It's interview season for SLP grad programs, and all the online forums are abuzz with worries about what the interviewers ask and how to prepare. Interviews for a graduate program can be daunting, but with the right preparation, you can make a great impression and increase your chances of being accepted. Here are four steps that will help you feel more prepared and ease your pre-interview anxieties. 

1. Know yourself

The best way to show up in an interview is as your authentic self. That sounds easy on the surface, "just be yourself." But in truth, this takes a lot of work and introspection. What are your career goals? Do you know your strengths and weaknesses? Not in the cliché way where you're supposed to name a weakness that's secretly a strength-- we've all been told the lie that we're supposed to say something like, "I'm too dedicated" or "I throw myself into my work"--do you actually know what makes you a strong student and can you identify the areas that you struggle in? You should be able to identify your areas of weakness, how it affects your work,  and discuss how you've worked on it (in a clear, professional manner, of course). Your strengths should also be your strengths--what do you like about yourself? What are you proud of? Don't hold back, there's not going to be anyone in the room to hype you up. 

Can you clearly and concisely describe relevant experience you may have in the field (or adjacent to the field) and how it has prepared you? This could include volunteering, work, or research assistantships. Your experience should be able to speak to how you prepared for grad school and what makes you good fit for the field.

One way to get to know yourself is to look up lists of common grad school interview questions and give yourself time to think about the answers. Then take the time to practice your response so that it feels comfortable. You don't need to have a word-for-word memorized response, but you should have the main points that you want to be sure to highlight--you want to come across as prepared, not overly rehearsed.

There's another reason that knowing yourself and preparing is a good idea: You free yourself of the cognitive load of wondering, "how do I answer this question?" Instead, you can show up more confidently and more authentically in your interview. 

2. Know your why

This one doesn't require much explanation. In just about every SLP grad school interview, you'll be asked some version of "why do you want to be a speech-language pathologist?" and "why do want to enroll in this program?" These questions are not surprise questions, so you should have your answer prepared for this. These are responses that you definitely want to practice--talk to your mentors about how you'd answer these questions and get some feedback. Your response should be authentic and professional.  

3. Know the program

In all honesty, this step should be done before you apply. But, I'm not here to shame anyone if you applied without thoroughly researching a program (honestly, I've done it myself). If that's you, you'll definitely want to spend some time poring through their website before you interview, otherwise your lack of preparation will show. Research the program and the school thoroughly. Know the program's goals, the faculty, and the opportunities that they list on their website. In addition to coming across as professional and prepared, researching the program will help you answer why you want to go there (see: know your why) and generate your questions (see: know your questions). 

4. Know your questions 

It's important to have a few questions prepared in advance--it shows that you've prepared for the interview and are genuinely interested in the program. Some examples of good questions include: "What kind of support and resources are available for students in this program?", "What are some of the active research projects going on in the department?" or "Can you tell me about the kinds of specialty placements students have done?"

Finally, keep in mind that the interview is not only about the school assessing you, but also an opportunity for you to assess the school and see if it's the right fit for you. If you've taken the time to do step 1, you'll be able to come with questions that will help you decide if the school's program aligns with your career goals and can adequately support you as a student/future SLP.

To sum up

It's totally normal for grad school interviews to create a little bit of anxiety--that just means you care, and that's a good thing! A little preparation can go a long way. Take the time to write down your experience, the experiences you want to highlight, and responses to common questions. Spend some time on the program's website and be prepared with questions. This will help you put your best foot forward and give you valuable information when it comes time to make a decision about committing to a grad program--you got this!

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