Wednesday, January 25, 2017

How to Prepare for the SAIS Europe Interview

After  weeks and months of preparation, you have submitted your application to SAIS Europe. Now what?

In the coming weeks, SAIS Europe Admissions will be reaching out to you to schedule a Skype or an in person interview, depending on your location.

The interview process is an opportunity for prospective candidates to complement their written applications with additional information. Interviews at SAIS Europe are conducted by senior staff and faculty, and are an important element of your application.

For many, preparing for an interview may appear daunting.  Don’t fret!  We want to assure you not to worry.  The SAIS Europe interview provides an opportunity for applicants to not only expand on their submitted application, but also to provide the interviewer an opportunity to elaborate on the academic and student experience at SAIS Europe.

So this begs the question: how does one prepare?

Although interview styles can vary, SAIS Europe Admissions wanted to provide applicants with some guidance by asking our faculty and senior staff  interviewers directly what they look for.  Below is a transcript of their words of wisdom for applicants.

Prof. Mark Gilbert
Professor  Mark Gilbert teaches History and International Studies at SAIS Europe and is a resident faculty member at SAIS Europe. This Spring, he will teach two courses, Peace and War  and Intellectuals and Politics. “ I look for students who show curiosity about international affairs,  who have a clear idea about why they want to do a SAIS degree”, he  states.  “I look for students who know what their intellectual interests and professional goals are.”

Professor Erik Jones is Director of the European and Eurasian Studies Concentration at SAIS Europe and Professor of European Studies and International Political Economy. He underlines the following:

“A strong interview is where the candidate answers the questions and reveals something about themselves along the way.  That is not the same thing as providing every bit of information you can remember about the subject of the question.  It is about being selective.  It is about being analytical.  And it is about knowing what is important and why.  Answer the questions, tell me why that is your answer, tell me why I should agree with you, and then tell me why I should care.  If you do all those things in short order, I will be impressed.
Professor Erik Jones

The best way to prepare is be natural and be yourself.  You are not going to know everything and there are always some things you won’t know at all.  Don’t be afraid to admit that.  The purpose of the interview is not to find the next editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica.  That said, you should know something.  And you should know at least something about the most obvious things.  If you don’t know about the war that just broke out, the president that was just elected (or impeached), the economy that just collapsed, or the treaty negotiations that just concluded, then it will be fair for us to ask how much you are really interested in studying international relations."

David Unger  is Adjunct Professor of American Foreign Policy at SAIS Europe and a longtime member of the New York Times Editorial Board. True to his direct journalistic style, he tells candidates the following: “Be prepared but don't have a script; listen to the questions asked and tell the interviewer something about you he/she would not know just from reading your application.“

Assistant Professor of International Political Economy Matthias Matthijs teaches graduate courses in International Relations, International Economics and Comparative Politics. A SAIS graduate, he tells students to “structure your answers and try to be analytical in what you say. Have a story and try to be well versed in general IR issues. Make me understand your point of view with clear arguments.”

As Director of SAIS Europe Admissions I often travel around the globe to meet with prospective students. The advice I give applicants who are thinking of graduate school is simple: applicants should have a general idea of their professional goals and apply to graduate school only if this is a necessary step in their career development. I view graduate school as a long term investment that should be well thought out. If an applicant can't describe where he/she wants to be in five years, the applicant should continue working until he/she has clarity. You don't come to graduate school to figure out your future. You know where you want to go and graduate school is the tool to take you to the next level.

Lastly, as prospective students prepare their interview, Professor Jones has these  pointed comments:

“The interview and the application process are about fit and not about good and bad.  We want to find the right students for our program and we want to find the students for whom our program is right. You can be the most brilliant and capable student the world has ever seen and yet still not fit the SAIS experience.  If that is the case, we need to know and so do you.  There is no good reason for us to encourage you to invest as much time, energy, and financial resources as a SAIS education requires if it is not going to help you achieve your personal objectives.”

We hope the guidance above has given you the necessary insight to approach the interview process with focus. Best of luck with the process!

Daniela F.Coleman
Director of Admissions, SAIS Europe

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