Does the College Interview Really Count?


Question: Does an interview really count?

Answer: For some schools, the college interviews have been renamed, “informational meetings”. Those schools are recognizing the reality that in any interview, especially the college one, is a compatibility session. Does each of you have all the information necessary for both of you to make sure it is a good fit? Most selective schools are assembling classes, not just those who score 2400 on the SAT. Taking the effort to pursue an optional interview provides the school with demonstrated interest, a factor it its selection process in this highly competitive environment. By doing the interview, at a minimum you show just how enthusiastic you are and in the best case, you make a fantastic impression on someone at the school. A recent 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.

Question: I don’t want to boast about myself. Why can’t they just read the application?

Answer: Occasionally you do have 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.

If you are properly prepared you will know yourself well enough to know what information you wish to convey and how to express it, often in a brief, “personal experience” story explaining (a) Problem/ Situation (b) Challenges/Obstacles (c)Action and (d) Results, favorable, or, if unfavorable, what you learned from the experience. A third-party saying something about how wonderful you are lends credibility to the message. If you had the choice to get another recommendation viewed by the college, why would you avoid it?

Ah yes, you’re shy. No problem. People who interview for schools are used to the fact that some kids are shy. About 40% of the population in the U.S. declares itself to be shy. Schools want a variety of students with different personalities. Admissions 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. This past year one of the two teens I interviewed for early admission got in. I am so thrilled for him and it makes me feel that I spent my volunteered time well! The people who work at schools are even nicer and they have a remarkable memory for the applicants they met!

Give your best impression. Understand your communication style. Identify their communication style, so you can be “in sync” with the interviewer. Avoid appearing distant or unprepared or providing memorized responses. Be authentically yourself. Establish rapport. Open doors by winning with words. Making Conversation can assist you to 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.

Article by Peggy Wallace, founder, Making Conversation

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