Generally, colleges have two different types of admission interviews: informational interviews and official admissions interviews. Colleges use informational interviews to help recruit applicants. These informational interviews and are pretty low key and give you a chance to learn about the college.
Moreover, admissions committees do not consider informational interviews. Oftentimes, there’s not even a record that you met with a representative from the college.
Official college interviews, by contrast, can impact your chances of admission. Notes and assessments from admission interviews do wind up in your admissions file. Official admissions interviews can take place at the college by admission staff or can be conducted by college alumni living in your city or town.
Some schools have started doing interviews via Skype or Facetime. No matter which type of interview you are doing—informational or official— it is important to prepare before you meet with college representatives.
Scheduling Your Interview
Once you have determined if any of your colleges offer or require interviews, you’ll need to do the research to figure out the different procedures used by different colleges.
- Take a look at each college’s website to determine if the interview is optional or required. There should also be information available about when interviews are scheduled.
- Finally, you need to determine the location of these interviews, with local representatives, via webcam, or on the college campus.
In many cases, you can schedule interviews online. It’s very important, however, that you pay close attention to deadlines. Many colleges only offer interviews for a limited number of weeks. Moreover, interview slots can fill up quickly. It is, therefore, advisable to schedule interviews as early as possible.
Interview Tips to Follow
Here are some strategies for having a good interview:
- Go alone. No parents allowed. The folks can wait outside.
- Make sure you are on time.
- Bring a copy of your student resume to refresh your memory.
- Dress nicely. No need to wear a suit, but make sure you look decent. No flip flops.
- Shake hands firmly and make eye contact.
- Sit up straight and smile.
- Try to answer in more than one-word answers.
- Focus on academic interests first and foremost. Extracurricular activities are secondary.
- Make sure that you prepare. Have a list of questions to ask the interviewer.
- Follow up with a thank-you note. Make sure that you get the interviewer’s business card or e-mail address when you are finished.
Practice, Practice, Practice
The most important piece of advice for giving a good college interview is to prepare well. Careful preparation will also make you less nervous during the actual interview.
Here are five things that you should do before your interview. And please don’t wait until the last minute. This whole thing is stressful enough. Give yourself at least a few hours to complete these tasks and try not to make it the few hours the night before the interview.
1. Visit the college’s website once again
You have already done a good deal of research about the college, but it is time to go back to the website and dig a bit deeper to learn even more about the college.
Poke around the website to see what the college promotes about itself.
- Does it heavily emphasize its academic programs?
- If so, which ones?
- Does it highlight its sports teams?
- What about faculty research interests?
- Is the college interested in helping graduates find careers after graduation?
Make sure that you learn how the college defines itself and how it differs from other schools.
2. Think carefully about your strengths and weaknesses as a student
Highlight any specific strengths that you bring to the table. For example, if your math test scores are sky-high and you want to pursue an engineering major, make sure you jot that down.
By the same token, you should examine any weaknesses that you have that might pose challenges when you arrive at college. Perhaps you struggle with writing and it shows in your test scores. Because you are thinking about this now, you can strategize about how you might address this challenge. In particular, perhaps you will seek out help from a writing tutor before your first papers are due.
Everyone has weaknesses in their academic background and it is important to think about them now and strategize about how to deal with them.
3. Prepare answers for practice questions
Write down answers to the practice questions below. These are some of the most-common college interview questions and you are bound to get at least some of them in your interview.
4. Practice your responses
Now, this is important. You need to practice your answers out loud. Keep practicing until your responses sound totally natural when you open your mouth. If you are self-conscious and don’t want anyone to hear you talking to yourself, go sit in the empty, dry bathtub and practice them.
The important thing is that you practice saying your answers out loud. It isn’t enough to do them in your head. You need to say the actual words. This exercise will help you gain confidence for the actual interview.
5. Make a list or your own questions
Almost all interviewers will ask if you have any questions. Make sure you don’t ask questions that you could easily find the answer to on the college’s website. Rather, think about questions that demonstrate your true interest in the college. It is important that you have some ready to go. It looks bad if you don’t have anything to ask them.
It is also a good idea to do at least one mock interview with family or friends. By doing a mock interview, you will gain a tremendous amount of confidence that will come through during your real interview.
Block off 30-45 minutes of time and give the list of practice questions to a trusted friend or relative. Don’t ask anyone that is hypercritical or laughs too easily. Ask your mock interviewer to run through the questions and give feedback on your answers. Yes, this is extremely dorky and you will feel like an idiot while you are doing it. But if you want to give a strong interview, you cannot go into it cold.
You have to practice and prepare to give your best performance.
Common Interview Questions
- Why do you want to attend this college?
- What are your academic strengths? What are your academic weaknesses?
- How have you prepared for college?
- What are your future career plans?
- What can you tell me about your extracurricular interests?
- Do you have a favorite book? A favorite author?
- What accomplishment are you most proud of?
- What personal qualities can you contribute to the student body?
- What do you do for fun?
- Who is your hero?