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On the Way to the Interview: Common Questions for Grad School Applicants


Table of Contents:


General Tip Before We Begin

Example question #1

Example question #2

Example question #3

Example question #4




Congrats, you made it through the initial stage of the application process and were selected for an interview with the admission committee! After relaxing a bit and experiencing your well-deserved pride for this result, it’s time to think about the next step of your journey. To successfully complete the interview you will likely need a lot of practice, and one of the best ways to start doing this is to consider some common questions that other grad school applicants have been asked. Whether your meeting will be conducted in person, over the phone, or via video conference, it will always develop around a common structure. Indeed, the main goal of the admission committee is to get to know you more in detail and to understand if you are the right fit for their program. After receiving your selection letter, you are already on the way to the interview: let’s achieve this goal with success by viewing some common interview questions!

General Tip Before We Begin

The very first interview strategy that I am learning as a grad school applicant is that providing examples from your personal and academic experience is really helpful to communicate your message clearly and convincingly. Indeed, by explaining the goals you have practically achieved in a certain situation, you are not just listing your skills, but proving how you used them in a real-life context.

Also, using examples as part of your answers can help you to build a strong narrative during the interview. This means that you are not just mentioning some beliefs, skills or characteristics you have, but that you are giving a face to the people you have worked with, a name to the places where you have left an impact and so on. Lastly, remember that you can use this strategy throughout the entire interview, of course being sure that your examples are coherent with the question you are asked.

Question #1: Tell us about yourself.

This question may seem simple, but it will be your first chance to break the ice and to start building a captivating profile of yourself, both as a student and as a person. Of course, keep in mind that all the anecdotes and examples you will bring from your personal and academic life need to support your candidacy. A technique to do this is to start with a broad reflection on yourself and then to narrow it down and connect it specifically to the program you are applying for.

TIP: Remember that from now on you will not only have to focus on the content of your answers, but you will also need to look confident and convincing. Non-verbal communication matters!

Question #2: Why did you choose this graduate program?

Here is another simple question that needs to be carefully reflected upon. Indeed, thinking of those few words, you can discuss different topics in your response. Let’s see some ways in which you can answer:

  1. Imagine you are applying for a PhD in Education and that the faculty provides some related master’s programs and certificates. In your answer, you can address why you want to pursue that specific degree rather than the others thought at the school.

  2. Imagine your dream is to attend a master in Education Policy, but that the faculty where you are applying offers a second master in Adult Education. Therefore, you can explain to the admission committee what interests you in that path that has motivated you to specifically choose it.

Having said this, the most important concept you should communicate is your genuine interest in the school and the program. Demonstrate your knowledge about the specializations and the opportunities that they provide and how they will help you excel in your career.

Question #3: What are your research interests?

This question is your opportunity to express your research focus and the contributions you could give to the program's academic community. Tell the admission officers about what interests you and what are the questions that you would like to investigate.

TIP: Connecting your research interests to the ongoing publications and projects that are organized within the faculty is a brilliant way of handling this question. Also, don’t be afraid to name specific professors at that school that are inspiring you and that you would like to collaborate with.

Question #4: What are your strengths and weaknesses?

By talking about your best qualities and weaknesses, you have the chance to show that you are a self-aware person. In addition, discussing your struggles means that you are able to critically evaluate them, and this is the first step to work to solve those issues. Remember that the admission committee doesn’t pretend to interview the ideal model of a student, and being real and honest is always highly appreciated.

TIP: Using examples of failures you have gone through due to a weakness you had can be the starting point to show how you managed to solve those problems and what skills you have learnt from that experience.


Graduate school interviews are your ultimate opportunity to present yourself in a personal and direct way. While practicing with the questions that were provided in this article, start seeing your interview as dialogue rather than a test. Talking naturally, receiving questions, and sharing your doubts and concerns is the only way to go beyond your written application. Good luck!

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