Category Archives: Interviews

Interview Comparison (3 of 3)

So I’m finally here at part three of my interview series!  WooHoo.  I’ve been meaning to write, but usually when I have something “substantial” to write, I avoid it.  Probably because I’m a dirty, rotten, no-good procrastinator!

Basically, through the UCLA TEP and Berkeley DTE interview processes, I learned some no-brainers that may be of some help to others who are about as naive as I am.

  • Wear something nice – business casual.
  • Review your submitted application – this not only reminds you of why you applied there in the first place, but also prepares you for potential questions or inquiries about the application.
  • Don’t hesitate to use your resources: call the admissions office and ask how the group interview will be conducted or use the internet and look up the faculty who will be interviewing you or do all of the above.  This is the 21st century people, and believe me, if you don’t do this, know that somebody else did.
  • Bring a notepad and a black or blue pen just in case.  Whether you need the financial aid website, a graduate’s email address, or other notes, it’s always good to be prepared.
  • Finally, even if you wear the wrong clothes, forget to take off your gaudy nail polish, and forget the room number of the interview location, in the end, it’s about the person. No matter how immaculate you are, if you are tepid with no sense of why you’re there, the school is not going to be interested.  Let them know why you are a vital candidate.  They want to know!

Also, even if a school doesn’t conduct interviews, it might be a good idea to research the school and contact a professor that you might be interested in working with (or in the case of a Credential/MA program, a teacher whose pedagogical theories or publications interest you) and just ask them a few questions and express your interest and intentions to apply.   If you know of students who have been in the program or are in the program, contact them for some inside information.  Visit a class.  Visit the director (I did).

Grad schools are keen on getting you where you need to be, and they are so so so helpful.  Take advantage!


Ed Interviews (1 of 3)

So, many of you have been asking me about my school interviews and I decided that one post just wasn’t enough!  Just kidding.  Basically, I’m going to summarize the UCLA interview, then summarize the Berkeley interview, and then give my feedback in the third.

So, without further ado,


Now before we go any further, I want to stress that this interview was a mandatory part of the application process.  So, no congratulations necessary!  I had read on the application checklist that a group interview was part of the application process and that residents of CA were required to attend.  Unfortunately, I was a dolt who started actually filling out the application form towards the deadline and didn’t realize that I had to sign up for the interview on my application and that the interviews were only offered on select Saturdays in January!

Lesson 1:  If you can*, skim through your application before you begin!

It was definitely crazy finding flights, calling people to drive me around, calling people to hang out with me, but it suffices to say, Jet Blue and Southwest came through and I had a pleasant So-Cal Escapade for a little under $130.

So, I flew in on Saturday morning, had a pleasant breakfast with Bethany, visited an LA Farmer’s market, and then went directly to my interview location.  Arrived 45 minutes early and spend 25 of those minutes meandering through campus, slightly lost, but unconcerned.  It was a hot summery day (in January), and I felt slightly overdressed in my cashmere infinity scarf, long sleeves, jacket, jeans, and boots.  I was lugging around a small backpack with my weekend needs and as I saw LA-ers, obviously dressed in their summer couture, I began to sweat a little more.

When I arrived at Moore Hall, our names were clearly posted and divided into our respective group interview rooms.  Yet as I looked around, I realized that everyone was glistening.  They were shiny!  In their pressed collared shirts, their crisp pencil skirts, and whatever lovelies they put into their hair… my off-the-airplane face starkly contrasted their freshly-makeuped complexions.

I went to use the bathroom, and last minute, changed into a plaid, collared shirt.  It was a step up, but not by much.  Yikes.  I also regretted my yellow nail polish, but then decided to roll with the punches and just turn on extra charm.  After all, I am from Norcal!

Lesson 2:  This should go without saying; dress up for an interview.

