How to Prepare For Interviews

Some colleges offer prospective students interviews during application season. Often, these experiences can be invaluable, but not in the way that you might think. Because not all schools offer interviews (and not all applicants are offered one; often it depends on the number of interviewers in your area) they are not hugely important during admissions decisions. By and large, interviewers are alums of the college or university who are interested in ushering a new class or cohort of students in. They themselves do not make admissions decisions. Instead, they send a letter to the admissions committee detailing what the interview experience was like for them and whether or not they think you would make a good addition to the university’s community. Making a good impression matters—and here’s how:

First, look the part. It is important to look professional for your interview. Jeans, generally, are too informal. Something business casual will suffice. Unless your interviewer suggests a location, quiet coffee shops are generally ideal locations for interviews.

Bring a copy of your résumé or CV to give to your interviewer so she or he can look it over. Interviewers will generally not have access to this information first, so bringing a copy of your résumé gives them the opportunity to look it over to get a holistic sense of your high school experience and extracurricular activities.

Have things to talk about. The worst interview is one in which communication is halting or poor. One way to avoid this is to practice mock interviews with guidance counselors, parents, or friends. You can also anticipate some questions that an interviewer might ask: Tell me about yourself. What are your favorite classes? Why are you interested in this college? What do you want to major in? What do you do for fun? What are you passionate about? What books would you recommend? What are your strengths? Weaknesses? What will you contribute to this college campus?

Ask questions. Your questions shouldn’t be soliciting information that you could read on the college’s website or in an admissions handout. Ask questions that your interviewer would know. Particularly by focusing on her or his experiences at the college or university, you will get a new and, hopefully, interesting perspective. Interviewers often interview because they feel a deep connection to their alma mater. The interview is not only a time for the interviewer to find out more about you; it is also an opportunity to learn about the school from someone who attended.

Finally, follow up with a thank you e-mail. Thank your interviewer for their time. This gesture will go a long way!

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