How to Ace the Admissions Interview (Q&A)

how to ace the admissions interview

The admissions interview is a key element of the application process to international MBA and Master’s degree programmes.

The interview has considerable weight in the overall evaluation of your application for both admission and scholarships.

The admissions interview invitation does not mean that you are admitted. The invitation is just a sign that your application is of interest to the Admissions Committee. The real competition is still ahead of you.

The admissions interview requires excellent preparation. Although there are some common interview questions, each interview is unique. The admissions interview may be conducted on campus, on the phone or online. You may face one or several interviewers and even some of your competitors for admission.

Find expert advice in the summary of the Q&A live session conducted by PrepAdviser in March 2015. Iliana Bobova, Head of Admissions Consulting at PrepAdviser, answers the questions of potential applicants from different parts of the world. Candidates are at different stages of their preparation for MBA or Master’s admission.

Q: Would it be positive to say during an interview that you have already been accepted onto other MBA programmes?

A:  You should answer this question. Honesty is the best strategy. Some business schools may even ask you to state in the application form whether you are applying to other schools. It is important, however, to be able to explain how the programme at the school where you are interviewed can help you achieve your goals, how it differs from the other programmes and why you selected them.

Q: Does the scholarship interview differ from the programme interview?

A:  The admissions and scholarship interviews may take place in one session. In some cases the scholarship interview may be conducted separately. This depends on both the policy of each business school and the requirements of the different types of scholarships.

In both cases, the purpose of the interview is for the admissions committee to gain additional information and personal impressions about how you fit the programme/scholarship requirements and how well you can contribute.

You will normally receive instructions about what to expect during the interview. They will be provided along with the invitation for the interview.

Q: During an initial meeting with a school representative, I was advised to apply for a scholarship because I want to become an IT entrepreneur. How should I proceed?

A:  Research the school and the programme well. Check all possibilities for a scholarship and/or other types of financial aid. Check the maximum amount of scholarship aid which you can get as well as the eligibility requirements for the different types of funding. This information will be important when you start preparing your application package for admission, as well as for a scholarship. The application for admission should highlight the aspects corresponding to the scholarship requirements.

Q: I have been invited to an interview. I read a lot of advice, and I am prepared for the standard questions. But I wonder whether there could be some specific and unusual questions?

A: There are often specific questions. But they are always related to your profile and what you wrote in the application package. So you certainly know the best answers. I suggest that you read your application package again before the interview in order to refresh your memory about all details. Enjoy the interview and feel free to share your impressions on the PrepAdviser Forum or in the comments box for this article.

Q:  I am still preparing to apply to business schools. I am currently studying for the GMAT. I still don’t know how the interview process works. Can you please explain?

A: At this stage, you should focus on achieving a high score on the GMAT and on selecting the right schools for you. This is half of the success for admission. If you are convinced that your chosen schools will help your future then you will have clear arguments which you can use during the interviews. A high GMAT score also opens many doors for both admission and merit-based scholarships.

Q:  Do some schools apply case interviews, as do some consulting firms or do they just focus on each person?

A: Indeed, some schools use business cases during the interviews. One such school is IMD in Switzerland. They have the so called ‘assessment day’. During a full day (7.30 am – 5.30 pm) you work on different tasks individually or in groups with other applicants. The personal interview is just one element.

Q: What is the typical interview format?

A: Most schools will have an interview of up to one hour. It can be face-to-face on campus or in another location, but could also be on the phone or online. During the interviews, most of the questions will be common for all applicants. However, there may also be additional questions which focus only on your application.

Q: I heard that during the interview, the panel will ask the candidates for an Executive MBA what they can bring to their colleagues. What does the panel expect from that question?

A: You really have to answer this question for yourself as soon as you select the programme. You should clearly convey this message in the application package – resume, essays, etc. Your contribution to the programmes is very important. I know that you go to the programme to learn from others, but they expect to learn from you as well. The experience (both professional and personal) of the students is equally important to what the professors will teach you. This is especially true for Executive MBA programmes.

So, you should analyse what unique experiences, attitudes, skills, stories, etc. you can bring to the programme. A good exercise is to answer the question: “How am I different from all the other candidates/professionals from my country, industry, academic background, gender etc.?” Then select which of these differences are relevant to an EMBA classroom. Here, it really helps to make a list of what you want to learn from your peers in the class. You should consider both professional and personal factors.

If you were unable to join this live chat on how to ace the admissions interview, you can still post your questions in the Forum and Blog. Take the opportunity to join our next chat sessions covering a variety of topics on MBA and Master’s admissions.

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