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Q: How common is it for a faculty/school to request/demand the good PhD applicants to come in for an interview?

For someone that lives outside of the U.S. and wants to apply to do a doctorate in the U.S., should that person temporarily relocate to the U.S. (at the correct time and for the correct duration of course) with the expectation that they'll have to interview in order to get in?

Do top schools vary from mid-ranked schools when it comes to interview frequency? Does it vary by faculty?

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Interviews can also be conducted via Skype. –  gerrit Jan 26 '13 at 14:28
As mentioned above, Skype is becoming extremely popular for conducting interviews. Before planning an expensive trip to the US, I strongly encourage you to search for online interview strategies. –  cartonn Jan 27 '13 at 20:15

2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

In my experience, it's typical for a US university to invite PhD applicants for a visit only after they have been accepted for admission. The purpose of this visit is primarily for the school to make a good impression on the student and try to convince the student to accept their offer of admission. An interview is not normally a required part of the application process.

However, one of the best things you can do to increase your chances of admission to a particular graduate school is having a professor there who wants you to work with them, and who will lobby the admissions committee on your behalf. In order to get this kind of connection with a professor, you will need to meet them and establish a rapport well in advance of applying to the university, and it's possible that the professor will want to meet you in person as part of that process.

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Thanks. Is it standard practice to contact prospective supervisors prior to your application submission? –  Jase Jan 26 '13 at 8:16
That depends on what you mean by "standard." It's not at all uncommon, and it's certainly something that can only help your chances of being accepted at a university (as far as I know), but not everyone does it either. (I personally had no idea that's what I was supposed to be doing.) –  David Z Jan 26 '13 at 8:39
Some departments will have some funds to invite people for interviews before offering admission. Usually most international tickets to the US will not be fully refunded unless you are flying to the East Coast. So it might be better just to wait and see if they offer any traveler reimbursement. –  user4050 Jan 27 '13 at 17:06

It's rare to demand an interview. Having said that, I know that in some disciplines (parts of bio, for one), students are brought in BEFORE the final decisions to meet with faculty.

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I never saw that in Canada... Interesting. –  Zenon Jan 26 '13 at 11:10

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