Common and Difficult Graduate School Interview Questions

Plus, Tips and Expert Answers to Help You Prepare!

Updated: April 3, 2020


Grad School Interview Questions

Not all graduate programs require an interview, but – increasingly – this is becoming more common. If you’re applying to a graduate program, particularly (though not exclusively) to a doctoral program, you may face an interview, and you need to be prepared for the kinds of questions you may be asked. Sometimes, seemingly innocuous questions – questions that seem simple, and that you could answer “off the cuff” – have a deeper meaning behind them. While you should feel comfortable enough to speak in a collegial way with your interviewer(s), you still need to be attentive to the fact that you are being evaluated at all times. With that said, bear in mind that making it to the interview stage for a graduate program means that they’re likely looking for reasons to keep you, rather than reasons to exclude you. Your application materials and statement of purpose have piqued the review committee’s attention, and now, they want to see if you’re as awesome as you seem on paper – that is, if you’re both someone with promising ideas and someone they’ll be interested in bringing into their departmental community. Having an idea of what to expect will allow you to put your best self forward on interview day.

You will learn:

Grad School Interview Questions - General

Grad School Interview Questions - Academic

Grad School Interview Questions - Personal

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Here are some of the most common and some of the most difficult or tricky questions candidates often face in interviews. For the more common questions, we’ll provide you some tips or pointers to help you think carefully about your own responses. These are the kinds of questions you likely already have in mind, and to which you have hopefully given some thought already. For those more difficult questions, we’ll provide some discussion about the question and an expert response, so that you have the tools you need to construct your own unique responses.

We’re breaking these questions down into three categories: General, Academic, and Personal. General questions are the kinds of questions you will almost certainly face, usually asking for basics about you, your intentions, and your interests. Academic questions are those questions specifically related to the kinds of scholarship that you have done already and that you will be doing, if accepted. Personal questions are questions about your own attitudes and experiences. Scroll through to review all of our questions, or use the links below to navigate to specific sections, if you prefer:

Grad School Interview Questions - General

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why our school/program?
  • Why should we accept you?/How will you contribute to our program?
  • Why are you interested in this field?
  • Why are you pursuing this degree (PhD)?
  • Where else are you applying?*

Grad School Interview Questions - Academic

  • What do you see as the major trends in your field of study?
  • Can you explain your research to non-specialists?/Specifics on past publications or projects
  • What is your research interest?/What are you hoping to research?*
  • If you could, would you have changed anything about your academic experience so far?*

Grad School Interview Questions - Personal

  • How do you deal with failure/disappointment?
  • What is your most significant accomplishment?
  • How do you deal with the stress of academia?*
  • What have you been reading?/What's the last book you read?*

Still working on your application? Check out these statement of purpose examples!

Graduate School Interview Questions (General)

Grad School Interview Question #1: Tell me about yourself

This is almost certainly the most common interview question, regardless of where or to what you are applying. It’s so common, in fact, that we’ve already addressed it in multiple blogs and videos! Instead of reinventing the wheel, check out this blog on the dreaded interview question, "Tell me about yourself" – just note that this was written for med students, but the exact same advice applies here. In general, you want to think of this as your “opening statement”, the introduction to the story of you as an aspiring grad student.

Here’s a great video on “Tell Me About Yourself”, if you’d rather watch. Note that this is in the context of medical school interviews, but the principle is exactly the same!

Grad School Interview Question #2: Why our school/program?

In responding to this question, you need to be specific. You absolutely do not want to go on about what an illustrious or renowned school/program it is. They know what their “ranking” is; they don’t need applicants to tell them that. Instead, what is it about the curriculum at that school that fits your own learning style or needs? What faculty member(s) would you like work with, and why do you want to work with them? Do you have a potential supervisor in mind (and, if so, have you reached out to them yet, to ensure they’re taking on students and interested in your intended course of study? Note: if you haven’t done this by the time you get the invitation to interview, then you need to do so prior to the interview, if at all possible!)? What current projects or initiatives are underway in that department, and why would you want to be a part of these? What can this specific school/program give you that others cannot? How do your own goals and priorities align with those of the department? These are the kinds of things you must speak to when asked this question – and, yes, you have to be able to do this with EVERY program to which you are applying!

