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When you explain why you want to attend their program...


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I have an interview coming up, and of course I'm prepared to answer why the school/program is the best fit. How non-academic can some of the reasons be? For example, one of the reasons I want to go there is that I really want to be in that part of the country, as it's much closer to my family than my current location.

Is it okay to say that, or should I keep it school-oriented?

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I disagree strongly with the above poster. I actually interviewed today at a university in my home state and mentioned being closer to my large extended family as a reason I am interested in the program. I think it demonstrates that I'd have a strong support network as a student. Also, the area the school is in gets an unfairly bad rap, and my interviewers actually said that they were glad that they didn't have to defend the area to me since I was already familiar with it. Finally, the fact that it's a metropolitan area means there are a lot more resources available than if I was in somewhere more remote so it's not totally unrelated to the program to care about the area.

I think that once you're at the interview stage they want to see you as a student first, but as a person too with individual likes and dislikes. Part of fit with a program is liking the geography. One program that admitted me said that part of the interview is seeing whether applicants end up hating the somewhat harsh climate, because if they can't stand it after a few days they'll never make it through several months of it.

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I agree with LadyL - you probably won't want to emphasize the location too much and give the impression that you're more interested in moving to X region than attending their school, but you could certainly mention things like family close by, regional opportunities or resources in your specific field, cost of living etc.

I wouldn't mention things like weather and quality of life, although these are factors many of us take into account, the interviewers will not really care about how these things play into your decision.

In my case location is very important, as a musician I want to be near a major city because of the academic, cultural and professional resources that big cities have compared to small towns. There might be something similar in your field you could also mention

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I think you have to be careful with how you frame it.

First and foremost, you would want to attend the program for the program. However location is definitely a factor. I guess what you need to do is make it sound like a supplementary reason and be very careful it does not come across as a primary reason.

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I think it's OK to mention location as a reason for being interested in attending a certain school. It shouldn't be the first reason you give, or the one you sound most excited about; but if you make a strong case for (1) why the department is a good academic fit for you (mention specific professors and how their interests mesh with yours) and (2) how you could benefit from other resources the department makes available to its students, I don't think it's inappropriate to then add that your family lives nearby and could offer you support. Make it sound like an added bonus, not the reason you applied.

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I think thats its ok to mention the location because alot of the school promote their location as a reason to attend....cost of living, culture and so on. I have to attend a school where there is a reliable bus system because i don't own a car (and can't drive..lol). The location of the school I pick (if they pick me first) would factor heavily in my decision. Cost of living would be another since I have to start paying my undergrad loan while I'm in grad school. Whoever gives me the most money with lowest cost of living and a good bus system wins since I only applied to Grad programs with researchers in my field of interest.

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I think it's a perfectly valid reason to give location as one of the (but not THE) reasons you'd want to attend their program. Several schools I interviewed at made it a point to mention the area and climate in a positive light (Duke, I recall, pushed this fairly hard; although it may have been due to the fact that it was snowing, and that's not normal) and an overview of the city was par for the course everywhere I attended.

Make sure you can explain why the program's a good fit for you academically--preferred faculty, academic fit, facilities, possibilities for collaboration/other details specific to the program--but it doesn't hurt to say, "...and the area's a nice fit as well!"

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It depends. I can imagine that you'd say that living in New York City (for example) will add to your experience, because such a diverse city will offer you certain things that other cities might not. It will depend on your field of study, but I can imagine that a big, diverse city can be inspirational for some. I just used New York City as an example. I can also imagine that if you'd be pursuing a PhD in Forest Ecology, you'd consider living in an environment rich of forests a plus. I would never though give the reason that I want to be close to my family.

I had an interview with Cambridge and I also said that I think Cambridge would be the right place for me (besides the courses and professors that have my interest), because of their college system. This system really adds to the diversity and allows you to meet many people of different nationalities and of different studies. I said that I'd like to live in a internationally diverse environment and that I consider it a plus to live in a college with people from different countries and different fields of study.

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Location has nothing to do with the program.

It's irrelevant, inappropriate, and makes it seem as if you're more interested in the location than the actual program.

If sure you can find more compelling reasons why you want to attend that school

Meh. I began my school search focusing on geography (close to in-laws or my family) then found programs which matched my interests. I then stated as much on my statement of purpose and in interviews.

Having a well-reasoned answer is probably equally as important as your particular reasons.

Edited by BongRips69
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There is no problem mentioning non-academic factors that draw you to the program in fact I've read that interviewing appreciate it. However, I would be careful not to mention them as primary factors.

For example you might say "I find your program at UM to be a perfect fit as numerous professors focus their research on x,y and z. Also it is in a beautiful city full of sunshine and natural beauty which I find conducive to my studies etc." as opposed to saying "I really hope to get in to UCLA because my parole officer won't let me leave the state"

Good luck!

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