Making the College Interview Work for You
You are a unique human being with a story to tell. You are more than just the application forms you have sent out to college admissions offices. You are you and there is only one real way to separate yourself from the thousands of other college applicants – attend an interview. Not all colleges offer interviews, but if you have been asked to attend one, be sure to accept the invitation graciously. If your preferred college does not offer formal interviews, try to arrange an informal chat session with either someone in admissions or in the department where you hope to study, and then start preparing to stand out in the crowd.
Every year, college admissions offices receive thousands upon thousands of applications. Most of these are comprised of impressive transcripts, high test scores, and cleverly composed essays. But there is so much more to a student than what appears on the standard application. The college interview allows you to show your true personality, and it helps both you and the admissions officer decide if you and the school are well matched. When you attend an interview, not only are they learning about you, but this is your chance to learn more about the school.
The key to a successful interview is to prepare then practice, practice, practice. The Internet has a plethora of websites listing the questions you are most likely to be asked. Bear in mind that you have not been invited to the interview to be tested, proven wrong or embarrassed. You shouldn’t feel nervous (easier said than done!), but you also don’t want to be so relaxed you neglect to take it seriously. As soon as you have been invited to attend an interview, make a list of possible questions, write out the answers and practice with anyone who is willing to help. Ask whoever is “interviewing” you to provide constructive feedback. Are you making eye contact? Do you say “Um” at the start of every sentence? Have you answered a question clearly? Are you too stiff? The more you practice, the less nervous you feel and the more impressive you will appear during the interview.
The first thing you will probably be asked is, “Walk me through your résumé.” Your answer should take no more than 3 to 5 minutes. They will expect you to describe your achievements in reverse chronological order, starting from your most recent accomplishment and working back in time. Before attending the interview, be sure to review your application essay as you may be asked to talk about the content. There is also a good chance you will be asked a “situational” question (“Tell me about a time when…”) and this should be answered using the STAR methodology. First describe the Situation you found yourself in, then talk about the Task or plan you conceived to deal with the situation. Next describe the Action you took and then finish with the Result.
The interview will last 30 to 60 minutes (try to avoid watching the clock!) and then it will be your turn to ask some questions. Do your research, learn everything you can about the school, then prepare three questions that show that you have put some thought into the matter. This is your chance to prove that you know enough about the school to know it is a good fit for you and you are interested in learning more. Make your questions thoughtful and specific. Take this opportunity to learn new information that is not provided in the catalogue or on the website. You will not only discover more about the school, but you will definitely impress your interviewer.
A college interview, though it may seem a bit daunting, is actually a wonderful opportunity to shine. Unless you are a painfully shy person and you know that you will crumble in this situation, make the most of your interview to show the school that you are a perfect fit. This is the time to tell your story, show that you are serious about attending the school and convey your best qualities. Be sure to dress well, arrive on time, be confident but not boastful, and always be polite. After the interview, you may even want to send a thank you note. Though it does not always guarantee you a letter of acceptance, the college interview can be the deciding factor for the powers that be. This could be the most important 30-60 minutes of your life. Go in prepared and well-practiced and take this opportunity to stand out in the crowd and talk your way into the college of your choice.