skipping any important details.

Bring your questions.

It is almost a guarantee that after you have finished answering questions, your interviewer will ask if you have any questions for them. This part of the interview is important on two fronts: First, it allows you to gain some additional insights about the program, and second, it gives you the opportunity to show how engaged you are with the program.

Asking thoughtful questions shows your dedicated interest to the program and that you are truly excited for this opportunity. While you were researching the program, did anything stand out? If you are excited about an on-site internship or a specific class, now is your chance to learn more about it. You can also ask their opinions: their advice for new students, what they see successful students do, and what the culture in the program’s cohort is like.

Dress to impress (even on a phone call).

Plan on dressing for your graduate school interview the same way you would for a job interview. Wear professional clothes that are pressed and neat. If you do not have a full suit, stick with a blouse or button-down shirt with a tie, and slacks or skirt.

Many applicants might find themselves doing video or phone interviews instead of meeting with the admissions committee in person. This should not be your opportunity to do an interview in sweatpants. When you dress the part of a qualified applicant, you also have the awareness and mindset to speak and hold yourself as a qualified applicant. Even if the admissions committee cannot see your full interview ensemble, they will be able to notice the confidence and professionalism you project through your words and tone.

Don’t forget the basics.

Whether your interview is in person or over a video call, remember to keep in mind tips you have learned for a job interview:

  • Bring additional copies of your resume.
  • Plan on arriving at least 30 minutes before the interview in case of traffic or public transportation issues.
  • Remember to send thank-you notes following the interview

If you are doing a virtual interview:

  • Do you have a quiet place to set up?
  • Have you double checked that your sound and audio is working correctly?

While small, these details add up and can make a real difference to your interview experience

Preparing for your graduate school interview at Marquette

As part of the admissions requirements in our online master’s in clinical mental health counseling program, applicants will have an interview with a faculty member from our counselor education and counseling psychology program. This short interview is an opportunity for our faculty to get to know you better and for you to become better acquainted with Marquette University and our online Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Learn more about our online program and the application process by reaching out to an Admissions Advisor today.