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I'm an (international) electrical engineering applicant applied to some top-10 graduate programs in US (say, MIT, Caltech, UCB, etc.). As I check the entries of "thegradcafe.com" every day associated with the programs I've applied to, there are many entries which declare interviews with some POIs. So far, I have received no interview requests from any target school. Thus, I'm a little bit both curious about the importance of interview and anxious about the interpretation of such a lack of interviews in my case. To be specific, are all admitted students to top-tier engineering programs invited to interview before getting admitted? In other words, should I expect to be rejected if no one invites me to any sort of interview?

PS. If it helps to clear the situation, I'm currently an M.A.Sc student at a well-known Canadian university. So, both my university and my supervisor are pretty famous to the research community of my field.

  • university of toronto is surely very famous... u know that MIT etc are on a different level? – Bernie Jan 14 '18 at 13:25
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    @NostradamusJR No need for snobbery here. For any given field, there are a good number of institutions in the international network of top schools. The distinction at that point tends to be less about schools and more about people within a community. – jakebeal Jan 14 '18 at 14:09
  • @JeffE My research background is actually in control and robotics; however, considering my recent research experiences in my master, I've announced my interest in bimolecular feedback systems. – Roboticist Jan 14 '18 at 16:41
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    @JeffE Given the response, could you convert your comment into an answer? – jakebeal Jan 14 '18 at 16:44
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Not all graduate programs in the US have (official) interviews at all. In particular, except for Caltech, I'm not aware of any US computer science graduate programs that regularly interviews applicants before making admissions decisions.

There are a couple of sporadic exceptions, which are almost always handled by phone or skype:

  • Departments sometimes interview non-domestic students to check for English fluency, especially if their TOEFL (or equivalent) scores are missing or borderline but the application is otherwise strong.

  • Some individual faculty arrange informal interviews with prospective students before deciding whether to offer funding.

Outside computer science, some US engineering departments do regularly invite PhD students for on-campus interviews before admission, but I think this is more the exception than the rule. In particular, as far as I know, none of the engineering departments at my university (which is highly ranked in most engineering disciplines) do this.

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After one is accepted to a USA engineering graduate program, it is very common to be invited on "post-acceptance recruitment trips". The purpose of these is to recruit you to accepting that university's offer and begin making connections with prospective faculty advisers. However you should also treat these events as a type of interview in that if you behave inappropriately the offer of support could still be withdrawn and indicating a lack of personal commitment to research could alienate potential faculty advisers from you. For example alcohol (!) could be provided to you in an informal setting and your ability to act professionally with your peers will be judged by current students and faculty.

If you have been accepted to these departments with stipend support, feel free to contact the department's graduate program coordinator and ask specifically about the schedule for recruitment trips.

  • But the records of "thegradcofe.com" indicate something different. Specifically, many posters have an interview with a PI and then they receive an informal email from their PI in addition to a formal acceptance from the corresponding university. Put differently, I'm wondering whether or not interviews are pre-steps of admissions, not a post-step one. Additionally, the aforesaid interviews are mostly by either phone or skype, and there is often no recruitment trip even for American (domestic) applicants. – Roboticist Jan 14 '18 at 18:45

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