Preparing for Remote College Interviews

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Prepare with practice and research.

Relax and reveal yourself.

Remember to express yourself in writing: write 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.

College and universities have been busy updating their virtual experiences and are now offering virtual chats and interviews. Go to their admissions pages and, if there are opportunities to register for interviews, choose your dates and times. If you are required to schedule an interview, schedule early, as spots fill quickly. Preparation is important, and you will want to practice your responses to typical interview questions on a virtual platform such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet.

In addition to knowing if a college conducts interviews, 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). In both situations, the interview serves as an opportunity for two people to get to know each other. Yes, not only can 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 logging on (or when conditions allow, setting off for campus or meeting the college rep locally). Conduct a mock interview with a parent, teacher, or PrepMatters specialist and ask for feedback about how you’ve presented yourself. You might even want to record your practice session so that you’re able to 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 think carefully about the messages your home environment is sending your interviewer and take care to build your Zoom world from the inside out. Here are seven prep tips for a creating an effective virtual interview environment:

1. Clear all relatives and pets from the scene, and put your phone in the other room before your meeting. Eliminate predictable distractions so that you can be captivating on your own.

2. Confirm that your camera and microphone are working. Do this before your meeting or interview, maybe even a week or so beforehand. If there’s a hardware problem, you may need close to a week to order, receive, and install a new webcam. Also, test your Internet connection.

3. Tidy up. Look behind you. Close your closet door. Log on by yourself and have a look over your shoulder. Seem fine? Ask a friend or relative for their opinion. You don’t need to get fancy, but you should make sure that your physical surroundings are guest ready. You want your host to pay attention to you and what you have to say, not to a distracting background.

4. You can communicate your thoughts with strength and authenticity. Make sure you are positioned in a chair and space that allow you to be grounded and comfortable. Angle your camera so that you are looking straight at your interviewer and monitor your voice for appropriate sound.

5. Sit up straight. Check your lighting. Maintain eye contact and engage in the conversation. Let your expression and enthusiasm come through and listen at the same time. Listening and looking are an important part of the Zoom experience. It is important to know when to jump in and answer a question and when to let the interviewer continue to speak.

6. Sign in on time! Have the access codes ready to go. Read the instructions outlined in the email that invited you to this meeting. If you need to have your notes nearby, write them out on Post-it notes and stick them to your computer. Print your resume for easy access to dates and details, and have any needed documents ready for Share Screen mode.

7. Wear professional clothing. Be sure to know what is appropriate for the situation and dress accordingly.

You will also want to update your résumé with key activities and leadership roles. Sharing your accomplishments with the interviewer will help them 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 that 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.

Want additional resources? Read our post on scheduling a college interview.

Maureen Delaney

Educational Counselor

As a Counselor in Educational Planning, Maureen Delaney considers the strengths and interests of students and helps them to achieve their academic and personal goals. As the former Director of College Guidance at independent schools in both the Washington DC area and Manhattan, Maureen uses her deep experience to establish authentic connections both to students planning for college and those ad...

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