The use of Stanford graduate school interview questions varies between all the graduate programs at the famed California university. Stanford University is not part of the elite Ivy League colleges in the US but it's part of the Public Ivies group that consists of other well-known public universities such as UCLA and the College of William and Mary. Stanford has one of the most populous graduate student populations. Nearly 10,000 students are enrolled at one of the seven distinct graduate and professional schools from the vaunted Stanford Law School to the equally prestigious Stanford Graduate School of Business. This article will look at the interview process for Stanford, and provide Stanford graduate school interview questions with appropriate answers and tips. 

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11 min read

List of Stanford Graduate Schools that Interview Stanford Graduate School Interview Questions: Stanford Business School Stanford Graduate School Interview Questions: Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability Stanford Graduate School Interview Questions: Stanford Medical School FAQs

List of Stanford Graduate Schools that Interview

  1. Stanford Graduate School of Business
  2. Doerr School of Sustainability
  3. Stanford Medical School

Not all graduate programs at Stanford will require an interview. However, there are several scenarios for how to be admitted to any of the 100+ graduate programs offered at Stanford, where an interview may be necessary:

  • Programs that admit applicants with an application and required interview
  • Programs that admit applicants with an application and optional interview
  • Programs that admit applicants with an application and in-person campus visit
  • Programs admit applicants and then hold a recruiting interview after admission

Very few programs actually make it a requirement of their application process, save for the medical school, which has medical school interviews for either its regular MD program or its various dual-degree programs such as the MD/PhD and MD/MPH, and the business school, which holds interviews for all of its graduate-level degrees as part of its MBA requirements. Other STEM-based subjects such as engineering, do not officially hold interviews, but faculty or program directors may reach out to ask for one. The school advises all graduate applicants to learn their particular program’s requirements, regardless of whether they interview or not.

One of the best ways to prepare is by doing mock interviews. If you are applying to Stanford Law School, you can do law school mock interviews, but if you are applying to the business school you can do MBA mock interviews. But regardless of the program, mock interviews help you mentally and physically prepare, so you are relaxed, and clear-headed when the interview happens. They also help address weaknesses in your answers and delivery.

Stanford Graduate School Interview Questions: Stanford Business School

  • Tell us about your experience in (hometown), and how it compares to California.
  • You started your undergraduate in (subject) but then added a minor in (different subject). What was the origin of that new interest?
  • How do you see the future of AI?
  • Can you share some thoughts on your experience at Stanford?
  • What’s next for you?

Sample Answers

1. Tell us about your experience in (hometown), and how it compares to California. 

I think the weather and the ocean are the things that stand out as the most different about California compared to my hometown in Toronto. But Toronto and Stanford share one thing that I value – multiculturalism. Growing up in Toronto gave me a unique education on diversity and the importance of learning about other cultures, but also to treat difference as everyday and ordinary. On my first visit to Stanford and Palo Alto I saw how similar they are to where I grew up, and it made me feel confident in my choice to pursue my MBA here at the Stanford GSB.

2. You started your undergraduate in (subject) but then added a minor in (different subject). What was the origin of that new interest? 

I majored in Philosophy for my undergraduate at the University of Toronto. It was a subject that always interested me and something that was only briefly touched upon in high school. But after two years, I felt adrift. I was unsure how I could apply my degree to an attainable career. During a recruitment drive, the president of a major bank in Canada gave a talk, which I attended. This president revealed that he had majored in Philosophy and graduated! He went on to law school eventually, but I thought the idea of someone steeped in philosophical thought and theory at the head of a major financial institution was an interesting contrast that I wanted to explore.

After I attended the talk, law school initially became my goal. But I did not want to wait to graduate, so I added the economics minor as a way to give myself options afterwards. I decided on an MBA after I graduated because of one of my economics professors, Professor Jonathon Elkabetz, is an alumnus of this program and told me it was an ideal place to follow the threads of investigation I’m interested in, specifically the influence of wellness, mindfulness and other self-help practices on business, and whether they have shared benefit or not.

3. How do you see the future of AI?

The future of AI holds both immense promise and potential challenges. On the positive side, AI has the power to revolutionize various aspects of our lives, including healthcare, poverty eradication, and addressing social inequalities. AI-driven technologies can enhance medical research, accelerating the discovery of innovative solutions for illnesses and diseases. They can also help us develop strategies to alleviate poverty and reduce inequality by providing data-driven insights and targeted interventions.

However, we must also be cognizant of the potential negative applications of AI. There is a concern that widespread AI adoption could exacerbate existing societal divisions, leading to the creation of a subservient class and further widening the wealth gap. Additionally, the rise of AI-powered disinformation poses a significant challenge to the integrity of information and democratic processes.

