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On Deck…

Feb.15.2010

As your dreaded grad school interview conferences quickly approaches, it’s important to feel relaxed, and as you’ll see below, I’m a big fan of ‘doing my homework.’  In a crunch, there are a few great ways to prepare that I’ve been so thankful to pick up through the twitter.com based #sachats on Thursdays at 1 PM and 7 PM EST, hosted by The_SA_Blog, as well as some fantastic Student Affairs professionals and grad students! (Thanks for posting @EdCabellon!)

Interviews, like baseball, show the difference in performance with practice.  You can’t expect to ‘step up to the plate’ and feel comfortable right away.  Remember the first time you picked up a bat?  Not easy, and you likely didn’t look or feel very comfortable.

  • Look for opportunities to conduct phone interviews or convert advisors one-on-ones into interviewing opportunities.  Formulating your ideas in a comfortable setting will let you practice in an environment where you feel, well uncomfortable, and as you re-articulate those ideas in new settings with new people, it’s likely to come more easily (and likely sound more articulate).  Ask your mentors and advisors for some ‘cookie cutter’ questions for examples, and reflect on how you might answer, keeping in mind key points that you’d like to get across in your interviews.

Speaking of which, in a collaborative effort amongst many Student Affairs Professional Associations, the ‘All of the Above’ conference (this year at Bridgewater State College) offers several mock interviews to help this process along, and give you an opportunity for feedback! (And at $25 for ‘late’ registration, it’s a cost effective and well-advised opportunity to  take a few practice swings and get comfortable before the big game!  While your there, have someone check out your resume, and make those finishing touches before you head to your grad schools!

  • Remember why you’re going!  Do your research before you step on campus, and bring along some of the essentials (campus map, assistantship descriptions, your interview schedule, a resume) and study up!  The little things definitely will not go unnoticed, and they might make all the difference when talking about candidates, especially when you can articulate your relevant experiences without hesitation or distraction because you’re busy wondering where you’re going next, or what time you have to be there! As you speak, remember they’re YOUR experiences, after all, and preparing by reflecting on what you’ve done will only help once you sit down for the interview!
  • Prepare your ‘Elevator Speech‘.  The idea here is if you were suddenly in an elevator with your dream job, employer, grad school, and they gave you the ride from the lobby to the 10th floor to sell yourself you’d have a ‘go to’ answer that tells them what you need them to know, and that informs them about why you’re the right fit for the position.
  • Wear a watch, and don’t let your palm double as a cell phone!  I know it’s difficult to separate from the world, but quite honestly, without focusing on where you are and what you’re doing, beyond the fatigue of the interview conference itself, you’re likely to have trouble turning ‘on’ and ‘off’.  Many schools will have Grad Students in the hospitality room as a resource, but also checking to see what people are up to; so don’t make them think your face has a keypad, or that you have a beeping, tweeting, or chirping set of handcuffs on; be conscious of your cell phone, and use sparingly!
  • Make friends!  Noting above, you’re likely to go a little stir crazy without some human interaction, and you already know that everyone around you has something in common!  You’re not going to do yourself any good to isolate away from the group in the off chance that you’re going for the same assistantships; and assuming you are as qualified as the resume that got you to the conference, you’re likely to be in an awkward situation if you are both offered assistantships and you become classmates!  As a general rule, be nice to everyone, (not that you aren’t like to anyways) but especially in the interest of your own sanity when it comes to your fellow interviewees; acknowledge that you’re all in the same boat, and take the moment to revel in the reasons that you’re there in the first place (a passion and interest in support students!)

And once you start to nail down all of these ‘basics’ (let’s be honest, there’s a lot there), ACPA is also hold their NextGen conference as a precursor to graduate school, whether you’re just looking into the field or have already been accepted into a program to learn about more of the specifics (there are two ‘tracks’), and offer another whole layer of information on the process!

By no means is this meant to be an exhaustive list, because quite honestly there are tons of information once you start to peel the layers back; but minimally I hope this has started YOUR gears turning and will help you in the brutal weeks ahead waiting for your car rides, trains, or planes!

Good luck, and happy interviewing!

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