The interview is optional for application to some Johns Hopkins SAIS graduate programs, and required for others. Make sure you know whether it is required for the program to which you’re applying. Unless you think there is a major reason you will bomb the interview, go for it. (If you think the interview will go down in flames, you may want to brush up on your interview skills since you’ll need those to get a job!) An interview gives you the chance to represent yourself as a three-dimensional person for the admissions committee instead of a pile of papers, and test scores. I spoke with a recent SAIS graduate who told me, “SAIS places a lot of emphasis on work experience, and prefers students who have at least several years of work after undergrad. An interview may also be an opportunity for an applicant who feels they may lack some of that work experience to demonstrate to admissions what they can offer, or how the experience they do have measures up to their peers.” If you think anything in your application materials seems lacking, this is yet another reason to do the interview. Before your interview, make sure you know your resume inside, and out. What parts of it you most want to highlight? Think about what experiences you’ve had that demonstrate your passion for what you want to pursue, and your commitment to what you care about. Think about experiences you’ve had that challenged you to grow. Think about what you’ve achieved in various positions, and the skills you obtained. Think about what you haven’t yet done that you want to do. Talk to a few alumni about their experiences with the interview, preferably very recent graduates or current students, since it’s very likely the process has changed over time. Find out what questions were hardest for them to answer and if they were thrown any curve balls. It’s also a great way to pick their brain about the program in general. Asking questions about the interview might be your stated reason for reaching out, but you’ll gain so much more information than that. Next, practice. The best way to be confident in an interview is to have confidence in your answers. You are very likely to be asked about your professional goals, your 5- to 10-year plan, what experiences you’ve had in the past that make you a good fit for the program, and how the program is the best next step for you at this stage. This will be the same for any informal interviews you do at other schools when visiting the programs. You also want to have some ideas ready for questions about the biggest challenges you’ve faced and how you overcame them, along with answers for biggest influences in your life (people and experiences). Most of all be ready to come across as enthusiastic, motivated and serious about this next career step. Practice with a friend asking you the questions and giving you feedback. Don’t forget about body language, so ask if there are any ticks your practice partner notices–for example, if you chew your nails throughout the interview or dart your eyes around nervously. You do not want to stress yourself out too much in getting it “right,” but interview techniques will help you throughout your career so you may as well start honing those skills now. Finally, remember the interview is as much an opportunity for an applicant to learn about the school as it is for the interviewer to learn about the applicant. Think of what questions you still have about the school and the program. Make sure you have smart relevant questions to ask if given the opportunity. If you need to write them down, by all means do it. Walking into an interview with a list of hand written questions can leave a good impression (just remember to ask them). The program is about to take up one to two years of your life, you want to make sure you are a good fit for the program as much as the program does. Make sure it is the right one for you and your future!