On top of finalizing a college list, polishing up admissions essays and settling in to a solid senior year schedule, now is the time to prepare for college admission interviews. Interviews are only offered by a small percentage of colleges out there, those that are highly selective and, generally speaking, smaller. They range from purely informational interviews with enthusiastic local alumni to full-blown evaluative interviews with the admission representative who will be reading a student’s application (and partially deciding his/her fate).
If your student is an outgoing, well-spoken and confident communicator, the interview is an opportunity he should take advantage of, particularly for his top colleges. This is the best time for students to showcase their personalities and the energy they will bring to a college campus. However, if your student struggles with meeting new people, making small small talk, and sustaining eye contact with strangers, the interview might not be the best place for him to shine. Students shouldn’t force themselves into a situation where they will be uncomfortable or awkward, as that certainly will not help their chances of being admitted. Let the essay and the other parts of the application do the work. (I know other college counseling colleagues might disagree with this statement and encourage students to interview anywhere and everywhere, but ultimately it is a matter of figuring out how your student will best be able to present herself).
For students who do decide to move forward and schedule an interview, here are a few tips for success.
1) Write an interview-specific resume and hand it to the interviewer. This is often helpful in guiding the conversation and helps you to remember all of those awesome things you have accomplished.
2) Think of the top 3 stories or situations the interview HAS to know about you by the end of the conversation. Make sure you present these stories as a response to a question or at the end when they ask if there is anything else you’d like to share.
3) Do your research and tell them WHY you want to attend their college. This is the most important part and, sadly, it is often overlooked. One of the biggest reasons colleges offer interviews is to allow the student to highlight why they are interested in the college and why the culture is a good fit for their personality and interests. Go beyond generalities (I just really want a liberal arts college!) and talk about professors, classes or clubs that you have researched. Help the interviewer envision you as a part of that college community.
4) Resist the temptation to overshare. Often, the person interviewing you will only be a few years older than you, whether they are a current senior or a recent graduate. While it is okay to relax and have it be a conversation, it is not okay to talk about how you are excited for the rambunctious social life of their college. Likewise, the interviewer doesn’t need to know that your boyfriend or best friend are going to that college as well, and that’s why you just have to get in.
5) Ask thoughtful questions. As with any interview, you should always prepare a few questions to ask at the end. Questions should be tailored to the college and are another opportunity to show you’ve done your research. You should also think of questions specific to that interviewer’s experience attending the college.
After the interview is done, be sure to follow-up within a few days with a thank you note or email. And of course, be sure to submit all application materials on time to ensure that all of your time and preparation does not go to waste!