Your “why do you want to join our graduate program” answer may give you the edge when interviewing to be admitted to a graduate school program. It is a common graduate school interview question in a similar vein to why do you want to do a PhD?” so you should prepare a few responses beforehand to ensure you give a clear, concise answer confidently. Answering this question requires a little research on your part to find an answer that rings true, and you need to write out your thoughts and ideas as you would when preparing to write your graduate school statement of purpose. This article will present expert-approved answers to this question and give you other tips on how to get into grad school.

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How to Answer “Why Do You Want to Join Our Graduate Program?” “Why Do You Want to Join Our Graduate Program?” Sample Answers Conclusion & FAQs

How to Answer “Why Do You Want to Join Our Graduate Program?”

This question is part of most graduate school admissions processes. The purpose behind it is to uncover what you know about the program and its particular offerings, be it a renowned faculty member, a research institute or center associated with it, or its focus on a particular line of investigation. But there is also a challenge within the question, which is whether you are able to connect your particular research goals and ambitions with the overall mission of the program and school you are applying to.

As more specific answers are usually the best ones, these responses will be structured to reply to real graduate programs from among the best graduate school programs in the world, such as Harvard University, Standford University, Oxford University. UC Berkeley, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This way, you will see how it is important to familiarize yourself with the unique aspects of each graduate program to give a nuanced, intelligent response rather than giving formulaic, unimaginative answers. 

“Why Do You Want to Join Our Graduate Program?” Sample Answers

“Why do you Want to Join our Graduate Program?” Answer #1

Harvard University – Astronomy PhD

I share a fascination with one of your faculty members, Professor David Charbonneau, which is the possibility of finding life on other planets. Like Professor Charbonneau, my goal is to study inhabited worlds and uncover the secrets of their origins, evolution, and potential habitability. The opportunity to collaborate with him and other brilliant minds at Harvard is one of the many reasons I want to be a part of the Astronomy program.

Another reason is the chance to travel to Chile to work at the Magellan Telescope. Its advanced optics and wide-field imaging capabilities offer unprecedented opportunities to study celestial objects in remarkable detail. For these particular reasons, and more, I am genuinely excited about the possibility of joining the Harvard Astronomy program and contributing to the quest for understanding the potential inhabited worlds that reside among the stars.

“Why do you Want to Join our Graduate Program?” Answer #2 

Harvard University – Master of Science in Bioethics

 Thank you for considering my application to the Master of Science in Bioethics degree program at Harvard. I am truly excited about the opportunity to join your esteemed graduate program.

One of the primary reasons I am drawn to this program is the work of Dr. Rebecca Weintraub Brendel, the director of the program, who has made significant contributions in this field. Dr. Brendel's article titled "Perspectives on Advance Care Planning, Dementia, and the Clinical Context" particularly resonated with me.

Her exploration of the complex issues surrounding advance care planning in the context of dementia reflects a nuanced understanding of the ethical challenges faced by healthcare professionals, patients, and their families. I greatly admire her ability to navigate these sensitive topics and contribute to the ongoing dialogue in bioethics.

Joining this graduate program would provide me with the unique opportunity to learn from experts like Dr. Brendel, engage in thoughtful discussions, and develop the necessary skills to navigate the intricate landscape of bioethics. I am eager to immerse myself in an environment that fosters critical thinking, research, and ethical reflection, ultimately enabling me to make meaningful contributions in the field of end-of-life care and beyond.

“Why do you Want to Join our Graduate Program?” Answer #3

 Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Master in City Planning

What draws me to this program is my passion for sustainable cities and their potential to create thriving communities. One aspect of the program that stands out is the MIT Sustainable Urbanization Lab (MIT S-Lab), which focuses on urban research, policy analysis, and design interventions. This resonates with me because I have actively engaged with my local city council in Worcester to advocate for the installation of bike lanes.

For my project I took as inspiration the example of Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogota, who ushered in the city’s revitalization as a sustainable, vibrant space where people can live and work while preserving the environment and enhancing quality of life. However, I realized that advocacy and raising awareness can only go so far in convincing people, which is why I have also worked on gathering data and conducting studies specific to Worcester.

I have collected information on cycling patterns, assessed potential infrastructure routes, and conducted surveys to understand the demand for bike lanes in different neighborhoods. But this project also revealed to me how little I know about urban development, social equity, and environmental sustainability, which is what attracts me to the MIT S-Lab.

Aided by the knowledge and expertise of Dr. Siqi Zheng, the lab’s director, whose innovative approaches on urban transportation and environmental sustainability in Chinese cities are well-known, I hope to be a part of the vibrant MIT community and work towards a future where cities prioritize sustainability and enhance the well-being of their residents.

