Congratulations! You have successfully made the “cut.” You are among the select few PsyD applicants who are in serious consideration for acceptance. In fact, your odds for acceptance have increased.
This is NOT, however, the time to sit back and relax. Now, more than ever, you need to stand out, and you’ll do that through your interview. Asking the right questions is a good start. Begin with:
- How do I prepare?
- How do I handle interview questions?
- Which of my experiences should I mention?
- How do I highlight my strengths?
- What questions, if any, should I ask?
- And, maybe most important, how do I manage my nervousness when so much is “on the line”?
None of these questions are new to me. As a consultant, I regularly provide interview guidance to my clients and have, over the years, developed an action plan which has helped many of my PsyD clients ace their interviews. I refer to it as the 3-P Plan: Purpose, Preparation, Performance. Let’s begin with Purpose.
Step 1: Purpose
Admissions interviews serve a specific purpose for the interviewer(s). They help the admissions board:
- Learn more about the academic, research, and clinical background of the applicant
- Determine if the applicant’s disposition, personality, and social skills are conducive to a career in professional psychology
- Consider whether the candidate is a good “fit” with the PsyD program, faculty, and cohort of students
- Assess the likelihood of successful PsyD program completion
- Match their research interests with available faculty mentors
Admissions interviews serve a specific purpose for you, the interviewee, as well. They help you:
- Learn more about the curriculum and faculty
- Assess the academic, clinical, and professional learning environment
- Consider whether this PsyD program, faculty, and cohort of students is a good “fit” for you
- Determine if there are faculty with research interests that match with yours
In other words, as the interviewee, your purpose is to decide if you are a good fit for the program and if the program is a good fit for you. Think of it as a fact-finding mission to determine the “fit factor.”
Step 2: Preparation
Next up, you need to start prepping for the big day. Add the following items to your interview prep to-do list:
- Research all of the PsyD program websites, faculty profiles, and any available print materials related to the university, school, and program as you need to be prepared during the interview to make reference to your knowledge of any special features offered. This might include interdisciplinary opportunities, TA offerings, faculty research, scholarly conferences, clinical internships, community outreach programs, etc. Remember: you should avoid asking any questions that might reveal to the interview committee that you did not do your “homework” by taking the time and effort to research the available materials.
- Compile a list/script of questions that you believe may be asked during the PsyD interview and create a list of talking points for possible answers. However, do not write the answers out word for word as you want to sound spontaneous and natural rather than scripted and memorized. Questions that PsyD programs ask will relate to the following categories: personal/professional info; research interests and clinical relevance; assessment instruments (objective/projective testing); therapy; diversity; and interest/fit.
- Carefully consider what you will wear to the interview. How we package ourselves impacts how others perceive us and affects how we feel about ourselves. Choose attire that is comfortable and empowers and emphasizes your professionalism, confidence, and credibility.
- Review your statement of purpose and any other material (perhaps a research paper or article) that you submitted with your application in case you are questioned on part or parts of it by the interviewers.
- Make sure that you approach this experience as a wonderful opportunity to present yourself in person rather than an obstacle, test, or challenge.
- Practice some cognitive restructuring (positive self-talk, visualization, and modeling) as well as relaxation techniques to use before the start of your interview.
Step 3: Performance
Finally, follow these tips for optimal PsyD interview performance:
- Keep in mind that the evaluation of you as a candidate includes all interactions with program faculty, staff, students and fellow applicants. You would be surprised by how often I have heard members of the academic committee question the department secretary, receptionist, and/or current students to get a different perspective of a particular candidate.
- Before your PsyD interview, use some power-inducing nonverbal gestures to increase your confidence level. I suggest that you watch Amy Cuddy’s video on the power of nonverbal and the concept of “faking it until you make it” on Ted Talks.
- Listen carefully and take in all the information offered so that you can learn as much as possible about the school’s culture and resources.
- Avoid one-word answers even if the interviewer asks a close-ended question. Take advantage of the techniques of behavioral interviewing by providing specific examples or short anecdotes to exhibit your strengths and/or experiences. For example, if you are asked, “Do you consider yourself a thorough researcher?” don’t just say, “Yes I do,” but refer to what you have accomplished that clearly exhibits how thorough you are as a researcher. Telling stories may well set you apart from other candidates and make you particularly memorable.
- Effective eye contact is critical in interviewing. Make eye contact with each and every committee member and fellow students if you are engaged in a group interview. This will reinforce your passion, sincerity, and willingness to engage in academic discourse.
- Monitor your posture and movement. Sit up straight and lean in ever so slightly as this is an indicator that you are fully engaged and deeply interested in the interview.
- Speak at a moderate rate and volume. The last thing you want is to make the interviewer uncomfortable with either a “too loud” voice, a “whisper soft” voice, or a “rapid fire” rate of speech. Make sure to minimize anything that might disturb or distort the message.
- Share your passion for the field of study and smile when appropriate. A pleasant manner and an engaging personality will also make you memorable.
- Ask thought-provoking questions on the academic and/or clinical curriculum and research opportunities. Never ask a question that has an answer that is readily available online.
- Speak in your own voice, from your heart – your sincerity, honesty, and authenticity will shine through.
What to after your PsyD interview
And here’s a final, bonus “P”: Post interview
Just because you’re done interviewing, doesn’t mean you’re done with the admissions process! Take note:
- Make sure that you write down the names and contact information for each of the interviewers for follow-up thank-you notes.
- Personalize each note so that it is clear that you really remember the interviewer by referencing something specific from the PsyD interview. Interviewers often compare notes so don’t write the same thing to each interviewer. Make it personal. For example, “I really enjoyed our conversation about ______.”
- It may be helpful to do a quick self-assessment of your performance. Be honest but don’t “beat yourself up.” Learn from the experience.
We can help you prep for your PsyD interview or with any other element of the PsyD admissions process. Check out our Graduate School Admissions Consulting & Editing Services for more information on how we can help you GET ACCEPTED.As a Dean of Graduate Admissions for over 10 years, Carol Drummer, signed off on over 4,500 graduate applications annually. She is a communication professor and author of "College Is Not 13th Grade-- An Easy to Read Guide for Parents of College Bound Students." Carol has helped clients get accepted to Ph.D. Psy.D, DOT, DPT, PA, MHA, MSW, and masters in Speech Language Pathology, Business Analytics, Accounting, Global Affairs, Counseling, Architecture, Design Engineering , Nutrition, Exercise Physiology to name a few. Want Carol to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!