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Admissions PhD Interviews...

  1. Dec 22, 2016 #1
    I managed to get a bunch of interviews. I'm nervous. What kinds of question should I expect? Are they going to try to quiz me on things? If I don't know who's interviewing me and I can't read their papers, what do I do if I'm unfamiliar with their field/specific project?

    What kinds of questions should I ask? How about to the students? Are questions about financial things something you ask? I know that's part of reality, but really I want to go their to talk about science and whatnot.

    Really any tips would ease my nerves.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 23, 2016 #2


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    Interviews have not been a part of the admissions process in any school that I've been involved in - so take this with a grain of salt.

    Chances are the interview won't be a heavy on the technical side of things. I doubt the schools that use them really use them to assess the technical merit of the applicants (although this might be worth looking into a little more at the specific institutions you're dealing with). My reasoning is that they have transcripts, GRE scores, and reference letters to use for that. Chances are more that they use the interview as a means to find out more about the applicants to see if they are a fit for the graduate program in terms of interests and general background, and to try to figure out what kind of project they might do well on.

    I would prepare to answer questions along the lines of:
    • Why are you interested in our program specifically?
    • What do you know about the research being done here?
    • What have you done to prepare for graduate study beyond your coursework?
    • What material have you read recently?
    • What projects have you worked on and what did you get out of them?
    • Which of our professors are you most interested in working with?
    • What are your long term goals - academic, professional, and general?
    • Do you have any ideas for a graduate project?
    • What do you know about the PhD process?

    As far as questions that you can or should ask, don't be shy. Potentially you're going to spend a lot of time and energy at this school. It's important to have the facts on how everything works.
    • Financial support: how are students supported? What kind of support can you count on? Can it be topped up?
    • How are students supported in the summer months?
    • Is tuition waived or does your stipend cover it?
    • What is the local cost of living? How do current students manage?
    • Which supervisors are actively looking for students?
    • Where are your recent graduates ending up?
    • What are the expectations of me as a student: hours, teaching, etc?
    • Can I take vacations?
  4. Dec 24, 2016 #3
    PhD interviews? For grad school in physics? That seems strange - I had one interview, but it was for a fellowship and not for admission (though I wasn't told that before the interview, ugh). It was way more technically challenging than I expected. But admissions interviews? Strange.
  5. Dec 25, 2016 #4
    It is very common in Europe.
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2016
  6. Dec 25, 2016 #5
    Since the OP's profile says he is from the US, I guessed I assumed he was pursuing grad school in the US? OP, can you tell us where you're attending grad school?
  7. Dec 26, 2016 #6
    US. This is for PhD in some sort of biology related field, be it biochemistry, molecular bio, bioinformatics. Do physics programs not have interviews? I was just under the impression that pretty much all programs did. At any rate, I've been doing plenty of reading and such and am going to prepare answers for common questions like that.

    At least I got sick this week instead of when the interviews are.
  8. Jan 3, 2017 #7


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    Just talk about the science. Read the papers of the people you are interested in working with, and show some broad appreciation of work going on in the programme.

    You can of course also ask questions about housing, finance, weather, music in the city etc and other important things.
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