Graduate school allows you to build on the skills and knowledge you gained in your undergraduate degree. These programs are designed for in-depth study of a particular subject that will make you an expert in your field. If your dream job doesn’t require a graduate degree as a prerequisite, having a master’s will make you stand out from other candidates and will likely give you a higher starting salary.
If you’re ready to enroll in grad school, develop your skills and knowledge, and put yourself on track for an amazing career, you’ll first need to shine in your graduate school interview. More and more grad schools are now requiring an interview as part of their application process. Given how difficult it can be to get into the best graduate programs, you want your application to stand out in every way possible, and the interview is a great way to do this.
Read on to learn the best questions to ask graduate school representatives to stand out from other applicants and ace that interview!
Why Is It Important to Ask Questions in Your Graduate School Interview?
People often forget that an interview is a mutual process. You are not only meant to answer questions asked by the school representatives, but also ask a few questions of your own.
Interviewers will almost always give you a chance to ask anything you want at the end of the interview. When they do, it can hurt your chances if you ask the wrong questions or have nothing to ask at all.
Asking questions to the interviewer is a valuable part of the interview that helps you to stand out from other applicants. Asking questions makes a good impression on school representatives, demonstrating that you are serious about the program and passionate about your career.
Furthermore, questions are an excellent way to mention your skills, experience, or motivations that may not have come up in other parts of the interview.
Graduate schools look for students who will be a valuable addition to their program and asking questions gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your value. It will show the interviewer that you have thought things through and are prepared to take the next step in your academic or professional career.
Top Questions to Ask Graduate School Representatives
While questions are important in a grad school interview, it is equally important what you ask. Avoid asking questions that are too obvious, or are covered by information available in the school’s literature or on their website. This will only waste the time you have for the interview and make you look unprepared.
It’s important to thoroughly prepare for your interview, and when researching the particular graduate school and program, some good questions should naturally come to mind. You might also think of a couple of great questions during the interview in response to what the graduate school representative says. Having said that, it’s important to go to the interview with a few questions prepared.
Here are some good questions to ask in a grad school interview that suit most situations:
What kind of careers do alumni have after graduating? This is a great question to ask, because it shows the school representative that you are goal-oriented and focused on your future.
Are students able to pursue internships while studying? This question shows that you are not only driven to build a successful career after completing the program, but also that you want to be productive and learn as much as possible while pursuing your studies.
What research opportunities are available for students? This is another question that shows you are motivated to learn, grow, and actively drive your career.
What practical hands-on experience do students gain during the program? This question will show grad school representatives that you are not only interested in academic knowledge, but would also understand the importance of gaining practical skills that will prepare you to build a career after completing your program.
What kinds of organizations are alumni currently working for? Asking this will show you are driven and interested in the true value of the program. A reputable school produces valuable professionals fit to work for prestigious companies and organizations.
Are there teaching assistant opportunities for students? Teaching helps you to assess what you’ve learned and gives you insight into your weaknesses. Therefore this question means that you are not only keen to learn, but also want to perfect what you learn.
Are there any opportunities for students to publish papers? Publishing papers implies that you have unique insights and ideas that you want to share with the world. This question shows your interest in applying the knowledge you will gain through the program to solve real-world issues.
Is there any scope for students to collaborate with faculty to publish papers? Strong student-faculty relationships in learning and research bring out the best in both parties. This question shows that you want to learn and grow as much as possible, as well as implying you are a team player.
What obstacles do students face, if any, to completing the program? This question shows that you are realistic but also determined to be successful, whatever it takes. You want to know of any obstacles in advance to do your best in overcoming them to achieve your goal.
What mentoring opportunities are available for students? By asking this question, you’ll show that you understand the importance of mentorship, and that you don’t want to fall behind due to a lack of proper guidance.
When to Ask Questions in the Interview
Now you’re armed with some great questions to ask, but when is the best time for you to ask them? There is no correct answer to this question. Usually, a good interviewer will give you some time in the end to ask them any questions you have. Obviously, this is your time to ask any pending questions.
However, you don’t always need to wait for this point of the interview. When replying to the interviewer’s questions, you may ask a question or two in between that fits with the context of the conversation. This makes for a more interesting and natural discussion and shows that you are fully engaged with the interview.
Just make sure that you articulate your questions well, and that they fit in with the topic of the discussion. If you look like you’re trying to distract the interviewer or side-track the conversation, this could count against you.
The right graduate school interview questions can make all the difference and help you to ace your interview. However, merely having good questions prepared is not enough. It’s also important to be clear and articulate in how you ask your questions. Keep them short, unambiguous, and make sure your meaning and motivations are clear.
This is where good communication skills come in! If you can, attend a mock interview session ahead of your interview. It’s also a good idea to practice with a friend before you attend the actual interview. Have them ask you likely questions, and be sure to ask them your prepared questions.
The right preparation will go you a long way to helping you shine in your graduate school interview.
Lisa is a full-time writer specializing in career advice, further education, and personal development. She works from all over the world, and when not writing you'll find her hiking, practicing yoga, or enjoying a glass of Malbec.