I think the best approach to navigate these complex issues is interdisciplinary collaboration, which is something that draws me to Stanford. I feel it is here at the Stanford GSB that technology developers, policymakers, and society at large can engage in meaningful dialogue. By doing so, we can harness the transformative potential of AI while proactively addressing its challenges, ensuring a future where AI contributes to the betterment of humanity in a responsible and ethical manner 

4. Can you share some thoughts on your experience at Stanford?

My many visits to Stanford and Palo Alto left me inspired by the blend of academic excellence, natural beauty, and diverse community. One of the first things that stuck me about the campus was seeing the Hoover Building, up close. It made the prospect of studying here real, and made me realize how lucky I would be to see the Hoover Building every day, as a student. My other memorable experience is one based in the surrounding areas. My partner accompanied me on my first visit and we decided to explore the Stanford Dish Trail, which did not disappoint. It offered breathtaking views of the surrounding hills and we even made a few new friends in all the other outdoor enthusiasts we met there. These experiences and meeting with current students and faculty and being so graciously welcomed by everyone here has reaffirmed my belief that Stanford University is a place where I can thrive academically and personally.

5. What’s next for you?

I think Stanford being the technological heart of the world means that it would be the perfect place to explore the minds of tech leaders and entrepreneurs to see what impact their decisions in the wider worlds of politics, the economy and society in general has on them, physically, psychically and emotionally. I feel like I would like to continue with a PhD to explore the neuroscience behind the decision-making process of the many tech and financial companies based here in Palo Alto. 

Stanford Graduate School Interview Questions: Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability

  • What do you think separates you from researchers who worked 1,000 years ago?
  • The Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability is an interdisciplinary institution, what aspects of your research do you think would benefit from our interdisciplinary nature?
  • Why did you choose this path compared to the more lucrative and high-paying professions (doctor, lawyer, technology)?
  • The UN has said that the “tides are changing” when it comes to ocean science, how do you feel about this sentiment and what have you contributed to change the tide on the oceans? 

Sample Answers

1. What do you think separates you from researchers who worked 1,000 years ago?

I think there are many differences but also similarities. It was a different time, obviously, and I don’t think our time would be recognizable to someone who lived 1,000 years ago, but I think one thing that has always persisted in the history of humankind is our inherent curiosity and desire to learn more. It was around 1,000 years ago that universities such as Oxford and Cambridge were founded.

But stretching even further back there were always libraries, texts, murals, relics, and other ways that human beings always tried to understand the world around them. The researchers from 1,000 years ago are our intellectual ancestors and we have much to be thankful for since it is because of the knowledge and discoveries they made that we have the opportunity continue in this tradition.

The commitment and dedication to knowledge they showed represent the inherent need for human understanding to manifest itself, whether through the pursuit of further knowledge, or the institutionalization of this desire in the founding of a university. That is something that I think is the same between us and those researchers who came before us.

2. The Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability is an interdisciplinary institution, what aspects of your research do you think would benefit from our interdisciplinary nature? 

Studying biology as my major has provided me with a solid foundation to understand the intricate web of life within the ocean. However, I also recognized the significance of taking an interdisciplinary approach to fully comprehend the challenges and opportunities the ocean presents. This realization led me to pursue a minor in archaeology, as it offered insights into the historical interactions between human societies and the ocean ecosystem.

After my undergraduate, though, I followed my passion for marine animals by pursuing a veterinary degree from Cornell, which has a specific program dedicated to marine life. But during my residency I thought there was more that I could be doing to address the existential threats that affect all marine life, rather than treating the animals one-by-one.

A colleague brought me to the Hopkins Marine Station where they were tracking the mating patterns of mako sharks as an introduction and when I learned that the station is where a lot of Stanford’s researchers do their work, I was smitten. I firmly believe that the Doerr School will provide the ideal platform for me to merge my passion for marine biology, ecological conservation, and sustainable practices.

3. Why did you choose this path compared to the more lucrative and high-paying professions (doctor, lawyer, technology)?

Money alone does not guarantee happiness, and I firmly believe that fulfillment comes from pursuing one's true passions and making a positive impact in the world. By choosing a path focused on ocean science and sustainability, I am dedicating myself to the advancement of knowledge and the protection of our environment. Any resources I earn along this journey will be directed towards supporting research, initiatives, and projects that aim to address the pressing challenges facing our oceans.

Ocean science has always fascinated me, and I am deeply committed to understanding and protecting our marine ecosystems. The opportunity to conduct research and make a tangible difference in the preservation of our oceans is invaluable to me. It is not the allure of financial gain that drives me, but rather the desire to contribute to the well-being of our planet and future generations.

4. The UN has said that the “tides are changing” when it comes to ocean science, how do you feel about this sentiment and what have you contributed to change the tide on the oceans?

While I applaud the UN’s optimism, I feel as though the tides are reversing. I don’t want to be too cynical, but there was an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastics dumped into the ocean last year, so while progress has been made in certain areas, such as the ban on plastic microbeads and the establishment of marine protected areas, the magnitude of the challenge demands continued dedication and collective efforts. It is through the combined actions of scientists, policymakers, industries, and individuals that we can truly turn the tide and bring about substantial change.

