Staying on TRACK for that Graduate School Interview

Author: Emily Francesca DeGenova, HMS Senior

If you’re like me and you took one look at your student loans and still thought “Wow, I want to go to graduate school” – then welcome to the crazy train, where sleep, money, and friends are overrated!

As we embark on this journey together, chug-a chug-a choo choo-ing on through our graduate school entrance exams, statement of purpose essays, and various online applications – we are hopeful to arrive at a rest-stop called the graduate school interview.

As I am fortunate to have had a couple of interviews to-date, I would like to share some tips I have learned along the way to help you go from “I think I can, I think I can” to “I know I can, I know I can”.

Dress:

It is better to be overdressed than underdressed in an interview; however, that doesn’t mean your wardrobe should lack all personality, as this is an opportunity to show case who you are as a professional. For example, it may be a good idea to subtly wear the university’s school colors to school spirit! At the same time, do not be overly flashy. I was once given advice to wear no more than 13 standout items at once. Earrings? That’s 2. Watch? That’s 3. Necklace? That 4. Do your shoes have “bling”? That’s 6. Are the buttons on your shirt a different color? Count each button. This is an easy tip to make sure you don’t go overboard with the accessories.

Materials:

Bring a copy of your resume for each person interviewing you. Bring a professional note pad and pen to jot down any important notes.

Prepare:

PREPARE. PREPARE. PREARE. Doing your research on the university, program, and overall industry trends will your best friend during this process. By the end you should be able to answer these three questions with a mixture of personal and professional appeal.

Why do you want to be a part of this university?
  • (1) Read up on their mission, values, and future goals. (2) Have an understanding of their history, or how they got started. (3) Understand the effects they have on the community, innovative research, and industry trends.
Why are you interested in this program?
  • (1) Know what appeals to you about this profession. (2) Understand how your skill set, educational, and professional experience align with the necessary requirements. (3) Be able to explain your personal investment into this career path.
How do you see past, current, and future trends affecting the industry?
  • (1) Know recent history of the profession. (2) Understand current on-going research. (3) Understand how future trends will affect the organization/university, the field, and the society as a whole.

Bring Questions:

In my personal experience this may be the most import advice I can give you. Be prepared to ask very specific questions about the program’s curriculum, student handbook, community outreach, research and publication opportunities, alumni, student involvement, culture, residencies, student outcomes, etc. This is not only an opportunity for you to showcase your attention to detail, but, also, to figure out if this university would be a good fit for you.

Be Confident:

Be confident! Getting the interview is the hard part, so be proud! Let this be more of a fun get-to-know-you experience! Be yourself, because it is the best way to find your best fit.

Send a Thank You Email:

Be sure to send a brief thank you email within 24 hours of the interview. Make sure to use specific details brought up during the interview to showcase your true interest in the program.

Below is a template I made up to assist my writing. Of course this is not an exhaustive template as to letter should be tailored to your experience, but it is a start!

Dear [Dr./Mr./Ms. Name]:

Thank you for taking the time yesterday to interview me for the [Program Name] at [University Name], as I am passionate about (…)

I believe I would be a great fit for this position/program for three reasons:

- First, the program's concentration in (…) compliment's my skill set in (..)
- Second, the program's focus on (…) aligns with my professional/educational history of (…) 
- Third, the opportunity to embark on a [ex. summer residency] will be (…)

Additionally, I would like to thank you for answering my questions in an effort to assist my understanding of the program. 

I look forward to hearing the program's admission decision. Thank you again for your consideration.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

I hope these tips are helpful as you chug along the journey of becoming a professional and following your passions. It has certainly been a learning and growing experience for me. As a result of the many late nights feeling like a LOCO-motive studying for the GRE, rewriting my essays to perfection, and filling out my contact information over and over again – I feel confident in saying, “I know I can, I know I can!”

Photo Citation:

  1. “Graduate School Interview Preparation.” UConn Center for Career Development, career.uconn.edu/resources/grad-school-interview-preparation/.

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