Any student nearing the end of their time as an undergraduate is probably familiar with the nail-biting stress that accompanies applying to graduate school and successfully being accepted to the best possible program. It’s a process that often requires at least one pre-admissions standardized test, with many schools requiring personal, academic, and professional recommendations in addition to college transcripts and even work experience. In some cases, schools might even require an interview. That’s certainly true of some online schools, though it’s hardly a universal rule that these schools want to speak with a student face-to-face before they’ll admit them to the graduate program of their choice.

Before proceeding with the graduate school admissions process, students should get familiar with each school’s requirements and make sure that these can be easily satisfied. After all, graduate school applications are certainly not cheap, and there’s no need to pay those fees to a school whose requirements cannot be met.

The Grad School Interview: General Guidelines for When It’s Required

Online graduate programs come with a few quirks that simply aren’t associated with applying to a more traditional program in a classroom setting. Perhaps the most significant of these, at least in terms of the application process, is that some students will be clear across the country from the school that eventually accepts their application and grants them an offer of admission. That makes it pretty hard to interview students, so most graduate programs will require such a thing only when a student is local, or when they think it might enhance their chances of being accepted.

Even so, there are a few schools that will allow the interview to be conducted via phone or videoconference through tools like Skype or even FaceTime. Among the online programs and schools most notorious for such interviews:

Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business: Many candidates report having to take part in an interview process prior to their application being considered “complete” by the school’s graduate admissions staff. Considering Duke’s position as the leading online MBA in the southeastern part of the country, and a top-ranked program nationwide, this is probably no surprise to applicants. Interviews can be conducted in person, on the phone, or online in many cases.

Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College: The university’s online master’s degrees in computer science and information technology occasionally require an interview, especially if students are considered borderline candidates for admission. If necessary, admissions representatives will contact the student in advance to schedule an interview via the most appropriate method.

University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business

As one of the top 5 online MBAs in the Western hemisphere, it’s no surprise that Penn’s stringent admission requirements include an interview for virtually every applicant under serious consideration. If the university deems an interview necessary, students will be contacted and given time to arrange either a phone call or an in-person meeting with admissions representatives. In-person meetings are generally encouraged.

Additional Reading: Are Campus Based Colleges Considered Better Than Online Colleges?

Looking to Forego the Interview? Consider Public Universities Instead

Public universities tend to admit larger classes of students and generally do not require a personal interview prior to an application being considered complete. These schools still offer some of the best online degrees in business, computer science, psychology, accounting, and dozens of other fields. They’ll often be more accommodating of distance education students than their private counterparts, and they generally offer a slightly greater chance of acceptance than private online universities.

Either way, these programs are all worth pursuing. Their admissions requirements are universally stringent, and every school wants to accept only the most successful, well-rounded candidates. Interview or no interview, applying early and proving academic merit is the best way to get into any online program.

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