The College Interview

The purpose of an admissions interview is for the university to learn more about the prospective student.  A typical interview involves meeting with an alumnus of the university to gain an understanding of you to communicate to the admissions committee.  While college interviews may seem intimidating, the interview is actually just a way for the admissions committees to supplement their knowledge of your credentials (your resume, personal statement, and test scores) with some additional insight about your personality and your interests.  Typically, a good interview can often help mitigate the effects of not having a “perfect” resume, but a bad interview will not help your admissions chances.  So here are five tips to take to heart to ace your college admissions interviews.

First impressions matter — so make them good.  You can’t change someone’s first impression of you so you may have to invest some extra time and energy on this part to get it right.  Be professional and courteous in all communications with the interviewer.  Keep e-mail and telephone messages short and to the point.  Remember that this person is taking time out of their busy life to talk to you (and, in many cases, is not getting paid to do so).  You do not want a faux pas to detract from your interviewer’s overall impression of you and your many, amazing characteristics.

Dress the part.  Typically, regardless of gender, a nice collared shirt and slacks and dress shoes will suffice.  Make sure your outfit is unwrinkled and is free of stains, crumbs, or lint.  It is best to err on the conservative side in this case.  Definitely avoid tee-shirts, flip-flops, or overly showy ties (if you are male) or flashy jewelry (if you are female).  In planning your outfit, think of it as something you would wear to school to make an important presentation.

Show up on time!  Actions speak louder than words.  Your interactions with the interviewer reflect you as a person and how you will be seen not only by your interviewer, but by the school.  If you show up late to a college interview, you are communicating to the interviewer that you do not think they, or the college they represent, are worth your time.  Preparation is your friend here.  Set out outfits beforehand.  Look up the route you need to take to get to your interview on Google maps.  Don’t prepare for your interview the hour before (sure, that’s better than not being prepared at all, but at least don’t get so panicked that you arrive to the interview late).

Do your research.  Research the school before showing up at the interview.  Research the department where you want to study and even your future dormitory (if applicable).  Come up with a list of questions to ask the interviewer to ensure that there are no awkward silences.

Talk about your passions.  College interviews are meant to focus on aspects of the student that cannot be captured on paper, such as drive and initiative. So be yourself and talk about ideas and concepts that excite you.  Here is an example to illustrate my point.  Two students apply for the same college.  Both students have flawless resumes and GPAs and were president of the Robotics Club at their high schools; however, in the interviews, Student A discloses that (s)he was president of the Robotics Club because of parental influence; Student B, on the other hand, admits that (s)he loves robotics so much that (s)he spends weekends tinkering in the basement.  Which of these students would you admit?

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