What are some tips for acing the college interview?
Interviews vary from school to school but there are some important things to remember no matter where you are interviewing: 1) The interview should be a conversation. No interviewer wants to just fire questions at you without any kind of dialogue. Make sure you are prepared to back up your responses with more than just “because”; 2) You should be ready to ask some questions, too! By asking questions about the school you are demonstrating your genuine interest in the school and its offerings; 3) Dress appropriately! This doesn’t mean you need to buy a tux or a new evening gown but remember that you only have one chance to make a first impression…you need to decide what you’d like that impression to be; 4) Finally, make sure to thank the person interviewing you both before you leave and then perhaps a quick email or letter when you get home.
For many applicants, the prospect of meeting face-to-face with an admissions officer can be daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. With good preparation and a sound understanding of the process, you can ace your interview and leave a positive, lasting impression with your potential colleges. Here’s what you should know about the college interview:
1. Schedule your interview early. Since appointments tend to fill up quickly, especially during the height of application season, you should schedule an interview with your prospective school’s admissions office at least four weeks prior to your planned date of arrival.
2. Meet with your rep. If offered an admissions interview, request to meet with the representative who is assigned to your high school or region, as he or she will most likely be the one evaluating your application.
3. Know your school. Peruse your prospective school’s website, particularly the pages of the site that focus upon your areas of interest. Learn about the courses, professors, and extracurricular activities from which you would benefit if offered admission. If you can demonstrate knowledge of the college’s offerings, your admissions officer is more likely to regard you as a serious and genuinely interested candidate.
4. Come prepared. Before the interview, make sure to obtain a copy of your transcript, your resume or student activities sheet, and a list of any standardized test scores. This information will allow your admissions representative to realistically assess your chances of admission, as well as offer any advice that he or she may have on how to improve your application.
During the interview, be prepared to discuss your courses, your extracurricular experiences, and your reasons for applying to the college (and be specific!). Here are some questions that you may encounter on interview day:
• Why are you interested in our college?
• What can you contribute to our campus?
• What do you consider your strengths?
• If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
• If you could change one thing about your current school, what would it be?
• Whom do you consider your role model(s)? Why?
• What do you see yourself doing 10 years from now?
• What do you like to do for fun?
• Describe a challenge that you have overcome?
• What is your favorite book? Why?
You should also come with several questions of your own that will help you to learn more about the college and simultaneously demonstrate to your rep that you have done your college research. Here are some questions that you might consider asking:
• What is your average class size? For freshman? For upperclassmen?
• Is there opportunity for independent study and/or research?
• Do you offer academic support services?
• How many students study abroad? Pursue internships?
• Can you speak about the career placement and graduate school placement of your recent graduates?
• What distinguishes your college from other comparable colleges?
5. Practice makes perfect. If possible, attempt to simulate the conditions that you will encounter on interview day. Solicit help from a friend or relative who is willing to play the role of interviewer and who is also comfortable enough to critique your performance. Finding a good practice partner will enable you to discover and subsequently improve upon weaknesses in your interview technique.
As you practice responding to the above questions, avoid the temptation to memorize or script your answers. The best interviews proceed like a good conversation, so be yourself and be sincere.
6. Remember etiquette. When the big day arrives, make sure you’re on time. Dress appropriately (business casual), shake hands, and maintain eye contact throughout the meeting; as presentation is also key to a successful interview.
Finally, it’s important to realize that your admissions rep is just as anxious to impress you as you are to impress her. So, relax and use your college interview as an opportunity to enter into great conversation and to learn a bit more about your prospective school.
Be prepared, learn as much as you can about the college and the program of study that you are applying to in advance. it is perfectly acceptable for you to bring notes with you to jog your memory and prompt your questions.
Be prepared to talk in detail about some of your long term and short term academic and career goals.
Be prepared to ask good questions about the academics, the culture the environment, the student body, employment outlook for graduates in your major. Sometimes your questions are weighed even more heavily in the decision process than your answers .
Take it seriously, make a good impression by arriving on time, looking polished, demonstrating that you are a serious studdent and asking relevant questions.
