About a week and a half ago, I got an email saying that I was chosen to go through preliminary grad school interviews. Normally, they interview candidates mid-April but since applications were due the first week of February, they choose about a fifth of the applicants to go through preliminary interviews before everyone else. This is a good thing because it means they liked our applications the most and wanted us to get through all of the application mess before everyone else, which means we find out if we are accepted before others even go through interviews.
When I found out, I was so excited and happy and not too nervous or anxious, which I felt was a good sign.
The morning/day of the interview, it was snowing pretty hard (we ended up getting about 4 inches of snow in a few hours) and it was extremely windy and cold, so that added to the chaos, but it ended up being alright.
There were 3 parts of the day – a short orientation, a group interview and a one-on-one interview.
The orientation went well. Since I already go to the same school as an undergraduate, I knew a lot about the program and I personally know a few of the professors in the school counseling program so the orientation was pretty redundant and informal.
The group interview was what I was really nervous about. I was in a group of 16 applicants to 3 different programs: school counseling, clinical counseling, and pastoral counseling. A few people dominated the half hour group interview and the rest of us spoke when it was our turn. If I’m honest, it wasn’t the best interview because so many of us waited until the last 15 minutes to speak up and have our voices heard.
The next part was the one-on-one interview which couldn’t have gone better. My interviewer turned out to be an old professor of mine who I had freshman year and got pretty close to over the last 4 years. I saw her name on my itinerary and I was ecstatic. I walked into her office and she gave me a hug and the next half hour was just us talking about so many things: our families, her dogs, basketball, watercolor painting – and then we informally talked about the interview questions. I was myself and I was funny and charming and she’s one of my favorite professors and one of the main reasons I chose school counseling as a career in the first place. This interview couldn’t have gone more in my favor than it did and I’m so thankful for that.
I left the interview with a lot of confidence and gratitude. I know I’m a great candidate for the program and I’ve never doubted my acceptance. I have amazing grades, my GRE scores are average, and I meet all the requirements – but most of all, I know that I’m going to be a great school counselor one day and I’m so thankful that other people see that. I’m glad that I’m funny and charming and likable, despite all that I’ve gone through – it makes me so happy to know that despite everything, I’m excelling in countless ways. Now I just have to wait a few days before I find out and then I have to decide when to start – in May or in late August, which is a whole other situation.
So since I just went through a grad school interview process, I figured I’d tell you guys some of my tips:
- Dress professionally, obviously – this one is pretty self-explanatory: you want to dress in a professional manner, whatever that means to you.
- The night before the interview, make sure you know everything you need to know – the address, the time, how you’re getting there, parking, what questions you may be asked, who is doing the interviews; just know as much as you can. It is better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.
- Get there early, as early as you can – then you can get settled, see who else is there for interviews, mingle, introduce yourself, and just be at ease.
- Talk to the other people who are there for the interviews – chances are, these people might be the other students in your cohort and they’re going through the same thing you’re going through. Talk to them and exchange information about the program and interviews.
- Bring a notepad and pen (and any documents you need to bring in) – take notes whenever you need to, jot down anything you think is important, but make sure you’re paying attention.
- In a group interview, speak loudly and clearly – you want to be heard by the others in the interview and the interviewers. But don’t be obnoxious – wait your turn and take note of how long you are talking in relations to others. Show that you’re a leader but you can work well within a group of people.
- In the one-on-one interview, be confident in yourself. Know what you’re talking about and follow through with your answers. Bring in real-life examples and stories. Connect with the interviewer. Use eye-contact and shake their hand.
- Be honest, be kind, be humble, and be courteous – to everyone. You want to make the best impression you can. People will remember you for the way you treated everyone around you. You can have the best application but if you’re attitude isn’t the best, there’s no point.
- Most of all, be yourself and be who you are most comfortable being. Show who you are versus just saying it. Be fun(ny) and likable. Show why you’re a good candidate by showing your confidence and exemplifying your skills – show why you’d be an asset to the school/program.
When it comes down to it, whether you are interviewing for a job or a grad program or anything else, you’re trying to sell yourself. You want to showcase the best you possible. Try to show yourself as a good human being before anything else. You are a whole person, not just the sum of your parts – so you have to show that.