The Naropa TCP Interview Scoop – Part 2

The last few days have been quite the array of frenzied activity, involving a costume wedding, an important phone call, and a birthday, among other things. Nevertheless, I am back! I’ll be explaining the second part of the Naropa interview process today, and also telling you the results of my own interview process.

Oddly enough, I think that today’s post must start with lunch. Naropa’s cafe provided lunch for all of the applicants, and I felt like the food they served really summed up the Naropa atmosphere. Lunch was veggie wraps, salad, two kinds of cookies, and a sort of hibiscus fruit drink. The food was vegan friendly, and there were gluten-free options. There was a large amount of fresh produce included, and everything was neatly laid out on trays, waiting for us when we arrived at the cafe. The thoughtfulness that went into this meal is a great illustration of the school.  Naropa attracts many kinds of people, and the school tries its best to accommodate them all.  At many schools, a catered lunch wouldn’t have been given this much thought. Naropa is so small, and so focused on the wellbeing of its students, that lunch became a small statement about these qualities, while also giving a glimpse about the types of people it attracts.

During our lunch, we were given the opportunity to discuss life in the graduate programs with some of its current students. One of the students happened to be a friend of mine, whom I’d met during my handful of years in Boulder, and he was very personable in answering my questions. I found it very thoughtful of the school to provide current students with whom we could discuss the program, especially since we hadn’t had our interviews yet.

Perhaps one of the best parts of the day, however, was getting to talk to one of the school’s financial aid counselors. Naropa is an expensive school, as it is a private school, and it doesn’t have many majors that produce incredibly lucrative jobs. We had the opportunity to hear an honest, straightforward explanation of graduate tuition rates, financial aid options, and post-graduate loan repayment options. It was very clear that this school is more concerned with serving its students than with making money.

After lunch and the financial aid discussion, it was finally time for my interview. I was one of the last people interviewed, and therefore had some time to relax and go over the things I wanted to remember during the interview process. I had spent time reading the descriptions of each program on the website, and I’d met with my admissions counselor in order to ask for further clarification. From what I’d gathered, there were a handful of things that Naropa was most interested in. Naropa wants students who:

  • Have some kind of daily contemplative practice, which could include meditation, or some other mindfulness building activity such as Tai Chi.
  •  Have a good academic background. Naropa wants students who will be able to handle its coursework, especially when coupled with the unique stresses of a mindfulness-based program.
  • Have some kind of real-world experience in the mental health field. This doesn’t mean you have to be working in a psychology-related field, it means you need to show that you have worked with people in a way that has caused you to grow–for example, volunteering with a homeless shelter, or working in a school.
  • Have the ability to overcome difficulties on an emotional and interpersonal level.

When I went into my interview, this seemed to be pretty spot on. I was asked a handful of questions, and given the opportunity to answer them to whatever degree I needed. My interviewer took notes, and prompted me if she needed further elaboration on any of my answers.

Basically, I was asked to:

  • Demonstrate that I understood contemplative practice, and that I was involved in some sort of contemplative practice regularly in my personal life.
  • Show that I had faced situations that were personally difficult, and explain how I had handled those situations.
  • Explain how I tended to interact in a group setting, and what difficulties I had in a group setting.
  • Display my strengths and weaknesses, academically and in my own life.
  • Illustrate how my experience outside of an academic setting had contributed to my foundation for graduate school.

I found that the best way to answer these questions was with honesty. While many graduate programs seem to encourage you to sell yourself to your interviewers as much as possible, Naropa really is looking for that genuineness that it professes to teach its students. Naropa wants to know that you understand what it’s like to suffer, and to be with others who are suffering. It also wants to know that you are able to function academically and emotionally during difficult times, and to grow from these situations. Finally, Naropa wants to know that you are dedicated to a mindfulness-based lifestyle, because without an appreciation of mindfulness, the degree program will not satisfy you, and you will likely do poorly.

There has been a lot of jargon in this post, which can make understanding exactly what Naropa is looking for a bit confusing. Much of this is explained during the actual program, so it’s not expected that you will understand it all. However, familiarizing yourself with the concepts of mindfulness and genuineness can make a world of difference.

For a better understanding of mindfulness, check out this link:

For a better understanding of genuineness, especially as it relates to empathy:

And finally, that important phone call I mentioned at the beginning of this? That was Naropa, calling me to let me know that I’d been accepted into the Transpersonal Counseling Psychology MA program. So it looks like this blogging endeavor will be able to continue.

What do you think? Are you applying to Naropa, or have you applied? And if you have, was your interview experience similar or different? Feel free to comment!


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