Try to relax, while you do want to take it seriously, and present yourself in a good light, make sure you take care of yourself. Take three deep breaths before you start and remember to continue to breath as you converse. Try as much as possible to forgive yourself if you make a mistake. Keep your sense of humor!
Most of all, remember, just as you are being interviewed, you are doing some interviewing too. College match is a two way street. Remember, you are screening for a qualified college and program just as they are screening for qualified students.
Best tip: be yourself. Don’t try to impress with big words or philosophical statements. Let the admissions officer know your interest in the school and ask intelligent questions (not ones you can find in the college’s pamphlets or on their website). Do your research before you go. Be polite, dress appropriately, and send a thank you email afterwards.
The most basic tip is Know what you want to say before you enter the interview.
What is important for the interviewer to know about you? What are the three most important things s/he should learn? Odds are that opportunities to talk about these will occur naturally over the course of the conversation but if you hear some variation of “Is there anything else you’d like to add?” and you haven’t had a chance to cover one of your major points, grab that opportunity before it passes!
Another good tip is to practice so your responses are natural but not too polished. You don’t want to sound like you’ve said the same thing 10 times before, but you do want to make sure you get your point across. Find a friend, a relative, or your college counselor and spend a few minutes making sure you are making the impression you want to make.
Here is my video response to the question.
First — relax. Take a deep breath, and try to be the best version of yourself. Don’t try to be someone that you’re not or try to be someone you think will impress your interviewer. Just be yourself.
Second — get to the interview five minutes early and bring a book. If you are on time, you are late.
Third — show respect for the school and interviewer’s time by researching the school and asking thoughtful questions. Be sure to ask the interviewer (especially if he or she is an alum) about his or her experiences at the school!
Do your homework before the interview and be fully ready to answer that key question- WHY you want to attend College ABC. It might be a good idea to take a campus tour, before your interview, so that you can be very enthusiastic about their amazing new-library, science center, student center etc. Go on their website and be sure that they do indeed have the programs that you want. It might be embarrassing to tell an admissions officer that you want to attend their school because of their fine business program, when they do not offer Business! Dress as if you value the interview and your interviewer’s time. No cell phones, baseball caps or gum-chewing. Do shake his/her hand, make eye contact and be sure to pick up their business card so that you can send them a thank-you note!
So you’ve been asked to interview at the college of your dreams? Great. Or is it? A college interview offers applicants an opportunity to personalize the application. Meeting in person and wowing an admissions officer with a compelling personality will prove that the applicant will add a positive dynamic to the campus. Proof of how a student will participate in class, interact with classmates and forge ahead with new ideas for on-campus organizations may qualify a student for admission much more than a test score or GPA. During the college interview the applicant learns more about the school in addition to putting a name to a face. An interview – in most cases – will “seal the deal”. Of course, sometimes this can be for the better and others it is for the worse.
College interviews vary as greatly as colleges do, and the particulars might find you interviewing with an admissions officer, a current student, or an alumnus. Sometimes schools have very informal interviews that resemble group information sessions with a question and answer session afterwards. Even individual interviews can be “informational” or “evaluative”. The latter are the ones that count in the admissions process.
No matter what, during an interview the applicant must serve as their own best advocate. If you do not adequately represent yourself, then who will? Following are a few tips to remember during an interview:
Be yourself. The is the most important advice in the entire admissions process. Do not memorize a speech that you think people might “want to hear” – make yourself appealing and not robot-like. Remember to stay professional, but not stiff.
Know the school. Study the information about the school. Make sure you know that the school has an MBA program before you ask the dean of admissions how about the competitiveness of the MBA program. This benefits you in two ways: you learn about the college and you can ask informed questions during the interview.
Review your application materials. Make sure that if you wrote about learning how to ride a horse in your application essay, that you actually do know how to ride a horse in case the person you are interviewing with happens to be a big equestrian.
