Some schools make the interview mandatory for all candidates, other schools make the interview optional. Should you request an interview? Only if you do well on interviews. If you’re not good at interviews, don’t put yourself through it. Chances are, the person will wonder why you requested an interview when you’re so miserable during it.
Here are the most often asked interview questions and the kind of answers admissions committees are looking for. The fact that some of these sound like application essay questions is not a coincidence. Committees really want to know this information, and your transcripts and test scores can’t answer these questions.
1) Why do you want to go to graduate school?
a.k.a. Why do you want to go to law school, med school, business school, architecture school, etc? This is your opportunity to wax poetic about your love for the subject matter.
2) What is appealing to you about this program in particular?
Research each school individually so that you have something specific to say. Find out the difference between this particular program and other programs you’re applying to.
3) What are your long-term and short-term goals?
Some interviewers will also ask how you hope to achieve these goals. Short-term goals include the type of course-work you’re looking to do in graduate school, the type of additional research you want to do or internship you’d like to get while in school and the kind of school-based groups and organizations you’re interested in joining. It also includes what you think you’ll do right after you earn your degree and what you think you’ll be doing a couple of years after graduating.
Long term goals look at least 5 years into the future. What do you see as your career path? Where do you dream of ending up (thanks to your graduate degree)?
4) How do you work under pressure? What are your strengths and weaknesses?
This is a trick question, because you don’t actually want to say something negative, like – “I’m too shy” or “I tend to procrastinate under pressure.” But saying “I’m a perfectionist” when asked about your weakness has been done to death. Of course you work well under pressure, and you’ve learned so much from your weaknesses. My favorite answer when asked to name a weakness: “I tend to assign credit to others.”
5) What are your outside interests?
Schools are impressed with high GPAs and test scores, but don’t want a class composed of joyless grinds. To which of your non-academic activities are you most committed? Think of your hobbies, sports, volunteer activities, part-time work if you’re a graduating college senior. You may be asked “How has commitment to these activities affected your work?”
6) How would your closest friends describe you?
Business schools may also ask “How would the people you supervise describe you?” This is your chance to brag and attribute it to your friends. Or you could just ask your friends.
The best way to prepare for interviews is to have a good idea of what you’re going to say beforehand. Writing down the answers to the above questions and reading your answers aloud is a good start. Having someone do a “mock interview” with you is even better. Many colleges do these type of interviews through their Career Services or Student Centers. You can also have a friend ask you the questions.