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I am planning to apply for Engineering PhD programs in the US this Fall; however, I am a bit confused as to whether US Engineering grad schools typically conduct interviews for PhD applicants.

I had assumed that most of the institutions that I am interested in would be conducting interviews of PhD candidates, to help gauge the personality/cultural fit. This view was reinforced by a friend of mine who did a PhD at one of those schools a few years ago, who told me they were interviewed.

However, I have spoken to another source that I consider to be reliable (basically, someone closely connected to the faculty of that school), who has given me the impression they don't do interviews for their grad school - they base everything off of the paper application.

I was a little surprised to hear this and so I am wondering if it is typical for fairly high-ranking US grad schools not to conduct interviews? Is there a general trend, or does it vary quite a lot from school to school?

Note: I have edited the question and title to take a step back from the apparent misconception(s) I seem to have had, and ask the question I probably should have started with in the first place. Hopefully it won't affect the validity of any of the answers.

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    Are you physically in the US? The universities tend not to want to pay for international flights. – Anyon Sep 16 '19 at 17:35
  • @Anyon I live in the US, and I would be happy to pay travel costs for any grad school that wanted to interview me or meet me in person. Also, if that is the concern, why not conduct phone interviews (or even better, Skype)? – Time4Tea Sep 16 '19 at 17:38
  • What gives you this impression? – Tobias Kildetoft Sep 16 '19 at 18:04
  • @TobiasKildetoft as I mentioned in the question, I have a friend who was interviewed for a particular grad school a few years back. However, I have heard from a source I consider to be reliable that they don't do grad school interviews any more. I admit, it's only 1 data point, but that's why I am asking. – Time4Tea Sep 16 '19 at 18:12
  • That explains why you consider this a change. But nothing in the question gives any idea why you would think that they no longer conduct interviews (and your comment does not do much to enlighten us). – Tobias Kildetoft Sep 16 '19 at 18:46
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I have not seen anything to indicate that PhD programs no longer interview candidates. I was interviewed in person by many (~75%) of the schools I got into for my PhD program in 2015. I doubt this has changed in 4 years. In fact, I helped interview several candidates in 2017 and 2018 at my school. I was invited to tour and interview at several well regarded schools in my field.

Note that some schools do not interview candidates. This is especially true of lower -tier schools in my anecdotal experience. But I had colleagues who interviewed at some rather prestigious schools in Massachusetts.

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  • Thanks for your input, this is interesting to hear. Of course, it is possible that my information is simply incorrect on the matter. – Time4Tea Sep 16 '19 at 20:20
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This may be discipline-specific within engineering. Most of the top industrial engineering programs don’t interview PhD applicants (I can only think of one exception, though there are probably others). They’ll still bring folks to campus for a visit day or weekend though after they’ve been accepted.

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  • I doubt that there is any trend however, in any field. – Buffy Sep 16 '19 at 20:03
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    Importantly, the invitation to campus (and the opportunity to talk to students) is after acceptance. – Wolfgang Bangerth Sep 16 '19 at 23:04
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I applied to several R1 (top 25) programs for a Ph.D. in the hard sciences 20 years ago. None of them did interviews.

This contrasted with my undergrad application experience where many (but still probably less than 50%) of good schools did have an interview. I suspect the difference had to do with less interest in the "whole person" ideal of fluffy undergrad schools (cute personality and the like) and more interest in just getting strong candidates. In addition, the huge percent of admits coming from overseas (mainly China) made interviews a difficult part of the process.

Probably in addition, just the logistics of departments versus undergrads. If "Ivy" lets in 1000 kids per year, they probably can support doing interviews around the U.S. easily, using their alumni network (every one I had was local to me and via an alumni). This is harder logistically for a department letting in ~20 kids or so.

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  • Thanks for your input. I also did an admissions interview for my undergrad degree, which is partly why I was surprised to hear that some US grad schools don't interview PhD applicants. – Time4Tea Sep 17 '19 at 17:30

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