Summer is a hot time for rising seniors to go on college trips and investigate the schools they are thinking of applying to. During the college visit there are many activities available for students to participate in, and one of those is the dreaded college interview.
The thought of interviewing with a representative from a university can be very intimidating, but these days, interviews are designed to be a conversation, not an interrogation. Students are encouraged to use these sessions to learn more about the school and ask questions. Of course, the main topic of conversation will still be the student as the admission counselors will also be looking to learn things about them.
Depending on which schools students are visiting, interviews may be optional, recommended or required, informational or evaluative, and on campus or off campus. Sometimes students don’t even have the opportunity to interview at a school until they have applied there. Each school has its own system so it’s important to check how that college runs its interviews.
The tips below will help students prepare for any college interview they may encounter. A little preparation goes a long way in alleviating anxiety and boosting a student’s confidence on interview day.
Get the logistics down
Students should sign up for an interview (if interviews are offered) when they sign up for a school visit on a college’s website. There, they will find details about the day’s activities, the time and location of the interview, and more about what will be expected during the interview.
Make sure to keep a record of all that important information so that it can be easily accessed when the day of the college visit/interview arrives. Nobody wants to be scrambling for information the day of.
Understand the expectations
When digging up information about the interview, students should find out who they will be speaking with, what environment they will be in and what kind of interview it will be.
They should look in to…
Depending on the school, students may have options when an on campus interview isn’t available, possible or preferred. Sometimes schools will have representatives travel to different cities to hold interviews, sometimes alumni representatives give interviews and sometimes schools offer phone or skype interviews. Students should look into their interview options and sign up for the one that’s right for them.
Schools can decide whether they want interviews to hold any weight when it comes to admissions decisions. Even if an interview is considered as part of a student’s application, it rarely makes or breaks a student’s admissions decision.
Figure out if the interview is an …
Colleges will let students know to what extent they’re expected to interview as part of their application.
Interviews are either…
Interviews are rarely required but usually recommended by institutions. If a student is unable to sit for an interview due to circumstances such as distance or financial means, schools will not hold it against the student when they are considering their application. If students are able, it’s to their benefit to interview and we encourage them to do so whenever possible.
Research the school
Students should do some research about the school before their interview so they can speak intelligently about their feelings and impressions. Students don’t want to ask questions that could have been answered by the school’s website and they don’t want to appear clueless about the institution in front of the admissions counselor.
Prep for some questions
Students should consider some typical questions that could be asked during interviews and think about how they will answer them.
Below are some examples…
Don’t try to memorize answers or come up with canned responses. Students should brainstorm some genuine answers so that when a question is asked, they will have thought about the topic recently and know where they stand on it.
Bring some questions to ask
Interviews aren’t only for grilling students on their strengths and weaknesses. (And often times they aren’t even that intense.) They’re also an opportunity for students to ask questions about the college and see if it is a good fit for them. Students should ask questions that relate to their interests. They’re going to learn about what matters most to them and counselors are going to see that they are informed and curious about how they will fit in at that college.
Knowing what to expect and going in with an understanding of the school and themselves will help students stay confident on interview day, leave the admissions counselor with a good impression and help them get the most out of their interview experience.
In our next installment on college interviews, we’ll walk through what to do in the actual interview and talk about how to maximize the opportunities that interviews can offer.