This Is How You Prepare for Grad School Interviews: 4 Steps to Get Confident and Make a Killer Impression

How to prepare for grad school interviews

  • life sciences
  • PhD program
  • rotations-based (you try out different labs before choosing one)
  • on the West Coast
  • where recruits aren’t admitted till after interviews

1. Prepare yourself for imposter syndrome

  • prepare as much as possible. You’ll feel less afraid if you know you’ve prepared
  • remember that everyone is putting their best foot forward
  • “never compare your insides to everyone else’s outsides” — author Anne Lamott
  • be open about the fact that you’re not feeling very confident (talk to your undergrad mentors, friends, and family before you go. If you want extra bold points, you can try talking to fellow recruits or grad students about it at interviews [but first, see note 2]
  • remind yourself you don’t have to be perfect to get into grad school

2. Practice explaining your research

  • what was already known before you started (or before the lab started the project)
  • why the project matters — what will the project help us understand better? E.g. if you’re studying a gene, what cellular pathways are you helping us understand?
  • big picture significance — relate it to what even a non-scientist would care about (E.g. does the gene have some tangential relationship to Alzheimer’s disease? Does the process you’re developing relate in some way to smartphone technology?)
  • what we planned to do
  • what we did — what did you actually get done (this may differ than what you planned because of unexpected results or because you ran out of time)
  • what was your role — this is especially important if you were working in a team or were helping someone with part of their project
  • results
  • conclusions — what can you infer from your results? Are you particularly excited about some part of it?
  • next steps — what are you going to do when you get back from interviews, or what would you do if you could keep working on the project (or what did the people who picked up the project do next)? Think of some immediate next steps and some loftier ones [see note 3].
  • look back at the papers you were given when you just joined the lab
  • find new relevant articles
  • do some googling
  • talk to people in your lab
  • it’s ok to not know something
  • you’ll have multiple chances:

A. 1 sentence — simplified, bigger picture

B. 1–2 minute — a basic explanation of your project

  • Why does it matter?
  • What (broadly) did you do?
  • What did you find?

C. 4–5 minute — a more in-depth explanation

To finish reading this article, please visit this post on the BoldAdulting blog.

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Courageously rock at life even when you're pretty sure you have no idea what you're doing. #adulting. Including #gradschool tips! Run by @thegeneticsgal

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Courageously rock at life even when you're pretty sure you have no idea what you're doing. #adulting. Including #gradschool tips! Run by @thegeneticsgal

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