Grad School Interview Question #3: Why should we accept you? How will you contribute to our program?

Up to this point, you’ve probably been thinking more about what you, as a student, will “get” from the institution (in terms of funding, research support or resources, work in a lab or as a TA, scholarly mentors, etc.). At this stage of your education, however, you must realize that the institution will get a lot out of you, as well. They will benefit from the research you do, the teaching work you will likely have to do, etc. As well, once you’ve completed your education, you will be an ambassador for their program, whether you realize it or not. As you become a working professional, their diploma will be hanging on your wall, and you will thus be representing their educational programming. So, what new, exciting ideas are you bringing with you? What can you offer them that others may not be able to offer (or, at least, not in the same ways as you)?

Aside from any preliminary ideas you might have about the research or related work you hope to do, you should also look at the mission statement for the school and the stated priorities of the department (usually available on the school and departmental website, respectively). This will help you determine what qualities they seek to foster, what kinds of research they tend to support, and the direction they’re looking to go. You can then think through ways in which your own interests, values, and priorities align, pointing to specific events, projects, or activities that demonstrate these effectively.

Here's a video about finding inspiration when preparing for interview questions like this:

Grad School Interview Question #4: Why are you interested in this field?

Hopefully, if you’re applying to a graduate program, you’re quite passionate about the things you have studied so far (and if you’re not, then turn back now! You won’t make it through grad school if you don’t love what you do!). However, a response to this question needs to convey more than just gushing jubilation at the idea of getting to study these things professionally. Having enthusiasm is great, and a statement of genuine enthusiasm for the field is fine. However, your response needs to go further than that, especially if you’re applying to a PhD program. Whatever graduate program you’re pursuing, you need to have specific reasons for why you are following this particular path. You love the field? Great! What do you love about the field? WHY do you love those specific things about the field? What do studies in this area offer you that you can’t find in other disciplines? Answering these questions will give you the best answer to “Why are you interested in this field?”

Grad School Interview Question #5: Why are you pursuing this degree (PhD)?

If you’re hoping to do a PhD, it is important to be able to articulate why doing a PhD, specifically, is the right choice for you, your priorities, and your goals. Being passionate isn’t enough. As noted before, passion and genuine interest are a must, if you’re going to get through grad school. However, enthusiasm will only get you so far. You need to demonstrate that your research interests are viable, that you have the discipline necessary to follow through with the degree, and that a doctorate is needed for the kind of work you want to do.

Considering going to graduate school before applying to medical school? Check out this blog, which asks, "Does a Master's or PhD help your med school chances?"

Grad School Interview Question #6: Where else are you applying?

This is a difficult question because you need to be honest, but you also need to be able to demonstrate why this particular institution would be a top choice for you. They want to be fairly certain that you’ll accept an offer, if it’s extended; at the same time, you need to cover your own bases and apply to multiple schools, if that’s what’s right for you (though we don’t recommend casting an overly-wide net with applications). 

Here’s an expert answer:

To be honest, I have also applied to X school and Y school, both of which have excellent programs and scholarship opportunities in-line with my interests. That said, this school would be one of my top choices, particularly because of the work Dr. Singh is doing is doing in his [Research Lab]. I’ve corresponded with Dr. Singh about his current initiative, and found that our interests overlap considerably, and he responded favorably when I asked if he might consider supervising my project, if I am accepted. I am up-to-date on his work and have been following it for some time now; working with him as I complete my degree would be ideal, due to my interest in this particular area. While I need to spend some time familiarizing myself with the wider field and theoretical resources, which will happen during my coursework, I already have some ideas of independent research I could possibly do, branching off of the work he’s done already.

