Mastering the College Admissions Interview
Students are often terrified when faced with the prospect of a college admissions interview. What will they be asked? How will they respond? What do they wear? How do they make themselves stand out from the crowd? Fear not! With the proper guidance and preparation, you can ensure that your college admissions interview will become an asset to your application.
Before the Interview
That’s right – the interview begins before the interview. Your prior preparation will be a key factor in determining your success. First, be sure to do your research on the school. Find out basic things like their mission statement, general curriculum, application process, admission statistics, majors/minors/programs that are of interest to you, testing requirements, etc. The point here is to know the basic, key information about the school so you can speak intelligently about it and have a conversation that goes more in depth.
Next, prepare for questions that you may be asked. It’s impossible to perfectly predict every question you may be asked, as every school and every interviewer is different. That being said, there are general themes you can expect to be brought up simply because of the nature of the interview. These will likely include who you are, why you are interested in the school, and why you are a good fit. It is important that you are very clear on these topics before going into your interview.
Practice a brief version of “telling your story.” Make sure you hit the key points that are relevant to college admissions (like your extracurricular experience, academic interests, etc). Other major life events may be relevant as well. Try to come up with a version of this that can be said in about 3-4 minutes. Do not memorize answers word for word. It will likely be obvious to interviewers that you are not speaking genuinely and this will be devastating to your interview success. Simply remember the key points that you want to cover and give a natural response based on those key points. You should repeat this same preparation process around the question of why you are interested in the school and why you are a good fit.
Prepare questions to ask your interviewer as well. Once they have finished their set of questions for you, they will likely ask if you have any questions for them. It is a sign of a good applicant to have prepared thoughtful questions. This indicates that you have done your research and are seriously interested in the school you are interviewing for. Do not ask about anything that you could find within 5 minutes of conducting an internet search. This will demonstrate to the interviewer that you have not done your research.
Lastly, make sure to get a good night’s sleep! It is critical that you are well-rested and properly energized when you meet with your interviewer. Don’t neglect your self-care in your preparation, it will only hurt you.
During the Interview
Dress semi-formally. You do not need to wear a tuxedo or a gown, but you should be dressed well enough that you could be going to a nice dinner, performance, or celebration. Arrive early – at least 5-10 minutes. Also, be sure to be very courteous throughout the interview. Shake your interviewers hand when you meet them, make eye contact, and thank them for taking the time to speak with you. Do the same when you say goodbye. Be sure to maintain a good amount of eye contact throughout the interview – if you start looking off into the distance you may come off as either uninterested or rude.
If you’d like, you can bring a small notepad and pen/pencil to keep notes of the important parts of the interview, especially when you are asking them questions towards the end.
Show genuine enthusiasm for the school you’re applying to. The interviewer should feel that you are happy to be there discussing and learning more about the school. If it’s your first choice, tell them! If it isn’t and they ask you if it is, you can simply say it is among the top schools you are considering.
One key piece of advice is that it’s okay to take time to think about your responses if necessary. Students often feel they need to respond immediately to a question and show no hesitation. But they also may not know how to best answer immediately, so what comes out is a jumbled stream-of-consciousness response that isn’t very effective. If you are asked something you don’t immediately have an answer to, simply say “that’s an interesting question, do you mind if I take a few moments to think about it?” Then take some time to craft your response in your head, and deliver it. This is a much better strategy than just blurting out whatever first comes to mind.
Be sure to ask questions at the end of the interview, but most importantly, be yourself! This is an opportunity to show an interviewer a part of yourself that cannot be conveyed via an electronic application, so take advantage of it.
After the Interview
Do a bit of journaling to understand how you felt throughout the interview and what your impression was of the school. Make sure you keep notes of the important parts of the interview while they are still fresh in your mind. Be sure to also write a thank you email when you get home. Include specific details about something that you discussed in the interview. It’s a wonderful added touch that shows your appreciation and helps you stand out further to your interviewer.
Lastly, relax and congratulate yourself for a job well done!
Interview Preparation Sessions
At American College Counselors, we work one-on-one with students to help them prepare for college admissions interviews. While it is true that we cannot predict the questions that will be asked in an interview, we have a list of questions that are commonly asked and we use these to conduct mock interviews with our students where we help them practice the art of interviewing and crafting unique and effective responses.
If you need help on your interviews, applications, essays, resumes, or anything else related to the admissions process, please contact us to set up a free initial consultation where we can get to know each other a bit better and explain exactly what we do. Send us an email at [email protected] or call/text us at +1(954)-593-6230.
The American College Counselors Team