Does the college interview really count?

Application Process

Our counselors answered:

Does the college interview really count?

Peggy Wallace
Founder Making Conversation, LLC

Does the college interview really count?

For some schools, the college interviews have been renamed as “informational meetings.” Those schools are recognizing the reality that in any interview, especially the college one, is a compatibility session. Do each of you have all the information necessary to make sure it’s a good fit? Most selective schools are assembling classes, not just those who scored 2400 on the SAT. Even if the interview is optional, taking the effort to pursue it provides the school with demonstrated interest, a factor that can work in your favor during the selection process. By doing the interview, at a minimum, you show the school just how enthusiastic you are. In the best case, you make a fantastic impression on someone at the school. A study of 1540 colleges and universities showed the weight given to an interview is only somewhat less than the weight given to work/extracurricular activities. Over 37% indicated that it was of considerable to moderate importance, while 33% said it was of limited importance.

Peggy Wallace
Founder Making Conversation, LLC

Does the college interview really count?

Yes, as you need the occasion to “toot” your own horn, in a nice way. At some point in your life you will have to reconcile yourself to the fact that with new people, in new experiences, at new jobs, people may not know all that much about you ahead of time. It is a good idea to practice this life skill in a positive environment - the college interview. You just won’t be able to convey the same information using just the application.

Peggy Wallace
Founder Making Conversation, LLC

Does the college interview really count?

Yes, if you are properly prepared and know yourself well enough to know what information you wish to convey and how to express it. Using a brief story about a personal experience, you can successfully convey a problem or situation you faced, the obstacles and challenges in your way, what actions you took, how the results panned out, and, of course, what you learned from the experience. Plus, a third-party saying something about how wonderful you are lends credibility to your message. If you had the choice to get another recommendation viewed by the college, why would you avoid it?

Peggy Wallace
Founder Making Conversation, LLC

Does the college interview really count?

They’re definitely important, even if you’re shy. It’s actually fairly common. People who conduct interviews for schools are used to the fact that some kids are shy. About 40% of the US population declare themselves to be shy. But remember that schools want a variety of students with a variety of personalities. If you are shy, interviewers will likely be quite patient with you and give you time to get comfortable. Remember, they want to meet you and find reasons why you might be a good candidate. They want people they interview to get in! It becomes a source of pride.

Peggy Wallace
Founder Making Conversation, LLC

Does the college interview really count?

They do, if you are ready to give your best impression. It starts by understanding your communication style. Then, identify their communication style so you can be “in sync” with the interviewer. Avoid appearing distant or unprepared or providing memorized responses. Just be your genuine self. Establish rapport. Open doors by winning with words. Develop responses which are thought out ahead of time, not the "automatic” or “right" response, but your personal best answer. If you communicate effectively with confidence and ease, your answers will persuade the interviewer to become your advocate with the school.

Nina Berler
Founder unCommon Apps

Does the college interview really count?

I have conducted college interviews for my alma mater, Brown University, for over 20 years, I can say with conviction that the interview is not the main criterion used by colleges to assess candidates. However, every student should come to his or her interview armed with questions for the interviewer and give every indication during the interview that he or she knows a bundle of information about that target school. Interviewers can tell right away whether the student knows about the school and has genuine interest. If I interview for Brown and the student brings up other colleges and does not know about Brown's unique curriculum, I am sometimes doubtful of his or her interest. I have all my students answer a number of questions before they go on interviews an always carry a short list of questions for the interviewer. Fewer and fewer admissions officers give interviews on site now, but that does not mean a student should not put his or her best foot forward with alums.

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

It Counts (but not that much)

A college interview doesn't have as much weight as your grades, test scores, extracurriculars, and essays, but a good interview can help your application stand out. On the other hand, if you have a really terrible interview, will that negate your grades, test scores, extracurriculars, and essays? Probably not. An interview is a great setting for you to get to know the school and for the school to get to know you! The school wants to know if you would be a good roommate, classroom participator, community leader, etc. They know all about your academics and activities already -- now they want to know about the person behind the numbers. So -- if you're nervous about an upcoming interview, relax. It won't make or break your chances, but it can certainly provide a great venue to show the school what a great person you are and that you are genuinely interested in attending that school. Why else would you be putting yourself through this? Right? Right.

王文君 June Scortino
President IVY Counselors Network

It is on the menu

it is commonly used as tool and access to admissions. Yes, it counts especially in a close competition such as limited seats for the same high school with many applicants.

Brian D. Crisp
Founder and President Crisp Consulting + Coaching; Burton College Tours

Count On It!

Interviews are becoming common in the landscape of college admissions. The question Crisp Consulting + Coaching often hears is “Do these interviews really matter?” The answer is yes but the weight of the interview varies with each school. The Ivy League and other highly-selective schools will offer interviews and consider these interviews to some extent in their admission decisions. Many schools are relying on interviews to better understand an applicant and to convey the positive aspects of their institution. As applicant pools are continually growing, smaller schools such as Carleton College, Haverford College and Wake Forest University strongly encourage the admission interview. These schools utilize the interview to determine the candidates strengths and interests in attending. Forgoing an interview could cost you the price of admission.

Marjorie Shaevitz
Admissions expert, author, speaker www.adMISSION POSSIBLE.com

Interviews Can Make a Difference

Usually lasting between 15 minutes to an hour, a college admissions interview is a meeting between an admissions person and a prospective student. Usually there are three kinds of interviews: 1) the on-campus interview with an admissions representative, 2) an off-campus interview with a local alumnus or alumna, or 3) an online Skype interview with an admissions rep or alum. Very few colleges require interviews; some colleges recommend them. Still others offer them only to legacies (a son or daughter of a graduate of a college). Many colleges, in particular, large public universities and some private ones, don’t offer interviews at all. The truth is that it is very difficult to “blow” an interview. Unless you’re extremely shy and/or are completely unprepared, you only gain from having an admissions interview. Admissions interviews are not a “make or break” aspect of admissions. However, interviews with admissions people are potentially “worth more” than alumni interviews. If nothing else, you can learn about a college AND you might “click” with an interviewer, who then becomes your advocate during the final selection process.