Questions You Need to Ask in Grad School Interviews

Ginger Abbot

May 16, 2023
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Getting confirmation of your upcoming interview can be a bit nerve-wracking, but you’ll do fine with the right preparation. They’ll expect you to contribute, so you need to come with questions. Having questions to ask in your graduate school interview for psychology will help you get as much out of the experience as possible.

Why You Should Prepare Your Own Questions

You’re probably more concerned with how you’ll answer the interviewer’s questions, but asking your own shows your genuine interest in the program. Relevant and informed questions let you learn the necessary information. 

While you’re mainly making a choice based on your research interests, you should see if you feel a connection with the place you’ll potentially spend your next few years. Your choice is an investment, so ensuring it matters in 10 or 35 years is necessary. A graduate school interview aims to see if you’re a good fit for the program, but it goes both ways — you are interviewing them just as much as they’re interviewing you.  

Questions to Ask in Psychology Graduate School Interviews

There are plenty of questions to ask in psychology graduate school interviews, but these are essential. They reveal the most about your personal role in the program and help you decide if it’s right for you. You can tailor each depending on your interview type or your specific interest, but they’re applicable in most situations.

  1. What Projects Are Students Currently Involved In?

You can tailor this one to your research interests to better understand what you might do if accepted. There will be a wide variety of projects, but knowing what others are doing may help you structure yourself.

  1. Do Labs Collaborate Often?

Labs vary in size, research focus, and experiment types, so it’s helpful to know if they ever collaborate. It can be challenging to find collaborations yourself because the Principal Investigator is the one who usually sets them up. It’s good to know if they do so often so you can prepare.

  1. What Opportunities Are There to Publish With Faculty?

Publishing with faculty can be a great experience, so you should ask about it. Before you do so, do some research on your own time and read through some of their recent relevant work. It gives you an idea of who’s open to collaborating with students and how often they publish. You’ll have a chance to ask an informed question and get the exact answer you need.

  1. What Differentiates This Program from Similar Alternatives? 

Similar to how the graduate school gauges if you’ll fit well in the program, you should see if it aligns with your interests. Even if you already know you want to get in, you may find new information with this question. 

  1. Are Advisors Assigned?

You should ask how advisors are assigned because they’re a crucial part of your journey in grad school. Typically, the school either assigns them or you pick your own, but it can help to clarify the process. For example, the University of Washington assigns them based on major areas of study when students are first accepted. If it’s up to you to find and choose someone so it’s essential to start searching early on.

  1. What Are the Available Research Opportunities?

You’re likely going into grad school with your area of interest already squared away, so it may be helpful to figure out the available research opportunities. Since they may have specific criteria or deadlines to apply, asking about them can help you structure your approach to the program.

  1. What Is the Extent Students Assist With Projects?

You can get a relatively good idea about how students assist with projects by reading recent papers or researching before your interview, but it can help to get a solid answer directly from the faculty. Their answer can help you determine if the program is the right fit for you.

  1. How Soon Do Students Choose a Thesis or Dissertation Topic?

Typically, completion of master’s degree programs takes around two to three years on average. It’s wise to figure out ahead of time how soon you’ll choose your topic. It’ll depend on the institution and how long your program takes, but understanding when others begin can help you figure out your structure.

  1. How Often Does the School Communicate With Students?

While this is more general, it can be very useful to ask since it gives you an idea of how involved the school is. The questions for your psychology graduate school interview can be different from your specific interest. Do they reach out about events, have active social accounts, or send out monthly newsletters? Ask them for clarification.

  1. What Internship Opportunities Do Students Usually Take?

The interviewer may be unable to answer this question if internships are too varied. Despite that, you should ask anyway and narrow the scope of the question so it relates to psychology. They come in many types, but each provides relevant skills and experience that build on your studies. 

While you won’t have to think about interning right away, it’s smart to know which opportunities are available. Knowing your options can help you picture how you’d structure yourself while in the program.

  1. What Role Do Students Typically Have in Lab Settings?

While you might have heard secondhand information about certain labs, it’s best to go to the source. For example, some may have a large workload that many complain about when they actually present many opportunities. Since asking about students’ typical roles also gives you an idea of the extent of your involvement, it can help you determine if it’s something you’ll enjoy.

  1. Where Will Existing Research Go in Upcoming Years?

Asking about the direction of current research and the extent of your potential involvement reveals your place in the program. It shows you how your interests will integrate and whether you will continue existing research. It’ll likely take around four years to complete your Ph.D. at minimum, so knowing their research expectations for your time there is crucial. Liking their answer is a good sign that they’re the right fit for you.

Questions for Your Psychology Graduate School Interview

You’re ultimately going to grad school to further your education and explore your interest, so preparation can help you decide how useful the experience will be. The questions to ask in graduate school interviews for psychology might vary slightly, but these 12 options can help you figure out if the program is right for you.

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