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A college admissions interview can take different forms. It might involve an informal meeting with an alumnus or admissions staff member at a coffee shop near your home or a meeting with a staff member when you’re taking a college tour. In some cases, it will be a rigorous meeting with a panel of interviewers who will assess your subject matter knowledge and depth.
For schools that offer the opportunity to take an admissions interview, it’s almost always a good idea to take advantage of the chance to present yourself more fully than you can in an application. Of course, when schools require the admissions interview, you’ve got to do it!
Here are five key tips on how to ace your admissions interviews:
1. BE PREPARED
This advice will hold you in good stead for an admissions interview or a job interview. Prepare by learning about the college you’re applying to and why you’d want to attend. Find out about their culture and academic programs, and what makes them a good fit for you. If the school has a department or program you’re especially interested in, be sure to share that. Tell the interviewer why the university’s culture – whether traditional, religious, open-minded, or service-oriented – appeals to you.
Write out a few bullet points about what makes you stand out, and make sure you can explain them clearly. For example, if you’re a gifted athlete or performer, or love science fairs or spelling bees, tell the interviewer that. They want to know about you, not just your grades. And if you love some courses at school more than others, think through that as well.
Interviewers often ask standard “interview questions,” so think through your answers to them. For example:
- What do you see yourself doing in 10 years time?
- How will you contribute to our school’s culture?
- What are your hobbies?
- Which accomplishments are you most proud of?
- When have you overcome adversity in life, and how did you do it?
- What are your three greatest strengths and weaknesses?
Get help from a parent or a professional in preparing.
2. BE PROFESSIONAL
Show up on time. If it’s at a university admissions office, and you’re visiting with parents, walk up to the desk and introduce yourself rather than having Mom or Dad do it for you. Admissions officials know that a student who can take ownership, be responsible, and speak for themselves is much more likely to succeed at school than one who can’t.
Dress appropriately. Ask a parent, teacher, or counselor what that means. You can still show your personality and identity, but it’s important you look dressed for the situation.
3. BE CONVERSATIONAL
This is one of the hardest things for many students (and for many adults too). Remember the goal of an interview is never to tell the other person everything you came prepared to say. Listen to what the other person is saying and respond. Practicing can help you learn this skill. Use a friend, a parent, or a coach to help you prepare to have a good conversation in which you still get your points across.
4. ASK QUESTIONS
Think through some questions ahead of time, so when the interviewer asks you if you’ve got any questions, you’re prepared. Come up with questions that have to do with the specific school so they know you’re thinking through it seriously. These questions are critical to show “demonstrated interest.” Demonstrated interest is one of the factors universities use in deciding whether to admit you. The way they figure it, admitting a student who’s genuinely interested improves the likelihood of that student actually accepting their offer of admission and attending.
5. FOLLOW UP
This is the thing many many students forget. After you attend an admissions interview, write an email to the person you met with and thank them. This goes to show demonstrated interest, but it’s also a way of conveying maturity. Tell them you appreciate the time they took to meet with you, answer your questions, and get to know you.
If the interviewer gave you the name of faculty or coaches at the colleges who might be helpful, make sure you drop those people a note. Tell them the interviewer suggested you contact them, explain why you’re interested in the university, and ask some questions about the department or program.
When you apply to college, there will be many students with similar grades and test scores. Standing out among that group involves many things, but the interview is a key part of the process. Make sure you’re well-prepared and you’ll ace it!