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Ph.D. Admissions Interview Tips


OatMilkLatte
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Hi everyone,

After a steady stream of rejections, my one ray of hope (relatively) is that I just got notified that the admissions committee at one of the schools wants to interview me as they enter their final round of 'deliberations'. They mentioned wanting to talk about my work and interest in their program. I know why I like their program of course, and why I would want to attend. Does anyone have any tips for things I should or shouldn't do/mention/talk about? What are some questions they might ask (if there is a general set of questions typically asked) or things I should be ready to answer/address? And ultimately, I guess I'm wondering what they intend to gauge from these interviews apart from what is already apparent from my application? Any help is appreciated!

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26 minutes ago, OatMilkLatte said:

Hi everyone,

After a steady stream of rejections, my one ray of hope (relatively) is that I just got notified that the admissions committee at one of the schools wants to interview me as they enter their final round of 'deliberations'. They mentioned wanting to talk about my work and interest in their program. I know why I like their program of course, and why I would want to attend. Does anyone have any tips for things I should or shouldn't do/mention/talk about? What are some questions they might ask (if there is a general set of questions typically asked) or things I should be ready to answer/address? And ultimately, I guess I'm wondering what they intend to gauge from these interviews apart from what is already apparent from my application? Any help is appreciated!

This is something that @directingdirectionsposted a while back and has been passed along over the years:
 

On that note, here is a a list of potential questions to ask at visits and interviews (I would say most of these are for visits but some fit well for interviews). I recalled that this was posted to the forum last year (and the person who had posted it then had reposted it from someone from the year before..) so I thought (like them) i'd copy/paste it in case someones find it helpful...

Topics to ask grad schools:
(1) What is the climate for women/minorities like?
(2) Teacher accessibility
(3) Opportunities to teach (TA vs. teaching)
(4) Are grad students happy?
(5) Placement / prep for job market?
(6) Guaranteed 6th year of funding?
(7) How long does it take people to complete program?
(8) Teaching workload (how many students; grading help if a lot)
(9) Summer opportunities
(10) Transition from coursework to dissertation
(11) Opportunities to do Phil outside classroom
(12) Course selection

Questions to ask professors:
1. Are there opportunities to teach or only TA?
2. How does [school] prepare students for the job market?
3. What is financial support like beyond the fifth year?
4. How long does it take people to complete the program?
5. What is the teaching workload like? (How many students? Is there grading help (if a lot)? / How onerous is the teaching + grading load?)
6. What summer opportunities are available to students? What do students typically do over the summer?
7. How does [school] handle the transition from coursework to dissertation?
8. What opportunities are there to do philosophy outside f the classroom on campus? (E.g. reading groups, talks, philosophy society, school-sponsored philosophy conference, etc.)
9. How is the collection of the department library? How often is it updated?
10. Do all grad students /TAs get office space?
11. Links of the dept with professors in, e.g., linguistics, cognitive science, rhetoric, classics, etc.?
12. What do people typically do in winter and summer vacations?
13. People retiring in the next 2-3 years? New hirings planned in the next 1-2 years?
14. How many students is [professor] planning to take in the next few years?
15. Proto seminar- what is it like and what will it look like this fall semester?
16. Support for publishing in the initial years at _______ university?
17. Department fellowships which one can apply for later which can give time off teaching?
18. Your (professor's) current research interests and upcoming projects?
19. How often do the professors meet with students especially during the coursework stage?
20. Do professors come to reading groups and other department activity apart from colloquia?
21. What is the level of support available from the Department to attend conferences, workshops and seminars? How far does the stipend go in that area?
22. Is the funding 9 month or 12 month? What are the avenues for summer funding?

Questions to ask grad students:
1. How often do you meet with professors?
2. How often do you talk about philosophy with professors when you're not in meetings/classes? (To develop as a philosopher, it is very important to develop your in-person philosophy skills--thinking on your feet, asking good questions, responding to objections, etc.)
3. Do professors come to reading groups? (Or any departmental events that aren't colloquia?)
4. Do grad students ask questions at colloquia?
5. Do you feel comfortable talking in group settings? Have you felt comfortable talking in group settings since you first came? If not, when did you start feeling comfortable?
6. Do grad students share their work with one another/give feedback with one another?
7. How often are people around the department?
8. What do you like most about being here?
9. What do you like least about being here?
10. Do older grad students spend time around the department?
11. What kind of guidance do you get from your professors/advisor? (very important- you want faculty who really read your stuff carefully and make your papers better. if the faculty are mia or not very careful when they read your papers, you may not get this.)
12. Does the culture feel combative or one-up-y? Do you feel like you have to be "on" when you're in a philosophical setting?
13. Are the students here happy?
14. What are faculty and student working on in [area]? What is doing [area, e.g. metaphysics] like here?

Questions about climate:
1. Is there a MAP chapter? (You can usually find this out yourself)
1. If so, contact MAP coordinator
2. What is the climate like at [school]?
3. What has [school] done for women and minorities in philosophy?
4. What percentage of grad students are women?
5. Sexual harassment issues? [prob best to ask a grad student discretely]

 

And here is what @HomoLudens noted a few months ago: 

The interview is kinda brutal. Make sure you know literally everything that you wrote in your sample/statement by heart. Then be prepared for trick questions. I can't really remember what my questions were. My friend who got an interview last year said that they asked him what he thought about the "libertarian/Communitarian/Liberalism/communism debate". His area of focus was Lacanian psychoanalysis! The only reason they asked him was because he took a class with Michael Sandel at Harvard during undergrad. So get ready for them to ask anything. 

 

I know these don't quite map on to what you're asking (and without knowing which school the questions can vary I would imagine), but I would say that sometimes interviews are an additional opportunity to check for fit, see what folks are interested, make sure there are not red flags, and hear more about who you are as a philosopher.

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