Preparing for the College Interview

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Prepare with practice and research. Relax and reveal yourself.

Remember to express yourself in writing by sharing your resume and writing a thank you note.

The college interview rarely makes or breaks an admission decision, but it can be an important component of your application. Before you even begin to get nervous, however, check to see if the interview is a requirement for your application by determining whether each school on your list recommends or requires an interview. It may be optional or not offered at all, so be sure to consult each school’s website or call each admissions office for details. If you are required to schedule an interview, schedule early because spots fill quickly, and consider scheduling on the date that you registered for the info session and campus tour. In addition, be sure to understand the nature of the interview. Some are informational (intended to help you learn about the school) while others are evaluative (intended to help the school assess you as a candidate). Either way, the interview serves as an opportunity for two people to get to know each other. Yes, the rep can gain a better understanding of who you are, beyond the facts and figures of your transcript and test scores, but you can also gain greater insight about a school through your conversation with an admission representative.

If you plan on interviewing, prepare appropriately. Practice your interview technique before setting off for campus. Conduct a mock interview with a parent, teacher, or PrepMatters specialist and ask for feedback about how you come across. You might want to record your practice session and evaluate your own performance. As you move through your practice interviews, keep in mind the typical questions and prompts that may be put to you:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What can I tell you about X College?
  • Why are you interested in X College?
  • What do you want to study?
  • What can you bring to our campus?
  • What are you reading? What is your favorite book?
  • What do you do for fun?
  • What do you plan to do after graduation?

You will also want to update your résumé with key activities and leadership roles, and bring a copy of the finished product with you to the interview. Sharing your accomplishments with the interviewer will help him or her focus on your interests and endeavors. Express your ideas and remember to talk about what interests you in that specific college. Be sure to research the school before the interview so you can ask thoughtful questions about its academic programs and student life. Ask questions that show that you have thought carefully about your goals and about how the school can help you meet them. You’ll be well prepared if you can answer each of these questions:

  • What does the school do really well?
  • What is student life like? What is important to the student body?
  • What type of student attends and does well at this college/university?
  • How is academic advising set up for freshmen?
  • Are there research/internship opportunities in most majors?

An extroverted personality is not essential for a successful interview. Instead, the key is being well prepared to talk knowledgeably about who you are and about the college or university you are visiting on that day.