This same format can be applied at different schools, simply by focusing on what about each of their programs is especially meaningful to you. Maybe there’s a current grant-funded project you’d like to be part of; maybe one school has a particular methodology or curricular plan that you find particularly attractive; maybe there are faculty members at other schools with whom you’d like to work. Again, be honest, but be prepared to demonstrate why you want to study at this particular institution. If you do end up with multiple offers, you’ll have some choices to make at that time. For now, focus on putting your best self forward and getting those offers first!

Graduate School Interview Questions (Academic)

Grad School Interview Question #7: What do you see as the major trends in your field of study?

While it’s not expected that you will be an expert in the field at this point, you do need to demonstrate that you’re engaging the literature, that you’re pursuing the ideas in this area of scholarship, and that you’re doing these outside of and beyond your standard coursework. Those who do the bare minimum aren’t generally well-suited for graduate school. In undergraduate studies, you’re gaining exposure to a wide range of ideas, but you only take the very first steps down the specialization process in your final year or two of undergrad. Graduate school is a whole different beast – graduate school is as different from undergraduate as undergrad was from high school.

As you’re finishing undergrad, use your school’s library resources to peruse some of the major journals in your field. Don’t know what those journals are? Ask your professors or a research librarian. They can point you to the most influential journals in your area, and you can look through the past few issues to see what issues are being addressed by scholars right now. Knowing the classics is important, but – for graduate study – knowing what’s happening in the field RIGHT NOW is critical. If you can throw out some key names and some current ideas or theories in your area, you’ll impress the interviewer(s).

Grad School Interview Question #8: Specifics on past publications or projects/Can you explain your research (or research interests) in a way that would be comprehensible to non-specialists?

If you’ve listed something in your application and/or CV, you must be prepared to talk about it with your interviewers. In an open-file interview, they can ask you about anything in your application. Even in a closed-file interview, you may still get the variant question above, which means that you should still be prepared to talk about your past work. Moreover, you need to be able to explain it with a non-specialist. While you’re likely to interview with someone in the department to which you are replying, they may still be from a very different area of specialization than the one you’ve pursued so far. Ensure you can break down key concepts, unpack complex jargon, and explain the things you’ve done as if you were speaking to someone with no specific knowledge in the area. While you’ll likely learn additional methodologies and approaches as part of your graduate education, you still need to be able to discuss your own work and interests, demonstrate the skills and competencies you’ve already started polishing, and stir your listener’s interest by demonstrating both enthusiasm and nuanced, trenchant consideration of the field and the contributions you’d like to make to scholarship (broadly defined – inside and outside of academe).

Grad School Interview Question #9: What is your research interest?/What are you hoping to research?

At first glance, this may not seem like a difficult question. Indeed, it may be one of the most obvious. However, at the stage of applying to graduate school, you will likely not have a clear research agenda yet, and that’s okay! As well, even if you do have a clear research agenda, it will almost certainly change before you finish your degree, as that is – quite simply – just the nature of research at this level. At this point in your education, you are about to be exposed to a wealth of “unknown-unknowns”. That is to say, by now, you know quite a bit, and you know enough to recognize many of your own knowledge gaps. However, beneath those gaps you’ve identified lurk even greater depths of knowledge – not just things you know you don’t know enough about, but those things you can’t even recognize as possible points of knowledge, due to the current limitations you’ve acknowledged. It’s weird and philosophical, I know (hey, you said you wanted to go to grad school, right?), but the point is that your thought will be pushed in ways you hadn’t thought possible before, and this very fact means that your research interests will likely move around over time, and your trajectory may end up rather different than you thought it would when you started.