“Why do you Want to Join our Graduate Program?” Answer #4

 Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Nuclear Science and Engineering PhD

Thank you for considering my application to the Nuclear Science and Engineering program at MIT. I am tremendously excited about the prospect of joining your graduate program.

My fascination with fusion, as a potential source of clean and abundant energy, has been a driving force in my academic and career pursuits.

One particular inspiration for me is Dr. Anne White, a distinguished professor at MIT. Her groundbreaking work on turbulence as essential to heat transport in fusion plasmas has not only advanced our understanding of fusion physics but also paved the way for innovative approaches to achieving sustainable fusion energy.

Following in Dr. White's footsteps, I am determined to contribute to the field of fusion energy research by undertaking research at SPARC (Sparc-like) Experimental Reactor. I hope to participate in the research aimed at designing and building a compact, high-field tokamak, which could serve as a pathway to develop practical fusion power plants that can deliver clean and abundant energy. Given my deep fascination with fusion, coupled with the groundbreaking work of Dr. Anne White, I am eager to be part of MIT's fusion community, pushing the boundaries of knowledge and working towards a future where clean and limitless energy is a reality.

Writing a graduate school statement of purpose? Check out these tips:

 “Why do you Want to Join our Graduate Program?” Answer #5

 Oxford University – Master of Science in Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology

I want to join the graduate program in Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford because it offers an exceptional academic environment to pursue my research interests. I am particularly drawn to the study of gentrification in the Global South and its economic implications. Dr. David Gellner, who specializes in socio-economic transformations, can provide invaluable guidance for my research. By conducting comparative analysis, I aim to understand how certain cities like Barcelona have successfully integrated digital nomads while others like Mexico City struggle. I am excited to engage in interdisciplinary discussions and benefit from Oxford's research seminars to deepen my understanding of gentrification's economic, social, and cultural dimensions in the Global South. Joining this program would provide the ideal platform to advance my research and contribute to the field of urban anthropology.

“Why do you Want to Join our Graduate Program?” Answer #6

Oxford University – DPhil in Criminology

Thank you for considering my application to the Criminology PhD program at Oxford. I am eager to join the program at Oxford to delve deeper into the study of solitary confinement, its Quaker origins, and the potential application of Quaker principles in addressing environmental exploitation. In all my research of the programs that could possibly accommodate my research interests, it was only Oxford and the Environmental Change Institute (ECI), which I felt could help me pursue such an interdisciplinary topic.

Collaborating with ECI's scholars and researchers will allow me to bridge the gap between criminal law and environmental causes. By combining insights from criminology with environmental justice, I aim to develop novel perspectives and contribute to the understanding of the legal dimensions of environmental exploitation and the pursuit of sustainable and equitable solutions.

 “Why do you Want to Join our Graduate Program?” Answer #7

 UC Berkeley – Film and Studies Program

My passion lies in understanding the evolution of obscenity laws and their impact on gay and straight sexuality. I am particularly interested in how these laws, initially designed to suppress and prohibit sexual expression, have been co-opted and corporatized over time. I aim to critically examine the cultural and societal implications of this shift and its influence on the representation of queer identities and desires within mainstream media.

UC Berkeley's renowned faculty and academic environment make it an ideal institution to pursue my research. I am especially drawn to the work of queer film scholars and theorists such as Laura Mulvey, Kaja Silverman, and Gilles Deleuze. Their groundbreaking contributions to film theory, gender studies, and the exploration of sexual politics provide a strong foundation for my research.

By joining the PhD Film and Media program at UC Berkeley, I hope to expand our understanding of queer cinema, challenge prevailing narratives, and contribute to the ongoing discourse on the intersections of gender, sexuality, and media representation. I am excited about the potential for interdisciplinary collaborations and engaging with the vibrant academic community at UC Berkeley.

“Why do you Want to Join our Graduate Program?” Answer #8

UC Berkeley – Comparative Literature PhD

Thank you for considering my application to the Comparative Literature PhD program at UC Berkeley. I am eager to join the program and contribute to the exploration of literature through a comparative lens.

My interest lies in examining the evolution of sex and sexuality in post-war British literature, particularly in response to influential cultural phenomena such as the Beatles, the Profumo scandal, and the advent of the birth control pill. I am fascinated by how writers like Martin Amis and Philip Larkin responded to these transformative events, either in a reactionary or accepting manner, and the ways in which their works reflect the shifting social and cultural attitudes towards sex and sexuality during that period.

UC Berkeley's strong emphasis on interdisciplinary and comparative approaches to literature makes it an ideal academic environment for my research. I am excited about the opportunity to engage with esteemed faculty members who specialize in British literature, such as Professor Judith Butler and Professor Catherine Gallagher. Their expertise and scholarly contributions will undoubtedly enrich my understanding of the subject matter.

