How to prepare for Skoltech's admissions interview
What to expect and how to be successful
why do they need my interview?
A graduate school interview is a serious test that might make it or break it in your journey towards an admissions offer. Like many other universities, Skoltech also requires an interview as the final stage of the admissions process, right after you submit your application and successfully pass the online exam.

As you reach the interview stage in the application process, the natural question to ask is, "What should I do?" Alright, no need to panic: we are here to help with everything you need to know to ace your interview!
isn't my resume enough?
The admissions interview takes place during the Selection Days either in-person or online and helps applicants to show what their digital application couldn't:

  1. Presentation skills
  2. Knowledge of their subject area
  3. Ability to speak and discuss technical topics in English
  4. Soft skills to converse with the admissions committee (aka their future professors)
  5. Determination in their journey to be accepted at Skoltech


As a rule of thumb, a technical interview usually takes place during a job search or graduate school admissions process. You were already selected based on your resume and testing, so now it's time to meet the decision makers face-to-face. The goal of the technical interview is to have a live conversation and show the depth of your knowledge. The format of these interviews can be different: an employer may take the whole 30-60 minutes, while a graduate school interview usually lasts 15-20 minutes, so it's obviously impossible to convey everything you know. Nevertheless, the admissions committee's goal is to evaluate your knowledge specifically in a conversation and through various questions.
Maxim Panov
Assistant Professor, Center for Computational and Data-Intensive Science and Engineering
So, the entire admissions interview lasts up to15 minutes, but that doesn't mean it's easy. During these precious minutes, you will face some of the top professionals and academics in the field. Your goal is to convince them to accept you.
types of interviews
general
A general interview format looks exactly like you would expect: after your 7-8 minute presentation, the admissions committee will ask you some questions. Be prepared to go into detail about your projects, experience, achievements or anything you've talked about during the presentation. You may also be asked some additional questions to show your broad-mindedness and quick thinking (see the list of questions above).

Applies to programs:
Data Science, Information Science & Technology, Advanced Manufacturing Technologies, Space and Engineering Systems, Materials Science, Petroleum Engineering, Energy Systems, Photonics and Quantum Materials (online).
flipchart interview
In this format, you will be asked to prepare in advance a 1-page presentation with the title and main formula of your bachelor research work. Additionally, you will have to solve a mathematical or a physics problem right during the interview, on a flipchart or via a screensharing app if your interview is conducted remotely. The goal is to understand the depth of your knowledge of the subject area and see how well you think on your feet.

Applies to programs:
Mathematical and Theoretical Physics, Photonics and Quantum Materials (in-person)
article review
In some cases, applicants are asked to explain a scientific paper instead of giving a presentation. The admissions office will send you several papers to choose from about two weeks before the interview. You must select one, read it before the interview and then explain the idea, the goals and the results of the study orally during the interview.

Applies to programs:
Life Sciences.

first, you present
The first step is to prepare a presentation for the interview. This year is exceptional and all interviews take place online, via Zoom. It's a challenging and unusual feat, but most applicants do just as well as if the interview was in-person.

So, the entire admissions interview lasts up to 15 minutes, but that doesn't mean it's easy. During these precious minutes, you will face some of the top professionals and academics in the field. Your goal is to convince them to accept you.

As you begin to work on your presentation, think about this: if you join Skoltech, you will complete a research project and write a master thesis as a result. What kind of potential project would attract you in terms of topic and practical relevance? How does it fit the Skoltech Center you are aiming for? Which research groups would you be interested in and why? Why should they accept you?
second, you answer
Following your presentation, the admissions committee will ask you some questions about what you've just said, as well as some trick questions you saw in the video. You must be prepared to answer any question! Here are some examples:
Please describe your research: how was it organized, what does it help to achieve and what role did you play in it?
What is your favorite part about studying [insert subject area here]? Why?
Be prepared to answer a technical question from this field.
Why do you want to study here? Why Skoltech?
What is your greatest weakness?
What makes you different from other students?
Tell us three things that aren't on your application.
What is your favorite area of Math?
Be ready to explain the details.
If you had all the money in the world, what would you do with it? Why? How?
Do you have any questions?
Always say yes and ask thoughtful questions to show your interest and motivation.
This list is not exclusive. The admissions committee will have different questions based on your presentation. Keep your cool, take a few seconds to collect your thoughts and give honest answers.
showtime
Wait, maybe it's best to just show you how it goes? We asked our real student to remember her admissions interview and record it for you (she wasn't fond of the idea at first). The committee was headed by the Space and Engineering Systems Program Director Anton Ivanov (he, on the other hand, really enjoyed it).

Watch this interview and pay close attention to the details like content and body language, as well as the questions asked by the committee. But please note, everyone's interview is different :) This is just an example of what to expect.
how to prepare for your interview
1
Do not reiterate the information that can be found in your CV, transcript or other materials
The interviewers have already read it and can access it during the interview. We recommend that you summarize your achievements on a single slide and spend no more than a minute on this part.
2
Your past work is one of the main criteria in the selection process
Briefly describe the projects you worked on and present one of them. That might be your bachelor thesis or a task that was a part of your job. Describe the problem, its importance, methods and outcome. Make your presentation appealing to a broad scientific/engineering audience, since the interviewers are of very diverse research interests (commonly in applied math, physics and computer science), yet detailed enough to evaluate your work. Emphasize your own contribution rather than the project in general. This part may take about 3-5 minutes.
3
Explain why this program is a good educational match for your background and future plans
It is a good idea to list a few courses you would like to take and why. Also, explore the university's recent and ongoing research, student success stories and news; they are usually available on every university's website. For instance, you can find Skoltech's course catalog, True Stories about our students, and recent research and news.
4
Prepare to say what you want to do at Skoltech
Closely examine the opportunities presented to you, including research groups, laboratories and faculty resources, and think about how you can use them in achieving your goals. It will be a good idea to learn about the faculty members in your anticipated program and find someone you will want as a supervisor.
5
Describe your strongest suit
What might distinguish you among other potential applicants? What are your achievements? Describe a challenge you faced and how you overcame it, or a failure you've encountered and what you learned from it.
6
Fit the time limit
Regardless of the plan of your presentation, cover the points listed above inside the time limit of 7-8 minutes.
7
Practice, practice, practice!
Do not go unprepared. Practice your presentation several times in front of other people (collect their feedback, too), time yourself and work on the weak parts, if you feel you have them. If you don't, they will jump right at you and your audience during the real presentation.
5 tips for a good presentation:
Have a simple structure with essential points. Do not add paragraphs of text. This means your presentation should only be about 5-6 slides.
Use a minimalistic and consistent design that won't distract your audience from the actual material you are presenting. You may find some good templates in Powerpoint, Canva, Prezi and similar services.
Engage with your audience: ask them a question, tell a story, use body language where acceptable. No one likes a boring presenter.
Never answer the committee's questions with "I don't know". Instead, speak through your answer out loud to show that you are indeed trying to understand a problem and are motivated to solve it. Spoiler: that's what the committee is looking for:)
Have we mentioned practice already? We'll repeat it again: practice in front of other people. And time yourself to make sure your presentation fits the time limit.
Phew, that's about it. The key takeaway from this is your confidence, motivation and knowledge of the subject is what your audience will remember the most. Use it to your advantage!
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