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College Resources

The College Interview

Ah, the college interview, the one facet of your application that feels slightly out of your control.  Certainly, not all colleges and universities require or even offer an option to interview.  However, if a school strongly suggests you schedule one, you should.  Otherwise, you might be putting yourself at a slight disadvantage.  

Interview policies can vary between schools.  Depending on a variety of factors (availability, location, etc.), you might be assigned to an alum, a current student or even an admissions officer.  Of course, regardless of who’s sitting across from you, the basic elements of a good interview remain the same.  To ensure your success, consider the following:

Go Off Book

While it makes sense to conduct a little pre-interview preparation, steer clear of canned responses, simple laundry lists and memorized monologues.  Interviewers don’t want to meet with a robot or a person who is parroting what he/she thinks a school wants to hear.  In short, they want to get to know you and see your personality shine through.

It’s a Conversation, Not an Interrogation

It’s easy to forget, but the interview is actually a two-way street (only metaphorically speaking of course).  True, your interviewer will be assessing whether or not you appear to be a strong candidate for the school.  However, this is also a time for you to learn more about (and size up) the college.  Come equipped with specific questions.  It’s the best way to demonstrate genuine interest in the school and it’s sure to help keep the conversation flowing.

Don’t Be a Clock-Watcher

Historically, interviews often take between 30 to 60 minutes.  However, there’s no hard and fast rule stating that they must continue for a set duration.  Don’t panic if it’s short (it’s not necessarily indicative of failure) and don’t appear restless if it happens to go long.  Additionally, don’t get caught continually eyeing the clock.  You want to seem engaged in the conversation.  All you have to do is simply follow your interviewer’s lead.

Practice Makes Perfect

Let’s face facts; it’s quite likely that you’ve never had to sit through an interview before, let alone half a dozen.  And though we assume you’re rather smooth and charming, you’re likely to improve over time.  Therefore, we recommend scheduling your first interview or two with either safety schools or a college that might be lower on your list.  That way, you’ll be a seasoned professional by the time you sit down with your dream school.

No Parents Allowed

This is a fairly straight forward, simple rule.  No matter how invested your parents might be in your college application process, they should not attend your interview.  It’s not a time for them to have their questions answered.  It’s not an opportunity for them to advocate on your behalf.  You are the candidate.  You are the individual who might attend this particular college.  And you are the person from whom admissions officers, alums and current students want to hear.

Be Polite and Professional

Though there’s no need to dress up in black tie or study etiquette (you’re not meeting with royalty), you should strive to play the part of the mature young adult, poised to take the next step.  This means you should dress neatly (think business casual), make eye contact, speak clearly and spit out that gum before you begin.  You want an interviewer who listens to what you have to say, not one who is distracted by the gnashing of your teeth.  More importantly, think about sending a follow-up email or note thanking them for their time and insight.  Remember, interviewers recommend students they would be proud to have represent their alma maters.

Though the interview won’t necessarily make or break your application, you should still approach the experience seriously.  View this as an opportunity to engage in a little self-reflection, some meaningful conversation and a time to learn a little more about your potential future university.



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Don Munce