“Why do you Want to Join our Graduate Program?” Answer #9

Stanford University – Chinese PhD

Stanford University's distinguished faculty and their diverse areas of expertise make it an ideal institution for pursuing my research. I am particularly drawn to the works of faculty members such as Professor Hsuan-Ying Huang and Professor Gordon H. Chang. Their scholarship in Asian American studies and the intersections of race, ethnicity, and culture will provide invaluable guidance and enrich my understanding of the complexities surrounding Asian identity in the United States.

My research interests focus on examining the intricate connections between culture, identity, and racial dynamics. Specifically, I am passionate about uncovering the underlying causes and consequences of racial violence and hatred against Asian minorities in the United States, and how it intersects with the broader animosity towards Asian people in white-majority countries.

By joining the Chinese PhD program at Stanford, I aim to deepen my knowledge of Chinese language, culture, and literature while simultaneously examining the larger socio-political contexts that shape the experiences of Asian minorities. I hope to contribute to a broader understanding of the historical and contemporary issues that impact Asian communities and promote meaningful dialogue that challenges prejudice and discrimination.

Applying to Stanford graduate school? Practice with more Stanford graduate school interview questions!

“Why do you Want to Join our Graduate Program?” Answer #10

 Stanford University – Modern Thought and Literature PhD

Stanford's Modern Thought and Literature program offers a unique interdisciplinary approach that aligns perfectly with my research interests, which are the nature of resistance, the limitations of revolutionary movements, and the complexities of societal transformation. Professor David Palumbo-Liu, a scholar in the field of Comparative Literature at Stanford, has made significant contributions to the study of resistance movements and their complexities.

His work delves into the intersection of literature, politics, and cultural theory, exploring the ways in which narratives and texts shape and reflect resistance against various forms of power and oppression. In his book "The Deliverance of Others: Reading Literature in a Global Age," Professor Palumbo-Liu examines the role of literature in fostering empathy, understanding, and solidarity across borders and cultures. He argues for the potential of literature to challenge dominant narratives, confront inequality, and inspire transformative action.

By drawing from Professor Palumbo-Liu's scholarship, I aim to deepen my understanding of resistance movements and their literary representations. I am particularly interested in exploring the ways in which literature navigates the tensions between radical aspirations and the practical realities of effecting meaningful change. I hope to build upon Professor Palumbo-Liu's insights by examining how resistance movements can transform, lose momentum, or become co-opted, shedding light on the complexities and challenges that arise in the pursuit of social and political transformation.


The “why do you want to join our graduate program?” answer gives your interviewers insight into how you perceive the program you are applying to and how it can help you in your professional and academic goals, which is something your graduate school resume cannot do. While many graduate programs do not interview candidates, there are some that still do. But either way learning an answer to “why do you want to join our graduate program?” is good practice for writing other important application materials such as a personal statement for a PhD scholarship, PhD motivation letter or figuring out how to answer the “tell me about yourself” or “why do you want to do a PhD?” questions.


1. Why do interviewers ask, “why do you want to join our graduate program”?

 Grad school admissions committee often ask this question because want to see if you have done your research into their particular program and how you can connect their resources (faculty, libraries, research centers) to your research and academic goals. 

2. How can I answer, “why do you want to join our graduate program?”

 You can answer by researching the program’s requirements, its faculty and research history, as well as any particular interests its faculty have to see whether they can help you further your knowledge. However, some of the above programs, such as Modern Thought and Literature make specific requests for applicants to explain how their research is so interdisciplinary and new that it can only be carried out at this program, which then forces you to be creative in your answer. 

3. How long should my answer be?

Generally, grad school interview answers should be between thirty-seconds and a minute. You want to answer the question directly and avoid rambling, but you neither want to give a short, uninteresting answer. 

4. What should I not talk about?

 You do not want to have a long answer, so you should focus on the specific details you remember about the program that you like and mention those only. 

5. What other questions are asked in a PhD interview?

 PhD interview questions run the range from academic-based to personal. They can be similar to post-doc interview question in that they ask you to explain why you are interested in their particular program. 

6. How will I know if my “why do you want to join our graduate program?” answer is any good?

 You will not know until you hear from the admissions committee about whether you are admitted or not. It is rare that a graduate school interview would give you any immediate feedback, but, depending on the program, you may be able to consult with a graduate school admissions consultant that can point out the flaws in your application, or interview. 

7. Can someone else prepare my answer for me?

 No. The question is designed to be personally revealing. Getting someone else to write a response will reflect poorly on you and be in contrast with the rest of your application materials. 

8. What are the other requirements to get into graduate school?

There are several requirements to get into graduate school, but they usually involve submitting a statement of purpose, a personal statement, a research resume, and up to two or three graduate school letters of recommendation.  

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting 

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