Do This to Not Bomb Your Psychology Graduate School Interview!
Congratulations! You have just been invited to interview at one of your top choice master’s degree programs in psychology! Getting an interview means that this school is, at least, mildly interested in you and your application. Go ahead and wipe the apprehensive sweat off your brow. Being selected to interview is quite a feat…but you are not yet out of the woods. Take these four actions to increase your odds of being accepted for the program.
In all your interactions, with the school or graduate committee, act as though you are already a student and a budding professional. No, that does not mean walking around like you own the place! It does mean that you should convey a sense of maturity and professionalism that is expected of students at the graduate level. Put your best face forward. The faculty and admissions committee want to see if you can appropriately represent the program and the profession of psychology.
Professionalism translates to speaking, acting, and/or communicating in a courteous and articulate tone at all times – whether the medium is email, telephone, or in person. This also means you should appear professional. Perform adequate grooming prior to the interview, and choose attire that portrays your level of seriousness for the field of psychology. Select clothing is business professional in nature: slacks, knee-length skirts, collared shirts, and blazers. Avoid anything that is too casual or too revealing.
Get an Understanding of the Program
Doing thorough research on the specific program will also help you during the interview process. Get a handle on the program’s unique teaching philosophy, theoretical orientation, specialization areas, and research interests of faculty. Commit these details to memory. Use every speaking opportunity to highlight how your background and career interests match those of the program.
Summarize Your Experience and Goals
The graduate selections committee wants to know how prepared and passionate you are to commence further study in the field of psychology. Sure, they have seen your grades and experience on paper. But, they also want to hear it from you. They want to get an idea of your personality, maturity, and ability to think on your feet.
They also want to know how your background and skills can be an asset to their program. Review your undergraduate coursework for psychology classes that you excelled in or learned something significant from. Consider any job or internship training as well as research experience you have that aligns with the program. During the interview, showcase your interests and goals in psychology and demonstrate how the program can help you to expand your knowledge and accomplish those goals. It is also helpful to discuss how you research parallels with a faculty member’s, and how you could contribute to said faculty’s work.
Prepare to be asked…
- What are your career goals?
- What attracted you to our program?
- Why are you interested in psychology?
- What would you do if faced with a particular ethical dilemma?
- Give an example of a time when you had to make a difficult professional decision…
Remember, you are interviewing to see how good of a fit you are for the program and for how well the program fits your career aspirations. Ask clarifying questions that help you get a better understanding of the reputation and objectives of the given program. Pose these questions to several people – advisors, faculty members, and other graduate students - to get various opinions and viewpoints.
Prepare to ask…
- Does this program prepare students for doctoral-level training in psychology? How?
- Is a thesis required or optional in the program?
- Where do students in the program generally complete practicum/internship?
- Where are graduates of the program employed?
- Will this program prepare me for state licensure?
- Do students receive financial aid? What are the criteria for getting aid?
- Do your students have the option of applying for research or teaching assistantships?
Connect with Faculty and Students
You came to interview for the program and you need to make a good impression. However, the faculty and/or advisors are not the only individuals you need to “impress”. For many schools, they look for good fit beyond career and research interests, and also consider how you interact and get along with other students – those already in the program and your potential future cohort.
Many master’s degree programs conduct group interviews for this exact reason. They want to get an idea of how each student will operate within the group or classroom setting. Be mindful of not hogging all the attention and not giving other students the opportunity to speak. Doing so could count against you.
Aim to be attentive and respectful to the other students who are applying, and the students who are already enrolled. For some schools, existing graduate students are allowed a say in who they thought were good candidates for the program. Keep this in mind when interacting with these students during the interview portion and at any subsequent social events. You might regret making a cynical comment or inappropriate joke. Stay professional at all times, and you will be fine.
If you were asked to come in for an interview, chances are, the selection committee already sees you as a potential asset for the program. The interview offers you the chance to interact with the faculty and students one-on-one, and demonstrate your passion and interest in the field of psychology. Good luck!