How to Prepare for a College Interview
Many colleges give you the opportunity to interview, either with an admissions representative (unusual) or an alumnus near you. Sometimes these interviews are virtual, sometimes in person. Whatever the case, if you are given the opportunity to interview, accept it! Any opportunity to distinguish yourself as a distinctive and promising applicant is a chance you should take. If you are polite, prepared, and presentable, the interview won’t hurt you, and it might help!
Every part of the application is vital to telling your narrative, and an interview is particularly opportune for making that important personal connection. An interview is also a great way to get your own questions answered. Below is a list of tips and tricks to best prepare yourself for a college interview.
Understand the interview process at each school
The process of scheduling an interview varies from school to school, so it is important you know exactly what their regulations and expectations are. Some colleges interview all applicants while some only interview a selected number. Some colleges conduct interviews on an invitation-only basis and ask that you wait to be invited while others will want you to sign yourself up for the interview. Visit the school website to fully understand your role in their process.
Know your interviewer
Institutions often utilize current seniors or alumni to conduct the interview. Students and alumni will conduct the interview and report back to the admissions committee with a written review (and sometimes a numerical score) of the conversation, so it is essential that this interview is taken seriously, and you are as prepared as possible. If the school provides you with the name of your interviewer, it is okay to look them up beforehand. This will provide you with information such as their major, when they graduated, and their current career and interests. Take this information into consideration during your interview, and when practicing the interview (see below) to give answers that resonate with your interviewer and help cement a personal bond.
Know your story
Prior to the interview, ensure you have your “elevator pitch” down. Interviews will often start with a prompt along the lines of “So, tell me a little bit about yourself.” This isn’t the time to talk about your GPA, test scores, and courses. It’s time to talk about you - what you are passionate about and driven to achieve, what you do for fun, and how you came to be who you are now. A couple of personal anecdotes about yourself, if they are brief and pointed (practice!), will charm your interviewer. Talk about yourself with confidence. What are the aspects of the story you are telling throughout the application that you want to get across in the interview? Refer back to these overarching themes now and again during the conversation. None of this means that you should not be yourself. You should be yourself, rather than focusing on what you imagine the interview wants to hear, but you want your answers to be purposeful. The interviewer will be impressed if you are confident and poised; if you have prepared and practiced sufficiently, you will be.
Make it a conversation
Studies show one of the most successful interview techniques is to ask interviewers to talk about themselves and share their own opinions. Use your interview responses to spark discussion on topics where you think the interviewer can contribute, creating a bond while shining a light on your ability to hold forth on a topic of mutual interest. When preparing your responses to common interview questions, think of thoughtful follow-up questions you can ask them back. Through conversation, the interviewer will get to know on a deeper level.
Expect to be asked about a weakness
Your interviewer will probably ask you about an academic weakness or perhaps a personal disappointment, or both. Do not give a nonanswer (“My weakness is that I work too hard”). The question is intended to help the interviewer to understand how you cope with adversity, and whether you fold under pressure, so discuss a weakness or disappointment that gives you a chance to paint a portrait of your resilience, your determination, and your passion.
Why this school?
Remember, sell yourself as the perfect student for THIS school, not just as the perfect college student. As with your supplements, if you demonstrate that you have taken the time to do significant research on this institution, as well as others, and are confident that this is the perfect place for you, this will make a very favorable impression on your interviewer. When asked about your career goals, discuss what you want to do as a career and then relate it back to the curriculum, research opportunities, and organizations at this institution that can help you achieve that goal. When asked about your intended major, discuss specific courses and faculty you would have the opportunity to learn from if admitted. When asked about your interests, discuss particular opportunities on campus such as clubs and publications. Convey the impression that if you’re admitted, you’ll attend. That’s a big plus.
Whether your interview is virtual or in-person, you will make your initial impression with your appearance. Wear something that is professional but that will allow you to be comfortable, relaxed, and able to move with ease. When trying on your outfit, make sure it is appropriate in both a sitting and standing position. If you are interviewing virtually, make sure you are in a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted and are properly, but not harshly, illuminated. Keep an uncluttered background and look into the camera, rather than at the screen, whenever possible. This way you will make all important eye contact. Practice a call beforehand to make sure your Wi-Fi, camera, and sound are working. If you are meeting in person, ensure you arrive several minutes early. Keep conscious of your posture and your facial expressions, sitting up straight and nodding while they speak. Remain engaged in the conversation, not being distracted by movements or conversations around you if you are meeting in a public place. This person, if an alumnus, is volunteering time out of their day to speak with you, so be respectful at all times.
Practice makes perfect
While the exact questions they will ask are unpredictable, prepare yourself as best as you possibly can. Do your research in finding common interview questions such as: why this major, why this school, what are your career goals, etc.? Not every interviewer is the same, nor is every interview. Some may be more interested in learning who you are outside of an academic setting than others. Prepare answers to questions such as your favorite book, favorite movie, what you like to do for fun, and what your weekends are like. Don’t memorize, but practice answering. Ask a parent, teacher, or older sibling to interview you, and then ask them how you came across.
If you follow the above tips, you should be well prepared for your college interview. At Bentham Admissions Consulting, we not only help you prepare for your interviews but to construct a robust and coherent application. We'd love to help you get the college placement of your dreams. Contact us.