This weekend was the first of two interview weekends for my program (GGD). I volunteered by going to one of the dinners and presenting a poster at the poster session. Graduate School interviews in the Sciences are great. Basically, you are only given an interview if the program really likes your application, so when they bring you to the school they pull out all the stops. Taking you to nice restaurants, showing you all the best things in the city, putting you up in a hotel and trying to sell themselves just as much as you are trying to sell yourself.
Here is a list of 5 things you can do to prepare for your Grad School Interview:
1. Bring Questions. There should be a list of 10 of so questions that you can ask the faculty members during your individual interview. Asking questions shows that you are really interested in the school and program. You don’t have to ask all ten, but you should ask a few after each interview.
2. Talk to Current Grad Students. Asking grad students the questions you can’t ask the faculty members is key. Current grad students are the huge knowledge bases. Asking questions like why did you choose this school and what are the best and worst things about your grad school experience will give you a feel for whether students are genuinely happy or not. When I was interviewing, there were definitely some schools where the students couldn’t even mask their discontent, so I knew that those programs weren’t going to be a good fit for me.
3. Meet Fellow Interviewees. Grad School interviews are not meant to be super difficult or uncomfortable. The program you are applying to obviously has an interest in you and just wants to see if you would be happy and successful here, so don’t feel like you are competing with the other students who are interviewing. More likely than not about half the people in your interview weekend will end up coming to Cornell and you will be seeing them for the next 5-6 years, so get to know them now. Also, there’s a chance you could find roommates from the fellow interviewees. Which leads me to…
4. Find out about Housing. In my program we make one of the Saturday interview activities, a housing tour, so that students can get a feel for the housing options. If you don’t have this as part of your interview weekend, you should definitely talk to some of the current grad students about the places they live. Ithaca is not a super dangerous city, so its less important here as other places, but getting a feel for what a viable housing options will make it easier to find a place when you are no longer visiting, because most likely you are going to have to sign a lease without being in Ithaca, unless you can make a trip up to visit.
5. Enjoy Yourself. This can be the hardest one, but it is also the most important! If you seem happy to be at an interview, then the interviewers will be able to tell! And even if Cornell turns out not be a good fit for you, the experience of visiting a new city and school is exciting in itself, so have fun!