Anyway in the group interview there were around 10-12 people including the director of the TEP elementary program and a TEP grad.  I heard that this year’s interviews differed radically from last year’s (and also that if I had called in, I could have found out about this, and about dress code and anything else from the ever so helpful Jules Guerra).  It was basically a modified Socratic seminar and consisted of the following:

  • 15 minutes of welcome and introduction
  • 5 minutes of an overview of the group interview process
  • 20 minutes to read an article on Race and Culture in Education
  • 5 minutes to write 3-5 open-ended questions
  • 5 minutes  to each read 1 question to pose to the group
  • 15-20 minutes to discuss, ask questions, etc etc.
  • 1-2 minutes per person for a final individual commentary
  • 20 minutes for a Written Response to answer the following question:  What are actions you can take as a social justice educator to address the challenges presented in the article?

Basically, during this group interview (where they basically watched and took notes on our comments and participation), I came up with a list of do’s and don’t’s.


  • Continuously connect back to your experience with so-and-so at such-and-such a place.  They have your application.  They have your resume.  Obviously, the rest of us have also been in such environments; we’re aspiring educators after all.
  • Hog.  And a double no-no is when you see someone’s hand raised and you cut in.  Kind of messed up, I think.
  • Formulate your response in a way that concludes with, “this is why I want to go to UCLA” or “this is why I think I would be a good fit for this program.”  It reeks of desperation and doesn’t really have anything to do with the current discussion.
  • Forget to bring a black or blue pen.  I ended up writing in purple ink.  I guess if I’m going to fail, I’ll fail in style?  -_-


  • Call ahead to find out what’s going on!  They’re helpful!  (I didn’t do any of this, but others did)
  • Relate your discussion comments back to the text! (Very few people did this)
  • Be gracious and let others speak.  (I tried to allow the other person to go first if we started speaking at the same time or notice someone’s hand had been raised for a while and suggest they talk.  I felt like this is how a teacher facilitating a class-wide discussion would act. 😉 )
  • Finish your comment with an open-ended conversation to keep the discussion moving.
  • Address the elephant in the room!  (For example, during the whole discussion, people were being careful to be SO PC and to avoid blaming specific groups, simply blamed “the system.”  I finally said (with a smile, of course) that we can’t keep blaming the system – we’re not going to get anywhere).
  • PARTICIPATE!  Some poor souls simply had a difficult time either coming up with stuff to say or saying stuff in general.  Honestly guys – this is grad school.
  • Know it’s okay to take yourself less seriously

My Final Impressions

Ultimately, at the end, I left feeling a bit ho-hum.  The discussion felt all too familiar and I began to feel that maybe all I wanted really was the M.A. and credential; not the school experience.  I had been so excited while filling out my applications and writing my statements of purpose, but at the end, having to beat this dying horse of “BLAME the system”, “we need more money!” isn’t really my cup of tea.  I know UCLA is definitely a more proactive program, and I love the idea that I can work with urban youth, but in a sense, I would rather go do something than sit in school and discuss the merits and downfalls of articles- that honestly – never do any topic full justice… there are always disclaimers and such.

Also, I just don’t really like So-Cal.  Thus, after this interview, I decided to also apply to SF State and after getting my credentials, apply to an M.A. or M.Ed program separately.  After all UCLA is also 2 years long.

Lastly, it was interesting to note that in their 2010 profile, out of 432 applicants, 188 were enrolled.  Methinks that means around 50% were accepted?  But as my intelliJent friend said, “So what if they accept like 50%?  That means they are all qualified and rejecting the other 50% was really hard? :)”   That’s the best perspective to have.

Thankful for the interview opportunity; learned lessons that I could apply to future interviews!  Plus, interviews go both ways: not only did they get to learn about me, but I got to learn a bit about them and decide if this really is the school for me.

We shall see! (Part of me still wants to move here, live with my friend Jenny and see my other friend Jenny and check out all this LA food.  But really, grad decisions shouldn’t be based on social life.)

*I know some applications (Stanford Teachers Education Program) make it difficult for you to jump around