It’s unavoidable: the interview is a quintessential step in the admissions process that many applicants dread. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Read on for tips and tricks to ensure that your next college admissions interview is a success.
Why Admissions Interviews are Important
For many colleges which practice holistic admissions, admissions officers only have a student’s scores, written recommendations, and essays to assemble a sense of who an applicant is. The interview is an additional way with which they can interact with applicants and make sure that they are not only interested in their college but also a good fit for their campus.
It’s important to note that college interviews also offer applicants many benefits during the admissions process. Interviews are usually conducted by alumni from the institution you’re interviewing for, which provides an opportunity for you to connect with people who have gone to the college you’re interested in attending. Moreover, it allows you to show more of who you are to colleges and can help leave a favorable impression with them, which may be the difference between acceptance and rejection.
While interviews may not necessarily be required by an institution, they are incredibly important and are strongly recommended if they are offered. You should always choose to interview if possible. The difference between having and not having an interview with an institution that offers them is striking when it comes to one’s chance for admission. In fact, MIT Admissions pointed out that of their eligible applicants from last year, they “admitted 10.8% of those who had an interview… but only 1% of those who chose not to.”
Preparing for the Interview
With such high stakes, preparing for an interview is a must in order to increase your chances for success. Generally, we recommend that applicants begin preparing at least a few days before to guarantee a smooth and pleasant interview. If appropriate, use this time to prepare a portfolio of your achievements, including any artwork you’ve created (if you’re applying with an arts portfolio) and any research you’ve done.
Remember to give yourself time to research the college. Visit the college’s website and read up on information about them through resources such as Naviance and Big Future. Through your research, be prepared to comment on particular programs or characteristics of that college that combine your talents and interests to demonstrate that you are a good fit. And as always, make sure you have a solid answer to the time-old question, “Why this college?”, and have specific examples. The interviewer will want to know if you are truly interested in the school and why.
Usually, after the interviewer is done giving questions, they offer a chance for you to ask questions to them. Don’t let this time go to waste; have in mind a list of three or four questions to ask the interviewer. They shouldn’t be questions you can easily find the answer to via a Google search (such as asking for the student-to-faculty ratio). Instead, ask the interviewer about their own experiences at that college. Not only will it lighten the tone of the conversation, but you’ll also get an “insider’s” glimpse into the daily life and student culture.
If you’re nervous, rehearse with someone a few times beforehand. Practice can definitely help and make you feel more at ease for the real thing. However, don’t sound scripted; interviewers can tell if you’re reciting answers. They want to hear the real you, not a prepared speech you’ve created.
Interviewing Tips and Tricks
On the day of the interview, dress comfortably but professionally. You may not need to dress in a suit and tie, but you’ll make a bad impression if you arrive in your pajamas or athletic clothes. Be prepared to make the time commitment and don’t schedule anything before or after the interview: they typically last 30 minutes to an hour, so keep that in mind.
Arrive on time, making sure to account for traffic and complex directions to reach the destination. Sometimes, it may even be advisable to go to the location the day before and scope out the area to ensure that you’re not late due to being lost. If it’s in a public place (such as a coffee shop), give yourself time to find a comfortable place where you and your interviewer can talk freely. And be sure to turn off your phone and minimize any distractions on your part.
When the interviewer arrives, shake hands firmly and look the interviewer in the eye. Initiate the conversation with some small-talk about any topic; this is not a time to be shy. Be engaged in the conversation and be yourself. Mention goals you would like to achieve during your time at college.
Above all, relax. This is just as much of an opportunity for you to learn more about the school as it is for the school to learn about you. They are not trying to trip you up and in many cases are trying to find reasons to recommend you.
And finally, smile! You’ve spent four or more years getting to this point; it’s time to show them your achievements.
After your very own college admissions interview ends, be sure to send an email to the interviewer thanking them for their time. Additionally, thank them for the opportunity to meet. If you connected with the interviewer over a shared interest, mention that too!
In the end, the college admissions interview may seem daunting at first, but with preparation and practice, you can leave a good impression on both the interviewer and admissions officers. If you’d like more guidance on the admissions process, contact us today! Let’s see how we can help you.