The good thing is that your interviewer knows all of this. They know you’re not a grad student – yet. They know you’re not an expert – yet. So, come in with a clear idea of where you think you want to go with your education, but don’t panic if you can’t hand in a detailed research plan – yet. Be as specific as you can, and demonstrate why these ideas matter to you. On the other side of things, don’t come in with some grand plan that you think will shake the discipline to the core with its revolutionary ideas. Remember those “unknown-unknowns”? Well, it’s entirely possible that your earth-shattering idea was already tried by someone else long before you, and has already been considered and abandoned by the contemporary field. So, do bring a good dose of humility with you into the interview.

Here’s an expert answer: 

[Note: as this must be answered with reference to a particular field, this is written from the perspective of someone applying to grad studies in history.]

Well, I acknowledge that there are some limits to my current knowledge, but one idea I’ve returned to again and again in my undergraduate work is the idea of historical narrative, and whose voices are dominant – or even permitted – in popular historical narratives and/or the public sphere. Current debates around colonization are particularly relevant here, where there is a dominant historical narrative (what Enrique Dussell would call “history ‘from above’”) which casts colonial efforts as heroic, and a marginalized narrative (Dussell’s “history ‘from below’”) that suggests colonization was tantamount to genocide. That there can be two fundamentally different narratives (surely among others) regarding the exact same historical event is something that quite frankly astounds me.

That sense of perplexity is what led me to begin thinking about more than just the narratives, but HOW these are transmitted, accepted, challenged, etc., in the public sphere. That is what leaves me wanting to craft an interdisciplinary study that puts current historical studies into conversation with media studies. While my undergraduate degree and general interests lie with history, there is a growing body of work on the mediatization of historical narrative, and that’s where I’d like to begin my studies. This is one reason I want to work here, with Dr. Stevenson, since she is one of the foremost scholars in this area of study. Her work on social media, state power, and the public sphere offers some new and interesting questions about how narrative and counternarrative arise, spread, and gain or lose legitimacy in the 21st century.

That is the foundation on which I hope to begin building my own project, particularly with regard to indigenous-settler histories. For my undergraduate thesis under Dr. Koenig at XYZ University, I was able to draw on Dr. Stevenson’s theories to explore the 2016 Standing Rock protests and media/social media response, a project that allowed me to respectfully approach members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe for an interview, to better understand what they saw happening in this historical event and the popular support shown on major social media sites, like Facebook. The ways in which a history that, at the time, seemed to me rather far in the past, was seen as immediately relevant – a symbol of a larger struggle that has been teeming for centuries – was eye-opening for me. In fact, it fundamentally changed my understanding of the term “history” – no longer was this just a collection of things that happened in the past, rather it was an active and influential component of the present. I want to understand this more deeply and explore the ways in which contemporary social media similarly collapses boundaries between past and present.

This response is concrete enough to see a logical trajectory emerging from it, while also respecting the current limits of the interviewee’s knowledge. At the same time, it points to some key theories and scholars to demonstrate that they are well-read in general, and offers some insights into what has led to the decision to pursue further studies, all of which shows promise for moving forward and further nuancing that pre-existing knowledge. However, it is still significantly short of a concrete research proposal, but that’s okay. If you already have some possible research trajectories in mind, by all means, speak about this; but, don’t panic if you’re not yet 100% certain where you’ll go with your research. This is quite normal.

Grad School Interview Question #10: If you could, would you have changed anything about your academic experience so far?

There are two primary directions this answer could take, assuming there is something you would change (and almost everyone would change something): something you found unsatisfactory in terms of the academic institution, or something you found unsatisfactory in terms of your own performance as a student. If you didn’t have a strong relationship with your supervisor, if you found institutional support lacking, or something like that, this would be an institutional issue. Be careful here, especially if you were displeased with, or had an unfortunate encounter with, a particular individual. Academia is a social sphere, and there are alliances, cliques, and gossips, as there are in any social sphere. You don’t want to speak poorly of one professor, only to find out that they are close colleagues with your interviewer. So, if that thing you’d change has to do with the institution, avoid naming names and discuss why the issue was concerning or disruptive enough to leave you wishing it were different, and explain how you succeeded despite this. Turn it into a positive conversation about what you’ve overcome.

