Preparation Tips for College Interviews

Admissions interviews are a college’s best opportunity to get a complete understanding of an applicant. While the essay is given a lot of value by high schools, students should be sure not to ignore the chance that is given to them by an interview - the chance to supplement the “you” that they see on paper. Person-to-person interviews can give valuable insights into the ways that a student could fit into the campus environment that aren’t tied to grades or passion. As such, it is important to remember to put your best foot forward in interviews. Here are some tips to make sure that your interviews make good impressions on admissions officers: 

 

What To Expect

Every interview is different; however, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare. Interviewers generally look to answer the following questions about a candidate:

  • Is the student interested in learning? - Colleges want to know that their students have an active interest in learning, since academically motivated students thrive in both school and work environments. A good interviewee will highlight their love of learning by giving details and anecdotes about the experiences that led them to choose higher education. Talk about your passion for the things that you care about, filling in any gaps that were left out of your essay. Explain how and why you think an education will help you in these passions, and why a degree in X from college Y is particularly suited for your ambitions.

  • Why is the student interested in this school? - It’s important to know why you’re applying to the schools you picked. Is it their theatre group? Their robotics club? Do they have a professor who specializes in modern American literature? Show the interviewer that you’ve done your homework, and that their school is more to you than conveniently located or a cheap degree.

  • Will the student be a good “fit” for the university? -  This one depends on the college. While some schools just seek out the best and brightest, most want a student that is purposeful and motivated towards specific objectives. Knowing what kind of students fit into a certain college’s campus culture will not only help you find schools where you’re comfortable, but also help you gain an edge in the admissions process at more competitive colleges.

  • Does the student demonstrate initiative? - A great way to show initiative is to be engaged with the interviewer. Come ready to ask specific questions about details of the school’s programs and culture. Ask about the interviewer’s personal experiences attending the college and how it’s uniquely benefited her or him. And, be sure to contact the admissions office on your own - don’t let your parents be seen to be running the process! This attitude projects a mature, proactive character that will set you apart from less-prepared students.

Questions to Expect

USNews presents these four interview questions that all college applicants should be ready to answer. (While the article specifically focuses on international students, even domestic students can benefit from this preparation.)

  • Can you tell me a little about yourself?

  • Why do you want to attend our school?

  • Can you explain the grading system at your high school?

  • Do you have any questions for me?

Some other potential questions to be prepared to answer, as highlighted on reddit by a former UChicago interviewer and current UC Berkeley admissions reader, are as follows:

  • Are there any current events that you feel strongly about?

  • Which classes do you find most difficult, and why?

  • What did you learn from participating in (a specific extracurricular)?

  • What most excites you about our school?

For each of these prospective questions, it is important to remember what colleges are looking for in their students, and to answer in ways that show these traits.


DOs and DON’Ts

There’s more to an interview - college or otherwise -  than just your answers. Body language and disposition can say just as much about you as your responses. With that in mind, here are some tips to help  you present yourself in the best manner possible.


DO:

  • Be polite and conversational! Make eye contact, shake hands, repeat their name.

  • Turn off your cell phone.

  • Arrive on early.

  • Send a handwritten note immediately after each interview to thank interviewers for their time. This personal expression of gratitude is often understated and will be much appreciated.

DON’T:

  • Show poor posture (i.e. slouching, leaning).

  • Chew gum or eat food.

  • Use lots of “um”s or “like”s.

  • Be overly casual.

Above all else, you want to appear comfortable, yet formal. Show that you aren’t afraid of college or of the interview process, but don’t try to put yourself above it. Instead, prove that you belong at the college by embodying your best traits as a student.

Interviews can be intimidating, but only if you aren’t prepared. By showing that you’ve done your research and understand what you want out of thatcollege, you will distinguish yourself from the horde and maybe even gain admission over more academically qualified but less prepared applicants!

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