Conquer Your College Interview

Elizabeth Hoyt

December 12, 2016

Conquer Your College Interview
Remember, there's nothing you cannot answer because you’re the expert on YOU!
The college interview is an experience that’s exciting and a little bit scary, but it doesn’t have to be that scary! As long as you enter the situation prepared to discuss yourself, your accomplishments and achievements, and think about stories that reflect aspects you’d like to share about yourself as a student. Enter armed with thoughtful questions about the college, too. Before entering this scenario, the most important thing to do is prepare. If you prepare thoroughly beforehand, there’s absolutely no reason you won’t succeed in showing them who you are as a student – after all, you’re the expert on YOU! Here are some aspects to keep in mind while preparing for a college interview, which can help you examine aspects of your student life (and the school) in order to prepare ahead of time:

1. Relax beforehand

As with any stressful scenario, get into a positive mindset and comfortable headspace before entering the situation. Ensure you get enough sleep the night beforehand so you’re alert and awake for your interview. Directly beforehand, do whatever it is you do to help you relax. Believe it or not, admissions officers are used to nervous students so, assuming you’re not vulgar or rude (and why would you be?), it’s pretty difficult to mess it up.

2. Look at the experience positively

Don’t view the college interview as a negative situation! Remember, admissions officers are there simply to learn more about you as a student and are interested in finding more about who you are. Before going into the interview, think about unique aspects and qualities you have to offer, along with any stories that convey who you are as a student. That way, if you happen to get an interviewer that basks in awkward silence, you will already have a good idea of what it is you’d like to say.

3. What do you want them to know about you?

Think about what you’d like to say and what you’d like to accomplish within your college interview. It can even be helpful to list out points for your own reference, detailing aspects of your student resume you’d like to mention.
Here’s the good news: nobody knows your student story better than you do! It’s easier to discuss the achievements you’ve experienced, unlike a test scenario where you may be concerned about forgetting aspects you’ve studied. Even though you're the expert on you, it’s still smart to write down a summary of your student story beforehand. Your “story” includes your academic achievements, extracurriculars, accomplishments, any personal stories you’d like to share.

4. Practice makes “perfect”

It’s helpful for most students to play out the college interview scenario before ever setting foot in a college interview. Go through a list of common college interview questions and think about your answers. Sometimes, it can even be helpful to ask a parent, friend or teacher to go through the list with you in a “mock” interview setting.

5. Research the college beforehand

This is an important life tip to remember: never go into an interview without doing your research first! Research the college, noting any questions you may have about the school, which will lend to the interview conversation. Think about the school and what you’re looking to get out of college life, both academically and otherwise. These aspects are a great place to begin your research – learn more about the parts of a college that initially interested you and expand from there.

6. Ask thoughtful questions

Show interest in your future (and the school) by asking thought-provoking questions during the interview process. Admissions officers not only want to see if you’d be a good fit for the school, but also that you care enough about which school you attend to ensure it’s the right fit for you, too. It can be helpful to think about these beforehand while doing your research on the school. Perhaps you have lingering questions from your initial campus tour or after reading more about the college’s offered programs. Note these as they come up! The important aspect is to speak up as soon as the admissions officers (inevitably) ask the question, “Do you have any questions for me?”

7. Be gracious and give thanks

Throughout the entire interview, stay attentive and engaged in the conversation. You likely know this already, but exhibit courteous and polite characteristics, thanking your interviewer for taking the time to speak with you. As the interview winds down, thank them again for their time. Also, ask for their contact information so that you can follow up with a formal thank you note.

8. Follow up with a thank you

Follow up your interview with a formal thank you note, either handwritten or otherwise – depending on the contact information you gathered during the interview process. Do this right after your interview so that they receive it while it’s still fresh in mind. A great tip to follow: mention a personal aspect of the conversation. For example, “I really enjoyed our discussion about our shared interests in animal rescue, and learning about student volunteer opportunities on campus.” Mentioning a personalized portion of the conversation can help an interviewer remember the specific conversation (remember, they’re likely interviewing tons of students) and subtly help them to positively recall the best portions of your interview.

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