The application interview for prospective graduate school students can make the difference between being a contender on paper and actually getting accepted.
Today, Wise Words concludes a 3-part series on applying to grad school with a look at the interview and the potential value of participating in academic conferences. In Part I, we focused on the importance of self-awareness and gathering information about potential schools before applying.
In Part II, we examined the admissions essay, test and letters of recommendation.
“You should consider the interview as an opportunity to provide the individual or committee interviewing you with as much information as possible, while also trying to stress your strengths and weaknesses,” says Shirley Jackson, graduate school coordinator for the Sociology Department at Southern. “Therefore, you should really think about how you might respond to various questions.”
One way to prepare for the interview is to ask a friend or someone you trust to throw questions your way in a mock interview setting. It can be even more effective if that individual has strong interview skills, or is familiar with the types of questions a college or university may ask an applicant.
Jackson suggests this Web page at Catholic University that provides examples of the types of questions that may be asked during the interview.
“Remember, an interview for graduate school is much like an interview for a job,” she says. “You are trying to sell yourself as the best candidate for admission and the department is trying to sell itself as the best option for someone who is looking at a number of possible programs.”
Be Part of the ‘Conference Scene’
Academic conferences abound in higher education – in almost every discipline. While professors and graduate students generally participate in greater numbers than undergrads, there are opportunities for everyone to participate.
At Southern, undergrads often team up with faculty members on interesting and valuable research projects. This is beneficial for many reasons, including the visibility and notoriety gained through being associated with scholarly research. “There are even undergraduate research conferences to help to familiarize the novice conference attendee and participant,” Jackson says.
“Once you learn to navigate the ‘conference scene,’ it will become something that is enjoyable and less intimidating,” Jackson says.
Be prepared to make a time commitment when searching for a graduate school. “Applying to grad school can be like having a part-time job,” Jackson says. “It takes a bit of work to find a program that works for you.”
Indiscriminately getting into any program – without doing your homework and figuring out what you want to pursue — may not be a good idea because the chances of completing the degree are reduced, she adds.
But finding the right program and the right school can be valuable to your career and your future. A little effort now – okay, sometimes a lot of effort – can pay big dividends later.
Good luck in your search!