Preparing for graduate school interview questions

Grad school interviews are the last step of the application process, so congratulations for making it to this stage! Getting this far is a big accomplishment—graduate schools only conduct interviews with those applicants they are seriously considering accepting.

Grad schools conduct interviews to assess your “fit” with their program and faculty, as well as your interpersonal skills. In many cases, they may also be attempting to match you with a supervisor.

Before the interview, you should prepare by doing your research and reflecting on how you’ll answer these common questions.

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When to apply for graduate school

Once you’ve decided to apply for graduate school, you need to carefully plan out the application process, leaving yourself enough time to:

In general, you’ll need to start preparing your application at least 6 months in advance of the deadline. Most application deadlines are about 7–9 months before the program’s start date.

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Master’s vs PhD: The key differences

The two most common types of graduate degrees are master’s and doctoral degrees:

  • A master’s is a 1–2 year degree that can prepare you for a multitude of careers.
  • A PhD, or doctoral degree, takes 3–7 years to complete (depending on the country) and prepares you for a career in academic research.

A master’s is also the necessary first step to a PhD. In the US, the master’s is built into PhD programs, while in most other countries, a separate master’s degree is required before applying for PhDs.

Master’s are far more common than PhDs. In the US, 24 million people have master’s or professional degrees, whereas only 4.5 million have doctorates.

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How to ask for a letter of recommendation for graduate school

Letters of recommendation often make or break a graduate school application. It’s important to think carefully about who to ask and how to do it.

Ideally, you should approach former supervisors who know you and your work well. Different programs require different types of recommendation letters, but the process of requesting them is similar.

Follow these five steps to guarantee a great recommendation, including program-specific tips and email examples.

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How to write your graduate school resume

When you apply for graduate school, you’ll usually be asked to submit a resume or CV along with your application. A graduate school resume should give a focused, concise overview of relevant experiences and achievements.

The exact sections you include depend on your experiences and on the focus of the program you’re applying to. Ensure your resume gives full details of:

  • Your college education
  • Relevant work experience
  • Relevant voluntary and extracurricular experience
  • Any awards, honors, publications, or other relevant achievements
  • Any relevant skills, certifications, and memberships

The main difference from a regular resume is that you’ll put more emphasis on your education and academic interests to show that you’re a good candidate for graduate school.

Download the Word templates and adjust them to your own purposes.

Resume template 1 Resume Template 2

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Statement of purpose for graduate school

When you apply for graduate programs or scholarships, the admissions committee is looking for more than just a list of grades. The statement of purpose (also known as a statement of intent or motivation letter) is your chance to stand out from the crowd and showcase your motivation, skills and potential. It should:

  • Outline your academic or professional interests and goals
  • Discuss relevant skills, experience and achievements
  • Demonstrate why you’d be a good fit for the program

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How to write a personal statement for graduate school

When you apply to graduate school, along with your resume, transcripts and recommendation letters,  you’ll probably also have to submit a personal statement.

A personal statement is a short essay of around 500–1,000 words, in which you tell a compelling story about who you are, what drives you, and why you’re applying.

To write a successful personal statement for graduate school, don’t just summarize your experience; instead, craft a focused narrative in your own voice. Aim to demonstrate three things:

  • Your personality: what are your interests, values, and motivations?
  • Your talents: what can you bring to the program?
  • Your goals: what do you hope the program will do for you?

This article guides you through some winning strategies to build a strong, well-structured personal statement for a master’s or PhD application. You can download the full examples below.

Urban Planning Psychology History

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