PhD Interview Tips

Written by barbie carpenter
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PhD Interview Tips
Review your notes before your Ph.D. interview. (closed businessman image by Alexey Klementiev from

Students applying to Ph.D. programs have to submit transcripts, test scores, recommendations and essays. Many Ph.D. programs also require students to participate in an interview, whether it’s on campus or over the phone, with the admissions committee. Interviews give admissions committees insight into your personality in a way that other application materials cannot. Therefore, it is important that Ph.D. applicants follow a number of tips to succeed in their interview.


Learn everything you can about the graduate school and program. Talk to your current professors about the program, and see if they have any contacts at the school where you’re interviewing. Understand the research goals of the Ph.D. program, and make sure that you’re prepared to explain how the program’s goals align with your interests. Providence College recommends that Ph.D. applicants be prepared to talk about any weak points in their application, such as low GRE scores or grades. The more you know about the Ph.D. program, the more comfortable you will be during the interview.

Know Your Research

Pomona College cautions Ph.D. applicants to be prepared to discuss their research. You need to display your knowledge of the research subject, which you might have accrued during your master’s degree program or in professional positions. Anticipate any research-related questions, and go over your answers with a trusted faculty member.

Engage the Committee

Although the primary goal of the interview is for the admissions committee to learn more about you, you also want to learn about the Ph.D. program. Be an active participant in the interview. Answer the committee’s questions thoroughly, but also have some questions prepared to ask them. Providence College suggests asking a faculty member on the committee about his research project—this shows you’ve done your homework. Plus, as the school explains, “Any chance to boost their egos will win points in your favour.”

Stay Calm

While a Ph.D. interview can be a nerve-racking experience, you need to display a calm demeanour during your interview. Staying well organised will calm your nerves. Arrive early, and bring copies of your C.V. (curriculum vitae) to give to the committee. Preparation will reduce any anxiety, so take time before the interview to read over your notes and C.V.

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