I have collaborated with fellow scientists and organizations to explore technologies and strategies that can effectively remove and prevent pollutants from entering our oceans. Through my research, I have worked to identify and raise awareness about critical habitats, such as coral reefs and seagrass meadows that are most under threat by pollution. By understanding their ecological significance and the threats they face, I have aimed to foster conservation initiatives and promote sustainable practices that safeguard these habitats and marine life. 

 Here are our top tips for acing your graduate school interview!

Stanford Graduate School Interview Questions: Stanford Medical School

Sample Answers

1. Why should we choose you?

I am captivated by Stanford Medical School's dedication to LGBTQ+ healthcare and inclusive research, as exemplified by initiatives like An Evening of Queer Joy and the LGBTQ+ Family Building Clinical Research Program. My involvement in championing LGBTQ+ rights and leading community-building events during my undergraduate years further demonstrates my commitment to promoting equitable and affirming healthcare for all.

I had the privilege of serving as the president of the LGBTQ+ Pre-Med Student Club at my university and through this leadership role, I organized community-building events, including discussions and awareness campaigns, similar to An Evening of Queer Joy. These experiences have strengthened my commitment to LGBTQ+ rights and healthcare advocacy and Stanford Medicine is the ideal location for my interests of combining clinical care, research, and education to help all sexual and gender minorities get the care they need or build the family they desire.

2. Tell me about yourself.

I am a proud Muslim, and I feel that gives me a unique perspective on the field of mental health. I am passionate about reintroducing the concept of spirituality and the soul into discussions surrounding mental illness, as something that is as essential to explore as cognitive behavior and chemical imbalances. I believe that by embracing a holistic approach that encompasses mind, body, and spirit, we can better understand and address mental health challenges.

One of the reasons I am applying to Stanford is because of its commitment to multidisciplinary approaches to medicine, psychiatry, and mental health. Stanford's inclusive environment encourages exploring diverse perspectives and integrating spirituality into the conversation.

By incorporating spirituality into mental health practices, we can offer individuals a more comprehensive and personalized approach to healing, especially to people whose faith plays an indelible role in their lives. I am excited about the potential to collaborate with faculty and peers at Stanford to explore innovative ways of addressing mental health challenges and promoting holistic well-being.

3. Why medicine and not law?

I am drawn to medicine because it allows me to establish long-term relationships with patients and be an integral part of their lives. The ability to provide care, support, and guidance through all stages of life is a unique and fulfilling aspect of the medical profession. Unlike law, where the focus may be on resolving specific issues or cases, medicine allows me to build long-term relationships with patients and their families. I am passionate about being there for individuals during their most vulnerable moments, advocating for their well-being, and guiding them towards better health outcomes.


1. Does Stanford have graduate school interviews?

Certain schools and programs at Stanford hold graduate school interviews but it is not a university-wide requirement. Still, programs that do not officially hold admissions interviews may contact applicants to arrange one for a variety of reasons from asking a question about your application or needing clarification of a blemish on your transcripts.   

2. If I am invited for an interview, is that a good sign?

It depends on the program. If you are applying to the professional schools that require interviews, then yes, it is a good sign. But regardless of what program you are applying to, an interview invitation is not the same as an acceptance, nor is it a guarantee of admissions. 

3. Do all applicants get an interview invitation?

Interviews are a part of grad school application timeline only for certain programs at Stanford such as the medical program or business school, and in those cases, not all applicants will receive an invitation interview. For programs that admit applicants on the basis of their online application, not receiving an interview invitation has no bearing on whether you will be admitted or not. 

4. What should I not talk about in my Stanford graduate school interview?

You should never go off topic. Meaning you must address the question directly and not mention unrelated or superfluous details. You should also never use informalities, slang, or obscenities. 

5. What are typical graduate school interview questions?

The type of graduate school interview questions asked at Stanford can vary with the program. Some schools will ask general questions, such as “why do you want to join our graduate program?” or simply ask you to talk about yourself. Others may ask more pointed questions about your specific field and specialization, especially the medical school. While others may ask situational or behavioral questions aimed at uncovering how you would react in certain situations. 

6. Does the graduate school interview at Stanford matter?

Yes, all interviews matter. Interviews are extremely important for medical or law school, but they are also important if the program you are applying to requests one, as it may help them determine whether you are fit for the program, or not. 

7. How can I prepare for Stanford graduate school interview questions?

One of the best ways to prepare for any Stanford graduate school interview is to research as much as you can about the school, and the specific program you are applying to. You can do this in many ways, from reading about specific faculty members and their research or by reaching out to alumni of the program, which is something that is encouraged by Stanford and many other universities. You can also run mock interviews to build your confidence, so the actual interview is not intimidating or nerve-wracking. 

8. How long will my graduate school interview last?

Typically, most graduate school interviews last for about 15 or 20 minutes. But programs that have required interviews take longer, around 30 to 45 minutes. 

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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