The same advice goes if the thing you’d like to change about your academic experience so far is something you yourself did or didn’t do. Do you wish you’d been more active and engaged during your first and second year of undergrad? Guess what – so do most people! Again, turn it into a positive conversation – what helped you snap out of this? What was your “aha!” moment that showed you what this work and education was all about? What changes did you implement, and what did you learn from that experience? Discussing these turns a potential negative into a positive.

Here’s an expert answer (institutional issue):

At my undergraduate institution, we were a rather small department. While I immensely value the education I received, the courses I took, and the professors who supported me, the diversity of perspectives was not as expansive as I wish it could have been. I was exposed to many different ideas and perspectives, and these were certainly present among our faculty, but with only 5 core professors, I was limited in terms of the specific guidance I was able to receive. That said, my professors were incredibly encouraging, and two of them put me into contact with colleagues at other institutions, whose ideas they thought I might appreciate. We corresponded by email, and they sent me some of their syllabi and reading lists, which added supplemental material to the courses I was already taking. Although a wide diversity of perspectives wasn’t available to me on campus, my mentors were able to point me to resources that helped me expand my interests and follow what captured my attention. I look forward to the day when I’m presenting at conferences, so that I can meet these scholars and thank them in person – I don’t know if they realize just how important their insights were in fostering my passion to continue my studies.

Graduate School Interview Questions (Personal)

Grad School Interview Question #11: How do you deal with failure/disappointment?

Asking about uncomfortable things from our life history – failures, limitations, weaknesses – is very common in any interview. The purpose is generally two-fold: to see how you handle being asked about such things in a high-pressure situation (because we all just LOVE talking about our failures, right?!), and to see how you approach such “negatives”. It is very important that you reflect on such questions in advance, and do some probing to gain insights into who you are, how you’ve grown, and how you overcame such drawbacks. It is, quite frankly, inevitable that we will all fail at some point, we all have limitations and weaknesses, but what we do with all of these matters. If you can view these as mere bumps on the longer path to success, and focus on what you’ve learned when confronted with your own limitations or failures, then you’ll be able to navigate a touchy question like this one successfully.

If asked about a failure, be honest about it. Failure is inevitable at some point on the path to success, so acknowledging it and exploring it to learn what went wrong and how to fix it (or, how to alter the path to work around it) demonstrates your resilience and adaptability. These are key characteristics necessary to succeed in graduate school. You will face critique. Your experiments will fail. Your research will run up against a dead-end. You must be able to show that these are not enough to defeat you or cause you to abandon your education. There are many graduate students who start and do not finish – an unfortunate reality, but a reality nonetheless. Show them that you have the tenacity and ability to face such hurdles head-on.

If asked to give examples of personal limitations, again, be honest. Do not try to sneak in a “weakness-that’s-really-a-strength” – interviewers can see right through it, and it comes off feeling cliché, at best. Have you historically had poor time management? Say so. Do you have a hard time saying “no” to others? Tell them. Are you someone who is not naturally inclined toward organization? Confess. But, in all of these cases, do not simply leave it at that! Tell them how you are working past (or how you have worked past) such limitations. Poor time management? How do you stay on top of your school and other work, and how will you continue to do so as a graduate student? Uncomfortable saying “no”? What have you done to start creating boundaries, so that you won’t be overwhelmed? Disorganized? What systems have you put in place to manage your data? Show them you won’t just shrug your shoulders when you face adversity – even when the source of it is you yourself!

Grad School Interview Question #12: What is your most significant accomplishment?

