An admissions interview can be an intimidating prospect. While many colleges don’t require them, elite universities often do, striking fear in the hearts of many prospective students. However, a college admissions interview needn’t be a source of anxiety!
Like so much in the admissions process, a successful interview is one that allows you to share your authentic self. With a little self–reflection and practice, you may even find that you enjoy your interview!
Preparing for a College Admissions Interview
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you prepare.
1. Know your audience
The person doing your interview varies from college to college, and it is important to tailor the information you share to the individual who you are speaking with. Whenever possible, research your interviewer. This could be done through university or business websites, LinkedIn, or other digital and social media. Usually, your interviewer will belong to one of these three groups:
Administrator/Faculty/Admissions: While administrators and admissions counselors at a school can provide a wealth of information within their department, their knowledge may be limited when it comes to other school initiatives. You may not want to ask admissions about the availability of research appointments, because not being an academic department, they may have a limited understanding of what’s available in your specific field. On the other hand, a faculty member might be able to provide you with that information, but may not be able to answer detailed admissions-related questions. Make sure your list of questions reflects their knowledge.
Alumni: An alumni interviewer is going to provide a wealth of information on campus culture and outcomes like job placement and networking. However, keep in mind that their college experience may not reflect what it’s like there currently. Depending on when they graduated, their knowledge of university practices or offerings may be out of date.
Current Student: Speaking with a current student is a fantastic way to gain insight into the current campus environment. When approaching these conversations, think about what information a current student will have available to them. They will be well-versed in current school initiatives, the cadence of academic studies, and the availability of extracurricular offerings and support services. However, you may want to save the admissions questions for an administrator.
2. Know why you’re there
Many students approach their interview almost like a sales pitch for their admission, but don’t forget why you are in the interview in the first place! Remember, finding the right college is all about fit, and an interview is a great way for both parties to evaluate if you will click with your course of study and the campus culture.
This is your opportunity to answer the ‘why,’ ‘how,’ and ‘what’ questions administrators may have after receiving your materials. Your main objective should be to highlight specifics of why you are a good fit for the school, how you became interested in it, and what you bring to the table that will specifically impact the department you wish to join. Being a student at a university is much more than attending classes. Colleges will also want to know how a student will spend their time outside the classroom and how they will interact with their peers. Highlight how you intend to get involved in the community on and off campus, and be honest and authentic. The goal is to find the best fit for you, not just to “get in.”
3. Know the conversational cadence
The social aspects of a college admissions interview can be particularly daunting for some students (we offer social skills coaching for this exact reason). It’s understanding! After all, it’s unlikely that most of you have been in this kind of formal situation before. The biggest challenge for many applicants is learning to pace themselves.
Remember, simple questions deserve simple answers. If you have a 30-minute window for an interview and you spend 20 minutes answering the question “Tell me about yourself,” you will severely limit the conversation. While you want to share your personality and passions, it isn’t important for an interviewer to know everything about you. Limit your answers to the details that would aid in their understanding of your goals and motivations.
Socially, a conversation is much more comfortable (and pleasant) than a straightforward question-and-answer session. If an interviewer asks you how you are doing today, it is polite to respond with your answer and then ask them the same. This technique should be applied to all aspects of your conversation, not just pleasantries and formalities. For example, if an alumnus asks you ‘Why are you interested in attending XX university?’ you may want to follow your response with ‘Why were you interested in the school?’.
Admissions interviews aren’t easy, but with a little preparation and practice, you’ll rise (authentically) to the challenge.
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