Interviewing for Grad schools

"Very often the difference between the person selected and the person rejected is not who is the better candidate but who is better prepared for the interview."

Preparation and Research expanding section
  • Review program's mission and goals
  • Talk to:
    • Professionals in the field
    • UWL Faculty/Staff
    • Alumni of the program
  • Review current publications (rankings, etc.)
  • Review your own application materials
Basic guidelines expanding section


  • Confirm details in advance
    • Time, directions, parking and schedules
  • Appropriate attire - professional? business casual?
  • Don't assume informality - As comfortable as you may feel, remember it's still an INTERVIEW
  • Pay attention to non-verbal communication


  • Listen carefully before answering
  • Avoid clichés like "I'm good with people" and "I want to help people", be more specific with details
  • If you do not know an answer to the question, don't be afraid to admit it
  • If you do not understand a question, ask to have it restated
  • Length of your answers--pay attention to the interviewer's nonverbal cues


    • Make a positive first impression - dress professionally, smile, have a firm handshake, look like you want to be there
    • Acknowledge weaknesses but don't dwell on them
    • Some questions make it easy to be negative - don't let it happen to you!
  • Use EXAMPLES from your volunteer work, clinical experience, internship experience, work, school, campus and community involvement and personal life to make your point clearer
  • Remember, they are asking the same questions of everyone, so examples are how they will remember you
What are "they" looking for? expanding section

In the broadest terms, these are the issues that programs often focus on in the interviews....

  • Why do you want to work in this profession?
  • Why do you think you are a "good fit" for this profession?
  • How do you know these things about yourself?
  • Why do you want to study in our program?
Questions you should be prepared to answer expanding section

Questions You Should Be Prepared to Answer

  • Tell me something about yourself.
  • Why did you choose UW-La Crosse?
  • Why did you major in __________?
  • What was your most challenging class and why?
  • Why do you want to be a (fill in the profession)?
  • What other careers have you considered?
  • What are your strengths as they relate to this profession?
  • What are some areas in which you need improvement?
  • Tell me what you have learned about this profession from your [volunteer work, job shadow or employment].
  • What are your career goals? 
  • What do you see yourself doing after graduation? 5 years? 10 years?
  • Why do you want to study in our program?
  • If you don't get in, what is your back-up plan?
  • You may be asked to discuss a current topic/trend in the field.
Behavioral Interview Questions expanding section

"Your past behavior is the best predictor of your future performance." 

Use the STAR formula to answer, describe the 
Situation you were in or
Task to be achieved
Action you took
Results you achieved

Sample Behavioral Based Questions expanding section
  • Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.
  • Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it.
  • Tell me about a time in which you had to use your oral presentation skills to influence someone's opinion.
  • Give me an example of a time when you showed initiative and took the lead.
  • Give me an example of a time when you motivated others.
  • Describe a situation where you had to prioritize your time to get your work done.
  • Tell me about a difficult decision you've made in the last year.
  • Please discuss an important written document you were required to complete.
  • Tell me about a time when you worked as a member of a team to accomplish a goal.
Questions you might ask expanding section
  • What distinguishes their program from others? 
  • What opportunities are available for research, community outreach, clinical experiences? 
  • Are current students available to meet with you? 
  • What qualities do they look for in candidates for their program? 
  • What are the goals for the program for the next 3-5 years? 
  • If I talked to alumni of this program, what would they say about it? 
  • Professional background/career progression of interviewer
Special Interview formats expanding section
  • Panel or committee interviews 
    • Talk to all panel members, not just the one that asked the question
  • Multiple candidate or team interviews 
    • Examples will set you apart from others and keep you from feeling like you are repeating someone else’s answer