Be prepared to answer and ask questions. Be sure to prepare for questions that identify key topics or experiences that are important to you. Consider some of your favorite experiences, activities or plans. If you’ve identified your own “hit list,” you’ll easily recall them when asked. In addition, use your “hit list” to ask the interviewer questions about the campus, classes, and their experiences at the school. This makes the interview a learning experience for you, shows that you are interested in learning more about the school, and sets the tone for a conversation rather than a question and answer session.
Set yourself up for success. Prepare yourself just as you would for a job interview: dress properly, do not use excessive slang or profanity, hold yourself with dignity and never be late!
Follow up. As the interview concludes, firmly shake interviewer’s hand and thank them for their time. Mail a follow up thank you card and include an anecdote that will remind the interviewer about you. This small gesture can set you apart.
Please be prepared for the interview. It isn’t hard to find lists of potential questions. While answers shouldn’t sound memorized, practicing is highly recommended. This includes having a few questions for them, requiring answers not easily found elsewhere. Show up on time, dress in business casual attire, use a firm handshake, make eye contact, and send a thank you note afterward. Try to remember that this is an opportunity to put a face on your application. Use this time to cover points not found on the papers in your file.
I spent several years interviewing prospective students for MIT, and the one problem that consistently came out was the students not being ready to answer questions about themselves and their activities. Be sure you have a copy of your resume, transcript and test scores. Be prepared to address any weaknesses in your transcript, and more importantly, elaborate on your strengths. Activities are important. Not only what you did, but why you did it, and what you gained from it. Interviewers are looking for passion and curiosity.
Know the school. Have a few questions ready for the interviewer. Show them you cared enough to do some basic research about the school, and how you would fit in.
In general, interviewers are looking for reasons to say yes. This is often the only opportunity they have to put a face to the pile of grades, test scores, essays and recommendations that is dyour application file. Show them you are an interesting and engaging person.
Some things to consider in preparing for the college interview:
– Get a good night’s sleep the night before, and have a good breakfast that morning. (You don’t want to be tired and grumpy.)
– Research the relevant college ahead of time, so that you can respond knowledgeably about why the school is of interest to you. Be able to express why you want to go to that particular school. (Have some good reasons.)
– Think about yourself. Consider what you can offer the school, as well as what the school can offer you. (Just as you are looking for a school that is a good fit for you, schools are looking for students who will be successful additions to their college communities.)
– Dress comfortably and neatly – not sloppy, but also not TOO dressed up. (You want to be your usual well-groomed self.)
– Give the interviewer a firm handshake. Make good eye contact. (This will not only give you the appearance of confidence, it will actually make you FEEL more confident.)
– Consider carefully questions that are posed. Think about what you want to say before you start answering. (You don’t want to find yourself going in a direction that doesn’t make sense.)
– Remember to breathe, and try not to babble or ramble. (If you find yourself speaking too fast, repeating yourself, or saying things that are totally irrelevant, stop and take a breath before going ahead in a more controlled way.)
– If you don’t understand a question, ask for further clarification. (Don’t try to answer a question that you don’t yet understand.)
– Be relaxed. Enjoy having the focus of attention on you. (It’s not often that you have a chance to be the whole center of attention. This is one of those times.)
– Try to feel that you are having a discussion with a friend. (How successfully you will be able to do this will, of course, also depend on the skills of the interviewer.)
These tips should take you a long way toward having a successful interview experience.
Probably the best way you can be sure to keep things moving positively at your interview is to have prepared a few questions in advance. Take the time to perform detailed research about the school and its majors, clubs, etc. so that you can ask something based on your interests and accomplishments rather than a question addressed on the college’s home page.
Regardless of the nature of the interview, it always offers an opportunity for an applicant to make a good impression. Regardless of the approach, an applicant should come prepared, ready to talk about themself and the school—and how they might well come together in the future. Be ready to discuss the things that matter to you and about the aspects of the school that have drawn you to it. If you are truly being interviewed then you may have a chance to expand on some of the things you have previously shared in your application. Share your passion. If you are given an opportunity to ask question don’t ask the obvious—things that you could have learned through even a cursory look at the website. Go beyond that, ask about things that reflect your existing depth of understanding as well as your curiosity. Show yourself to be a thoughtful individual who will be a positive addition to the school community.