If you’re applying to a graduate program, you likely have significant accomplishments – academic, but probably personal, as well. That’s awesome! You should absolutely talk about this in the interview, of course! But, a word of caution: Be Humble – especially if you choose to talk about academic achievement. Your accomplishments are valid and worthy and you should absolutely be proud of them. However, you’re about to enter an arena where everyone is at least as accomplished as you are. You may be used to being at the top of every list, but now, you’re going to be working with all the other #1s, as well as the people who rank such lists. A dose of humility is always welcomed. Remember, the people interviewing you are looking at you as a future colleague. Graduate school is – ideally – more about working collaboratively and collegially with your peers and professors than it is working for your profs in undergrad. Along with evaluating your academic bona fides, they also want to ensure that you’re a person they’d like to see every day!

Grad School Interview Question #13: How do you deal with the stress of academia?

We are seeing mental health crises in many facets of society, and academia is included in this. The pressure of graduate school is immense and virtually indescribable to those who haven't gone through it. You’re in competition with the same people you grow close to over the course of your degree (your cohort – the other students accepted the same year as you). You’re under constant scrutiny and your work is subject to constant critique - you're much more likely to be alerted to things you're doing wrong than applauded for things you're doing right. The boundary between work and life gets very fuzzy, as does the boundary between work and self – becoming a scholar is both an occupation and an identity. Your research is often dependent on funding, and resources seem more and more scarce with each passing year. Future prospects as tenured faculty (if that’s the direction you’d like to go) are dismal, as precarious adjunct/sessional/contract labour becomes more and more the norm. People outside of academia will think you’re still just “going to school”, when that’s not at all the reality of what you’re actually doing - their definition of "going to school" is worlds away from the actual work you'll be doing.

In short, it’s all a lot to deal with, and it can be mentally trying, even in good times. Depression and anxiety are common. Every year, graduate students abandon their studies under the weight of it all, and some – particularly those with pre-existing struggles with mental health – are driven past the point of no return. Even those who seem “strong” or “okay” may be hurting far more than they may let on.

As such, the push toward a mental wellness model in academia is underway, but it’s slow-going. You need to demonstrate all at once that you are realistic about the immense pressure you will be under, and that you have coping strategies in place to handle such stressors. If you don’t have such strategies, start working on them NOW. You will absolutely need them. Whatever it is that makes you feel good about yourself, competent, healthy, and like you’re on stable ground, follow it and make it a regular practice.

Here’s an expert answer:

I’ve been following the Chronicle for Higher Education online for the past year, as I wanted to start gaining an understanding of the realities of graduate school. They’ve posted many times about mental wellness in academia, as well as some of the unique stressors that come with life in higher education. I also know a few graduate students in various fields, and I’ve started talking to them about some of the challenges and stressors they experience. I know that this won’t be an easy road – academically or personally. I’m incredibly excited by the possibility to continue my studies at the graduate level, but it is clear that some effective coping strategies are necessary.

I’m fortunate in that I’m very close with my family, and I have a long-term partner, as well. They are all an immense source of support, and I always have a loving ear when I need to vent. On top of that, being in nature really helps me keep everything in perspective. My partner and I go camping every long weekend during the warmer months, and I live 5 minutes away from a massive, beautiful park, right on the lake. I actually take my books and laptop there frequently, sitting at a picnic table in the shade of a massive tree, looking out across the lake – it’s one of the best places to get work done. I can take breaks, listen to birds chirping, watch squirrels play, or just feel the breeze on my face. Even when I can’t go there, I have a nice garden in my backyard, where I grow flowers and vegetables, and a little outdoor work station where I can do some reading or writing.

Lastly, in the past year, and at the recommendation of a counsellor, I’ve taken on a hobby that has helped me so much – cooking and baking. It may sound strange, but it is the perfect anecdote for some of the stress of school. In my upper-level courses, it became clear that any idea or theory is up for debate and critique. Nearly any claim someone makes can be evaluated critically through a different lens. I found that this makes it difficult to have a sense of certainty, a clear sense of “good” or “bad” with regard to one’s own work. The results of cooking and baking, however, are definitive. Either the dish is delicious or it’s not. Now that I’m pretty good at it, most of the things I make are delicious. I can spend some time blowing off steam while creating beautiful foods I get to enjoy and share with others. No one’s going to debate the succulence of my peach pie. My pasta sauce isn’t going to be critiqued for its methodology. It’s just tasty. I don’t know why that helps put my mind at ease, but it does. Having little objective successes every day helps insulate me somewhat from many of the stresses of the outside world, school included.

