As a college applicant, you may already know the feeling of relief when you hit submit. But wait, you're not done yet! Some of you will get a message from a portal or an alum notifying you of the next step in your college-ready journey: the interview.
Whether they're in-person or virtual, interviews provoke angst in applicants. Yet any applicant will tell you that the best way to ace an interview is to prepare. Recently, I spoke to a student who was an interviewing novice until a month ago. Now, he’s a pro.
What makes the difference? He told me, “Knowing what I would say for even the most basic question.”
Yet it really does work both ways. What happens when your interviewer stops after 20 or 30 minutes and asks what questions you have? Before your interview, be sure to prepare a list of at least three questions for your interviewer.
By coming prepared with questions, you can:
The student I mentioned above told me, “You have to have a really good question to ask them... That makes or breaks the whole interview.” So he asked the Skidmore (it was actually another college) interviewer, “How would you define a Skidmore graduate?”
As an alumni interviewer, I was always impressed when students came with insightful questions for me, for example, how Brown served me after college. If you have an alumni interview, that’s an easy ask. It could be that your interviewer is a student intern, in which case you might ask whether they’re pleased with the decision to attend that college and how they feel it’s benefitted them so far. Ask them about some of their favorite on-campus traditions.
But sometimes you’ll be interviewing with an admissions officer who did not graduate from that institution. That person is looking to answer, “Do we want [your name] in our college community?”
If you have an interview coming up, of course you should look at the website. (A current applicant told me, “I researched the college's website, tried to think about possible questions that I would be asked and practiced my responses.”) But why ask about something the college already addresses, such as how large the institution is, what majors are most popular and what extracurriculars are offered? Instead, look to ask something different to display characteristics such as thoughtfulness or intellectual curiosity. For your use, I’ve brainstormed a few on the list below.
If you’re stuck for good ideas—or you want to verify your understanding of the college’s goals—check out its social media, blogs and alumni publications.
Interviewing, like so many aspects of the college application process, is a life skill. You now have college interviews, then later, internship interviews and job interviews. The more you do, the bigger your experience base, which means your confidence will improve. Sure, the interviewer gets that you’re only 17 or 18, but there’s no excuse for not being prepared.
From my students who have interviewed this fall come two wacky questions they actually had to answer:
Don’t ask either question of your interviewer, please!
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