College tours and interviews typically begin over the summer months and into the fall of your senior year. Many colleges require the interview as part of the application and admission process, particularly at liberal arts colleges or Ivy League schools. For many students, the college interview is the most intimidating part of the process. But should it be?
No, not really. Not if you take a deep breath and realize that the word “interview” just means “conversation” when it comes to college admissions. College interviews are meant to read between the lines of your application – to suss out whether you are interesting (and interested), committed, mature, and importantly – whether you are the right fit for the campus dynamic. As the saying goes, “College is a match to be made, not a prize to be won.”
Think of the interview almost as a casting call for a reality tv show: you shouldn’t try to be someone you are not, because you don’t know exactly what the producers are looking for. Within reason, they want a little bit of everyone; creating a meaningful place to learn requires diversity; college, at it’s best, should be a microcosm of the world and teach you how to interact with people from all different perspectives and attitudes.
So what’s next? What’s the secret to acing your college interview? First, dress comfortably yet smartly. And then follow these 4 steps:
1. Be You on Your Best Day. It sounds cliché, but that’s because it’s true and true statements get old. Be yourself, just maybe a little less slouchy and willing to smile more. It’s just a conversation — which means it’s a two way exchange (don’t forget the two-way part) where the admission officer learns more about who you are as a person, and you find out about the school as an academic institution and a community. It’s like Tinder, we’re all just looking for a connection here. Will you enhance the community? Will the community enhance you? Swipe left or right.
2. Keep your body in check. Your body and expressions are the key to your soul. Your attitude and posture can truly set the tone for the entire interview. A look of absolute boredom and slouched shoulders can set a negative tone. Your body constantly gives off signals, so be sure to demonstrate your interest and professionalism by sitting up straight, making eye contact, and smiling. Shake hands when you meet, and always answer a question with more than just a yes or no.
3. Do your research! Your list may be long, but put in the prep work even if it’s the night before. Learn about what the school has to offer. Not just in general, but what it specifically has to offer you. Admission officers notice this. A small amount of prep work ahead of time will demonstrate that you are very interested and know what you are looking for—a huge bonus point to your application. Ask your own questions, noting the signature programs that the school offers or bringing up a particular class or teacher that stands out to you can open a lot of doors in the conversation. Browse the school website prior to interviewing, follow the school on social media, and look for news stories or blogs written by the school community.
4. Follow up. An e-mail just to follow up after an interview can go a long way. Most every piece of correspondence between you and the college ends up in your admission file, so even a handwritten thank you card is nice (don’t bother sending cupcakes! It won’t make a difference, and they’ll just end up in the admissions reception office for other applicants to eat). Remember that admission officers may meet hundreds of students in a given semester, and a personal note thanking them for their time will demonstrate interest and enthusiasm (and just good manners). No college wants to offer admission to someone who will reject them- it looks bad for their ranking. Bottom line: All schools want to admit students who really want to be there, so anything you can do to convey this is a gold star in your file.
You got this! Now, what to wear…