Grad School Interview Question #14: What have you been reading?/What’s the last book you read?

This question is difficult because of how informal it can come across when asked. As ever, you want to be honest, but that means making a note to yourself right now: Ensure you’re reading things that show depth and curiosity! This doesn’t mean reading only those things related to your area of scholarship, but you absolutely do need to have such things in your regular rotation. If, for example, there are primary works in your field that you haven’t had the chance to read yet, then get thee to a library! Often, in undergraduate studies, you’ll read a lot of secondary sources – that is, readings about key theories, thinkers, and methodologies in the field, written by others. But, if there are landmark names in your field whose actual works you’ve never read, work them into your rotation along with some things that are more current. As noted earlier, if you’re not sure what these are – in either case, old or new – ask a research librarian at your school. Most schools will have discipline-specific librarians who are familiar with the major works in that discipline, foundational primary texts and cutting-edge scholarship happening at this very moment. Make use of this incredibly valuable resource – you’re paying for it with your tuition, whether you use it or not!

If you enjoy fiction, non-fiction works outside your field, graphic novels, etc., that’s great, of course! You don’t have to lose yourself and your enjoyment to pursue graduate studies. Just be sure to think through the image you project, if you discuss these in an interview. Reading Vampirella is a bit different than reading Watchmen or Maus. Discussing your love of trashy romance novels comes off in a different way than discussing your love of historical biographies. That’s not to suggest there’s anything wrong with enjoying the former of either comparison – you do you! But, you do want to be strategic in what you disclose in an interview, since you're making a first impression (your quirks can come out after you've been accepted!). So, if you’ve legitimately just put down the most recent Harlequin novel, give it some consideration before reflexively answering this question in a way that doesn’t highlight your own depth --unless, of course, you want to study such things as part of your scholarship. 

Here’s an expert answer:

To be honest, over the past month, I’ve been handling a heavy load at school, so my recreational reading time has been spent more on fiction than non-fiction. I do have a subscription to [Top Journal], but I haven’t had an opportunity to really dig into the latest issue yet. Instead, I’ve been reading Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy before bed each night (Oryx & Crake, The Year of the Flood, and MaddAddam). If you’re not familiar, it’s a dystopian science fiction story that explores some of the anxieties and potentialities around genetic modification, environmental catastrophe, and the human/non-human species divide. As someone with an interest in apocalyptic narratives of the past, apocalyptic speculation about the future is also something I find fascinating. Atwood is also renowned for the research that goes into her novels, so seeing her explore the possibilities – both beneficial and terrifying – of the technological advances of the present really helps me think through some societal and personal anxieties about where the world is heading. She also just weaves deeply rich and incredibly elaborate worlds that I love spending time in and pondering, even if they are rather unsettling, at times.

Check out our Top 12 Tips for Applying to Graduate School!

Conclusion

While you absolutely must go through these questions and consider how you might answer them, note that we do not advise constructing some kind of script or completely pre-drafted answers. First, you never know exactly what questions you’ll get on interview day. You may get these questions, you may get others more specific to the school/program/discipline to which you’re applying. So, memorizing answers to these particular questions here may not be the best use of your mental resources. As well, overly-scripted answers will always feel inauthentic at best, and wooden or artificial at worst. Instead, think about your own experiences and all the ways in which you can highlight certain qualities via those experiences. Having this kind of conceptual understanding and approach will help you tell your stories in a natural and spontaneous way. If possible, get expert feedback on your responses to a variety of questions like these, so that you can refine your approach and ensure that your narratives are doing the kind of work you want them to do.

Check out three difficult grad school interview questions and answers here:


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