As the new year dawned, many high school seniors hit the “submit” button on their final college applications. Now it’s time for college interviews. There’s a lot at stake, but don’t be nervous! Here are seven tips to help you ace your interview.
College interviews can be nerve-racking, even the virtual interviews happening during the pandemic. But with the proper preparation, students can ace the interview and get a leg up on attending the college of their choice. (Image Malerapaso/iStock)
There are a few different ways to schedule an interview. At some colleges, applicants request an interview through the admissions office, or by completing a form online. Most colleges enlist alumni to conduct interviews, in which case students are contacted by email. It’s important to reply promptly to those emails — and be polite!
Set the scene
Because of COVID-19, college interviews will be conducted by video, so consider the background your interviewer will see. Arrange good lighting and set the camera to eye level. Plan to be someplace where you won’t be interrupted.
Dress comfortably, but avoid gym clothes or loungewear. A collared shirt or blouse is not necessary, but it won’t hurt to make a little effort to dress up.
Finally, even if you often take video calls while sitting on your bed, sit upright in a chair for your interview. It shows that you understand this is important.
Send a profile
Once you have scheduled the interview and planned how you will present yourself, it’s a good idea to send your interviewer a personal profile by email attachment.
Write a single page that contains your name, the name of your school and a few details about yourself. Include a list of your activities, your grade point average and test scores if possible (AP, SAT and/or ACT). The profile will help the interviewer write to the college about you.
Have an agenda
Your interviewer may have a specific plan for the interview, but you also should have an agenda. Here are some points to focus on during the interview:
- Plan to keep chitchat brief. You don’t want to waste time.
- Plan to tell the interviewer about your academic interests — your favorite subjects in school and what you hope to study in college.
- Plan to talk about your extracurricular interests that make you a well-rounded person.
- Plan to explain why you would like to attend the college.
If you have these points in mind, no matter what questions you’re asked, you will have something interesting to say. For example, if you’re asked to talk about yourself, you can think about your agenda and talk about your academic and extracurricular interests. If, on the other hand, you’re asked about your school, you can talk about how your school helps you pursue your academic and extracurricular interests. You might answer, “My school has an excellent science department, which is one of my favorite subjects.”
Also, before the interview, reflect on why you want to be admitted to the college so that you can answer the inevitable “why” question. If you cover these points during the interview, you will feel great afterwards.
It’s a conversation
While you will want to share impressive information about yourself with your interviewer, remember there should be some back and forth. Don’t just rattle off a list of your achievements and interests. Pay attention to your interviewer.
Listen and watch for verbal and nonverbal reactions and respond appropriately. For example, you may say that you love tennis and your interviewer may comment that it’s a great sport. That’s a good time to ask the interviewer if they play. By asking the question, you have shown the interviewer that you are not just focused on yourself.
Interviewers often say that they learn more from the questions you ask than the questions you answer. If you ask about the availability of vegetarian food or club sports on campus, it reveals those things are important to you. I you don’t ask any questions, it could appear as though you lack real interest in the college.
Prepare some questions that show you are interested in making a match with the college. Also, it never hurts to ask your interviewer about their experience when they were in college. Don’t underestimate the interviewer’s interest in reminiscing.
Say ‘thank you’
As you leave the interview, thank the interviewer for their time. After the interview, send a brief thank-you note by email. It’s always good if the email mentions some part of the conversation you had. If your interviewer told you about the best hamburgers on campus, you could mention something about it in you note. It shows you were engaged.
You never know what will happen during a college interview, but by following these basic tips, you stand a good chance of doing your best — you might even ace it.
Barbara Connolly, JD, is the founder and director of Birmingham-based College Choice Counseling, and a Certified Educational Planner. She can be reached at email@example.com.