Fall is the time of year when many high school seniors are hitting the “submit” button on their college applications. Next, it’s time for college interviews. There’s a lot at stake, but don’t be nervous! Here are seven tips to help you ace your interview.
There are a few different ways to schedule an interview. At some colleges, applicants request an interview through the admissions office, or by completing a form online.
Most colleges enlist alumni to conduct interviews, in which case, students are contacted by email. It’s important to reply promptly to those emails — and be polite.
2. Set the scene
While a few interviews may be conducted in admissions offices, and while some alumni interviews may take place in local coffee shops, most interviews will be conducted by video, so consider the background your interviewer will see. Arrange good lighting and tilt the camera to eye level. Plan to be someplace where you will not be interrupted.
Dress comfortably, but avoid gym clothes or loungewear. A collared shirt or blouse is not necessary, but it won’t hurt to make a little effort to “dress up.”
Finally, even if you often take video calls while sitting on your bed, sit in a chair for your interview. It shows that you understand that this interview is important and different than a casual conversation.
3. Send a profile
Once you have scheduled the interview and planned how you will present yourself, it’s a good idea to send your interviewer a personal profile by email attachment.
A personal profile is a single page that contains your name, the name of your school, and a few details about yourself. It’s a good idea to include a list of your activities, your grade point average, and if possible, AP, SAT and ACT scores. The profile will help the interviewer when they report to the college about you.
4. Have an agenda
Your interviewer may have a specific plan for the interview, but you should also have an agenda to show off your best self. Here are some points you should hope to make during the interview.
Plan to keep chitchat brief. You do not want to talk too long about the weather.
Plan to tell the interviewer about your academic interests—your favorite subjects in school and what you hope to study in college.
Plan to talk about your extracurricular interests.
Plan to explain why you would like to attend the particular college that your interviewer represents.
If you have these points in mind, no matter what questions you are asked, you will have something interesting to say. For example, if you are asked to talk about yourself, you can think about your agenda and talk about your academic or extracurricular interests. If, on the other hand, you are asked about your school, you can talk about how your school helps you pursue your academic and extracurricular interests. You might answer, “My school has an excellent science department, which is one of my favorite subjects.”
Also, before the interview, reflect on why you are seeking admission to the college so that you can answer the inevitable “why” question. If you cover some of the points you hope to make during the interview, you will feel good afterwards.
5. It’s a conversation
While you will want to share impressive information about yourself, remember that there should be some back and forth with your interviewer. Don’t just rattle off a list of your achievements and interests; pay attention to your interviewer! Listen and watch for verbal and non-verbal reactions and respond appropriately. For example, you may say that you love tennis and your interviewer may comment that it’s a great sport. That’s a good time to ask the interviewer if they play. You will probably receive a brief answer, but it creates a normal pause in the conversation. By asking the question, you have shown the interviewer that you are engaged, not just focused on yourself.
6. Ask Questions
Interviewers often say that they learn more from the questions you ask than the answers you give. If you ask about the availability of vegetarian food on campus or inquire about club sports, it reveals those things are important to you. On the other hand, if you don’t ask any questions, it could seem as though you lack real interest in the college.
Prepare some questions that show you are interested in making a match with the college. Depending upon your interests, ask about the possibility of part-time work, or about the music scene on campus. It also never hurts to ask your interviewer about their experience when they were in college. Don’t underestimate the interviewer’s interest in reminiscing!
7. Say “thank you”
As you leave the interview, thank the interviewer for their time. It shows maturity. After the interview, send a brief thank you note by email. It’s always good if the email mentions some part of the conversation you had. If your interviewer told you about the best hamburgers on campus you could mention something about it in you note. It shows you were engaged.
You never know what will happen during a college interview, but by following these basic tips, you stand a good chance of doing your best—you might even ace it!