Planning for the Application and Interview Process
Make sure that you plan ahead for the application process by researching deadlines and requirements for each program. Staying organized will help you successfully complete the application process. Once you’ve submitted your applications, the next step is often an on-campus interview with some or all of the other applicants. It is important for you to prepare for your interview in order to stand out as the best candidate.
To successfully interview you have to do your research about the college or university, the department, faculty, and the classes. Read through their websites, talk to current students, and reach out to alumni through LinkedIn. Learn what skills and personal qualities successful graduate students possess, and be prepared to explain how you have those qualities. Networking is an important part of preparing for the application process, so gather as much information as possible.
Prepare Your Stories
It is important to practice interviewing ahead of time. Think about the skills you will need to be successful in the graduate program. What stories and examples can you provide that demonstrate those skills? Look over your resume and think back to your previous experiences for some ideas. When in doubt, use the S.T.A.R. method:
- Situation: What was the situation? Set the stage for the interviewer.
- Task: What were you asked to do? Explain the problem you had to solve.
- Action: What action did you take? Describe the skills you used.
- Result: What was the result? Summarize the impact of your actions.
For an on-campus interview, you’ll want to dress in business attire. For men, this means a suit, tie, and dress shoes. For women, this means a suit or skirt suit, dress shoes, and appropriate jewelry. Your hair should be neatly groomed, and you should use minimal amounts of cologne or perfume. Consider the environment and climate where the campus is located. There will likely be a campus tour, and you’ll want to wear shoes appropriate for the weather. Make sure that you are comfortable in whatever you wear.
At the end of each interview, you will probably be asked “What questions do you have for us?” You always want to have some questions prepared for the interviewer. You might have interviews with faculty members, program coordinators, department heads, and current students. You will want to prepare different questions for each group of people.
Send a Thank You
After your interview, be sure to thank your interviewers for taking the time to interview with you. This could be either in a hand-written note or email. Personalizing the email based on the conversation during the interview can remind the interviewer of who you are as a candidate and what skills you discussed. Writing thank you notes will make you stand out as a candidate, so make sure you take the time to write them!