– Follow my interview preparation tips.
– Be on time. Turn off your cell phone and other electronics.
– Dress appropriately. Boys should wear slacks (not jeans), a button down shirt or polo shirt tucked in with a belt, dress shoes or loafers with socks. Girls should wear a blouse (not low cut and not with spaghetti straps) with a skirt or pants (not jeans) and shoes.
– Don’t chew gum.
– Shake hands firmly with the interviewer.
– Listen carefully to what is being asked.
– Speak clearly.
– Share information that you want the interviewer to know about you.
– Ask questions you have about the college
– Smile and maintain eye contact during the interview.
– Don’t bring your parents to the interview.
– Hand write a personal thank you note to the interviewer when you get home.
Be enthusiastic and informed when you go to your interview. Dress well in comfortable clothes — no distressed slouchy pants with hoodies. Research the college and have a few intelligent questions prepared. Look at the interviewer directly and offer your hand. Take your resume with you and hand it to the interviewer. Send a thank you note afterwards.
do your home work is the key. let the interviewer know exactly why you are there. prepare to ask a few educated questions about the school. keep your answer short and sweet, keep your eye contact with the interviewer. do not wait for questions and time laps in between.
The best tip for acing the college interview, is to be yourself. Admission officers are looking to learn more about you as a person. So don’t put on a front, if you do they will know it. Just be yourself, and this is one of those times when it is ok to brag on yourself. So tell them about those great fundraisers that you organized, that fourth quarter comeback that you led etc. But, try not to be repetitive. Don’t talk about the same things that were on your application or that you highlighted in your essay. They have already read your application and they want to know what else you can bring to their college.
Know as much about yourself and the university as possible.
A college interview is NOT an interrogation. Since most college interviews are non-evaluative, the interviewer will quickly shift gears and ask what questions you have about the school. Take advantage of this opportunity to find out more about the college and its programs. Asking well thought-out questions that exhibit a thorough understanding of the school also demonstrate serious interest. Questions that are too superficial (easily gleaned from the website) might communicate a lack of interest.
There is only one mistake in a college interview: having NO questions.
Some colleges don’t have any, but for those that do they must be arranged in advance. There are: on campus, off campus, interviews w/alums, students, and/or admissions staff.
It is highly advisable to have one so as to present yourself in person, rather than just as a series of numbers and statements. The interview can be a make or break situation, so it is advisable to do interview w/an expert in the field. I could write a book about what follows (actually it’s part of a chapter in my book), but that’s for a consultation – brief (free) or otherwise.
Instead, I thought I’d share the 5 biggest DONT’s for a college interview.
1) Don’t go in unprepared. Know about the school, your major, the student body and why you want to go there.
2) Don’t chew gum. It’s rude, loud and distracting.
3) Don’t look at your phone or hold your phone during the interview. Shut the phone off and put it away. No text, call or email is so important that you would need to take it during this 20/30 min interview. In addition, the interviewer doesn’t want to hear it buzz, chirp or vibrate from your pocket or purse.
4) Don’t dress like you are going to the gym. Leave the sneakers, hats, sweatpants and leggings at home. Dress like you would to go to a nice dinner with your parents or a high school graduation. Dress pants, khakis, or skirt paired with nice blouse or shirt with a collar are a few good options.
5) Don’t say IDK or rather “Hum… I don’t know.” to the interviewer. I understand that this statement is sometimes just a space filler or a nervous response for teens, but train yourself not to say it in the interview. Please!
If a student thinks they “really blew it” during the interview, there are a few things they can actively do to try and redeem themselves.
Hopefully you can correct your mistake in time for the next interview, so it doesn’t happen again. It’s always a good idea to ask the interviewing for their business card at the end of the interview. Send him/her a thank you card immediately for the interview, but you can also say something about a particular response that you were not happy with during the interview. Also, if their school is your first choice, please be sure to tell them in the thank you card, if you didn’t during the interview.
