Interview Tips for Telluride Association Summer Program

Question: My son, a high school junior, will soon be interviewed for the Telluride Association Summer Program. What should he expect at this interview, and how can he best set himself apart from the other candidates who will undoubtedly be bright, accomplished students like himself? Any information you could provide would be greatly appreciated, since he would very much like to attend this program.

The Telluride Association Summer Program typically blips onto a student radar screen at PSAT time. That’s because those with top scores are invited to apply to TASP (which, by the way, is free), although they are not guaranteed admission. All must go through an exacting application process (lots of essays!) and then, if they make the next cut, an interview—which is where your son is right now.

The program is a six-week educational experience that brings together young people from around the world who share a passion for learning. Telluride students, or TASPers, attend a seminar led by college and university faculty members and participate in many other educational and social activities outside the classroom. It’s a great way for bright and accomplished high school juniors to “find” each other and share their ideas, and it’s also one of those things that make college admission officials sit up and take notice.

The TASP interview process is based largely on the application essays that each student submits. That is, he or she should come prepared to discuss the essay content and the thought processes that produced it. According to one Telluride staff member, these essays are typically a jumping-off point for additional questions that may begin with the essay material but wander away on a number of different tangents.

The most successful candidates are thus those who are conversant with their own essay answers but who can also “think on their feet” so that their responses won’t be rigidly limited to the concepts they’ve already expressed in writing. However, stresses the Telluride official, the organization is seeking students from wide-ranging backgrounds and with diverse points of view. “It’s not about where they stand, but how they stand,”she insists.

Your son should expect his interview to last about an hour, and it will be conducted by one, two, or even three interviewers. While the latter may seem most daunting, in reality, it’s often these larger group events that are more relaxed and informal. Interviewers range in age from 20-something to 60+, and their styles are equally broad. Some undoubtedly will “connect” better with your son than others, but all should make an effort to put him at ease if he is jittery or tongue-tied during the session.

Overall, your son will have the best shot at TASP if he is able to come across as someone who is comfortable in the world of ideas—both generating them and expressing them. He can also walk out of his TASP interview knowing that he’s now prepared for the college interviews ahead.