Tackling the College Interview
If you want to show a college that you’re more than your SAT score and your cumulative GPA, the college interview is the perfect place to do it. While interviews aren’t mandatory, the 30 to 60 minutes you’ll spend with an admissions officer can affect the outcome of your college application.
The great thing about interviews is that they can help you show your warm and shining personality and allow you to learn more about study abroad opportunities or other programs that interest you. Interviews can also help you explain a negative, such as why your grades went south.
Did you know? Students attending music, drama or dance school programs should plan on performing an audition or showing a portfolio.
- Dress business casual. Do not over do it, however do not wear jeans and a sweatshirt. A nice pair of slacks and a jacket for young men will work and a knee length skirt and casual blouse for ladies will suffice.
- Come prepared. Bring your high school transcript and if you have any college credit, bring that transcript as well. Be prepared to explain any discrepancies in your records such as less than stellar grades, or numerous absences.
- Bring a list of questions. You probably have a few questions about your prospective school, so write them down and bring the list with you to the interview.
- Be on time. Make sure that you are early or on time to your interview. Tardiness is frowned upon and any reason you have for being late will just make it sound like you are making unnecessary excuses.
The Art of Interviewing
From people who talk too little to candidates who come with prepared speeches, there are many ways you can look foolish in front of an admissions officer. Your job is to demonstrate you can make an intellectual contribution to the campus, so giving thoughtful answers that sound genuine as opposed to a prepared speech is the best way to go.
You should also avoid chewing gum, letting your parents ask more questions than you do, show disinterest, lie or be rude. Simple things like shaking hands and addressing your interviewer by name can go a long way, not to mention a mailed “thank you” note as opposed to an impersonal e-mail.
It is also imperative to research the college before the interview. Not only will your knowledge of the college impress your admissions officer, it will also help you figure out if this is the right place for you.
College Interview Questions
From “tell me about yourself” to “what did you do this summer,” colleges seem to want to know everything to ensure that you’re a good match for them. Here’s how to approach some of the tough questions:
1. Tell me about yourself.
This question seems easier than it is. How do you reduce your whole life to a few sentences? And it’s hard to avoid commonplace answers like “I’m friendly” or “I’m a good student.” Of course you want to demonstrate that you’re friendly and studious, but try also to say something memorable here that really makes you different from other college applicants. Can you hold your breath longer than anyone in your school? Do you have a huge collection of Pez dispensers? Do you have unusual cravings for sushi?
2. Who in your life has most influenced you?
There are other variations of this question: Who’s your hero? What historical or fictional character would you most like to be like? This can be an awkward question if you haven’t thought about it, so spend a few minutes considering how you would answer. Identify a few real, historical, and fictional characters you admire, and be prepared to articulate WHY you admire them.
3. Why do you want to major in ______________ ?
Realize that you don’t need to have decided upon a major when you apply to college, and your interviewer will not be disappointed if you say you have many interests and you need to take more classes before choosing a major. However, if you have identified a potential major, be prepared to explain why. Avoid saying that you want to major in something because you’ll make a lot of money — your passion for a subject will make you a good college student, not your greed.
4. Tell me about a challenge that you overcame.
This question is designed to see what kind of problem solver you are. When confronted with a challenge, how do you handle the situation? College will be full of challenges, so the college wants to make sure they enroll students who can handle them.
5. What do you do for fun in your free time?
“Hangin’ out and chillin'” is a weak answer for this question. College life obviously isn’t all work, so the admissions folks want students who will do interesting and productive things even when they aren’t studying. Do you write? hike? play tennis? Use a question such as this one to show that you are well-rounded with a variety of interests.
6. What do you see yourself doing 10 years from now?
You don’t need to pretend that you have your life figured out if you get a question like this. Very few students entering college could accurately predict their future professions. However, your interviewer does want to see that you think ahead. If you can see yourself doing three different things, say so — honesty and open-mindedness will play in your favor.
7. Does your high school record accurately reflect your effort and ability?
In the interview or on your application, you often have an opportunity to explain a bad grade or a bad semester. Be careful with this issue — you don’t want to come across as as a whiner or as someone who blames others for a low grade. However, if you really did have extenuating circumstances, let the college know.
8. Recommend a good book to me.
The interviewer is trying to accomplish a few things with this question. First, the question asks whether or not you’ve actually read much. Second, it asks you to apply some critical skills as you articulate why a book is worth reading. And finally, your interviewer might get a good book recommendation!
9. If you could do one thing in high school differently, what would it be?
A question like this can turn sour if you make the mistake of dwelling on things you regret. Try to put a positive spin on it. Perhaps you’ve always wondered if you would have enjoyed acting or music. Maybe you would have liked to give the student newspaper a try. Maybe, in retrospect, studying Chinese might have been more in line with your career goals than Spanish. A good answer shows that you didn’t have the time in high school to explore everything that is of interest to you.
For more college questions, visit: http://collegeapps.about.com/od/theartofgettingaccepted/tp/interview-for-college.htm
Remember always – be true to yourself! College admissions is all about getting accepted to colleges where you will succeed as a student. Don’t get too wound-up in the “game” and create a new persona just to earn a spot in a coveted institution. Let everyone know what makes you unique, and you will succeed not only in gaining admissions offers but also, and more importantly, in finding the place where you will spend four of the greatest years of your life!