The most important tip for the college interview is- plan 3 things in advance that you want to touch on. What are 3 things you want the interviewer to know about you? These may be accomplishments, activities, unusual facts, etc. Thinking of these in advance will help you steer the interview, and you want to be in the driver’s seat. This also helps if the interviewer asks generic questions like, “Tell me about yourself,” or “What would you like for Yale admissions to know about you?” Select three strong qualities or accomplishments and emphasize them so that after the interview, your interviewer will remember you by them. “That was the girl who spent the summer volunteering at a clinic in the Philippines.” Or, “That was the guy who’s been swimming competitively since he was nine.” Or whatnot. Planning your 3 things in advance will also help you fight off nerves about the interview. You got this.
I think the biggest tip for acing the interview is just being yourself. They wouldn’t be wasting their time if they weren’t interested in you. Don’t be so caught up in the perfect answer, that you stop being yourself. Obviously go in prepared, well-dressed, and a little bit of nervousness is fine. Practice frequently asked interview questions with a teacher, counselor, parent, or friend. But remember a college interview can only help you, it won’t hurt you.
Practice. Have somebody ask you common questions to help you think about how you would answer and get comfortable articulating them.
Focus first on how you look. There’s no need to put on a suit and tie or dress (unless you really want to), but you should look neat and clean. How you look can have an immediate impact on how an admissions officer will perceive you. Answer all questions as honestly and articulately as you can (and keep the language clean!) Also, make sure to bring some questions of your own for your interviewer to show that you have a real interest in the school.
Be friendly, be yourself. Dress appropriately (no halter tops or saggy jeans). Mind your manners, but you don’t have to be overly formal. (Be sure to send a thank you note once you return home!) PREPARE. Learn about the school; about the majors; about special programs. Go into the interview prepared to ask intelligent questions. Doing your homework will be impressive, and will help you get to know the college’s personality.
Examples of appropriate questions:
a. How many students return to the college for their sophomore year?
b. What is your 4 year graduation rate?
c. I am interested in biology. Could you tell me what is interesting about your biology major?
d. Do students hang out on campus on the weekends or do they leave?
e. Why? (Why is always good, it shows curiosity and gets beyond “the usual” or “stock” replies to questions).
Examples of inappropriate questions:
a. What majors do you have? (Duh. You should know this).
b. How many students go here? (An even bigger Duh.)
c. Can you drink in the dorms? (A truly idiotic question!)
I typically lead students through an exercise similar to a job applicants preparation for their interviews. There is a lot of similarity. However, the most important piece of advice I could give a student is to truly understand the college for which you are interviewing. In particular, it will be important for you to understand how that colleges curriculum, faculty and staff are well suited for you to be academically and socially successful as you seek your degree and after college in relation to your career aspirations. Not only must you understand this but you must be able to articulate it to the interviewer in a succinct manner. You only have so much time to convey all the research you have done up to this point so thoughtful preparation for this moment is key to your success.
Prepping: students can get tremendous results in practice or prepping for the SAT/ACT, prepping (or re-writing) the Essay, and yes prepping for the College Interview. Practice makes perfect. Obtain a list of typical interview questions and rehearse. As you practice your answers first in front of the mirror to check posture and body language, then move to rehearsing in front of live bodies (parents, college counselor), finally try a school.
I had my three children “practice” at a school we were NOT going to apply to, in order to get them real life experience. For the same reason, now I offer an interview prep service for my families
Be yourself. Enjoy the conversation. That is basically what the interview is. The college wants to get to know you better. It’s like being on a date or meeting someone for the first time. You want to be able to share your story with them. And you should ask them about their story as well. People love to talk about themselves. Make the interview into a conversation. By the end of the time together, the interviewer and interviewee should seem like old friends. But you have to stay relaxed. I am not talking about kicking your feet up on the desk relaxed. Dress nice, but comfortably. Don’t be something you are not. Come prepared with questions to ask the interviewer. Oh yeah, stay relaxed and you will do just fine.
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