Interview requirements differ from school to school. Many colleges and universities offer applicants the opportunity to interview on campus with a member of the admissions team, or locally with an alumnus who has been trained to do so, but these interviews are often optional or encouraged rather than required. However, given the chance, I recommend that you interview whether it's required or not.
A college interview is another opportunity to make an impression on the admissions committee, especially if you're able to interview with a staff member on campus. Doing so gives you the chance to share what you can uniquely bring to their campus. But a college interview isn't just a chance to impress your prospective school— it's also a chance for them to impress you.
Your interviewer is representing the campus community, which makes them a useful asset in determining whether their school is a good fit for you. If you connect with them, that's a good sign. It's also an awesome opportunity to ask in-depth questions about the school that you haven't been able to answer in your research. Not only will you get some info that you want, but you'll show the interviewer that you're invested in attending the school, curious and informed. Try to avoid asking generic questions or questions that you could easily answer with a quick search online.
Avoiding generalities also applies when you're talking about yourself. It's always important to be specific when explaining why the college or university feels like a good fit for you. What about it stood out when you were visiting or researching? Alumni who conduct admission interviews are typically people who valued their college experiences and remained involved with the community — they love their alma maters, and they want to know that you will, too.
With any interview, you should prepare for commonly-asked questions, and try to practice with a parent, teacher or counselor to make sure you know your talking points and feel comfortable adapting if you get a question you're not expecting. You want to present yourself as confident and comfortable, but also professional and poised. If you've interviewed before for a job or internship, you have valuable experience. If you haven't yet, your college admissions interview will be a valuable experience you can draw on in future job interviews.
Among many things, one great nugget we get every year from our College Hopes & Worries survey is an abundance of tips from college students who were in your exact shoes not too long ago. Here are a few tips from recent college applicants for nailing your college interviews:
- Interviewers know sincere enthusiasm when they see it. “Before you apply to any college, learn about all the reasons that make you want to go there. This really helps as not only will this be used in the interviews, but also in your application; your application must talk about you, and how you see yourself in the college."
- Take advantage of interview opportunities. “If the college you're interested in offers it, do take the time to do an on-campus or off-campus interview. Register for the visits and tours early because those fill up fast, especially in the months of September, October and November."
- Politeness pays off. “Always send 'thank you' notes."
- Be true to you. “Colleges want to know how you are as a person, so in interviews and such, just be yourself! Show them your awesome identity!"
- Show them you're serious. “If you are really interested in a college, let them know! Request an informal alumni interview before interviewing with an admissions counselor."
- Knowing you're prepared will help you relax. “Take many deep breaths. Practice and go into interviews with confidence!"
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