Don’t freak out over the college interview. We know being put in front a stranger that can affect your dream school hopes is stressful. It doesn’t need to be though, as long as you approach it with focus and a game plan.
Here are 10 college interview tips that are easy to use and will help you ace that meeting.
But First…What To Wear
For men and women, the key words to remember are “business casual”.
What this does not mean (for men) is having to wear a full blown suit. If you’d like to, it’s your choice but it’s not necessary for most interviews. What that does mean though is dress pants, khakis, or slacks for sure. No jeans. Shirt-wise, you should stick with it being collared and long-sleeved.
Again, while a full suit isn’t necessary, it won’t hurt to wear a blazer and tie too for that extra touch. As far as shoes go, your choices are limited to dress shoes and dark socks. Sneakers, even incredibly nice ones, simply won’t cut it. Along those same lines, avoid wearing athletic gear, sweatpants, sweatshirts, etc.
For women, again keep “business casual” in mind when planning your outfit. Women have additional options, such as formal skirts and dresses. If you do go down the dress route, be sure that it fits well and is somewhat tailored. However, you absolutely don’t have to wear a dress or skirt.
If you choose to wear a suit, whether it’s a pantsuit or skirt suit, don’t be afraid to pair it with a blouse or collared shirt. Regarding shoes, you have more options than men too. Heels always work, but ballet flats or boots are acceptable too. Again, avoid sneakers, as well as sandals. What’s important is ensuring those shoes are clean and in good shape, simple as that.
Schedule Your Interview Early
During application season, admissions officers only have so much time available to do in-person interviews.
That limited availability means that interviews will be booked up fast, so you need to be on the ball to schedule one as early as possible. Given that you will be visiting campuses, make sure to contact those admissions offices and schedule interviews at least one month before arrival. If you can get them scheduled even earlier, go ahead and do it.
Meet With Your High School’s College Representative
If you’re looking to do an admissions interview for a particular school, then contact it and request to meet with your high school or geographic region’s representative.
First, that person will likely be the one that evaluates your application. Second, you can get an idea of how to conduct yourself during the interview itself. Look at it as a basic practice run.
Do Your Research
Put in the legwork about your school ahead of time.
Check out the school’s website, learn about the admissions office, look at pages that will benefit you directly. Examples include programs for your areas of interest, extracurricular activities you’re curious about, courses and professors, etc. If you can demonstrate in-depth knowledge during your interview about the school, it will go a very long way.
Prepare To Answer Questions
Be ready for questions that you’ll be asked ahead of time.
Many admissions officers ask similar questions, so it’s definitely possible to prepare for a lot of them ahead of time. Be ready to talk about academic accomplishments, extracurriculars, why you are applying to that particular school, and other more general questions about you and life. Also, don’t forget to have copies of your transcript, test scores, and a student activities sheet with you. The more material you bring, the better an assessment the officer can make.
Here are some standard questions asked during most college interviews:
- What sparked your interest in our school?
- Do you have any major or majors in mind that you’d like to study? Why?
- What was the most important extracurricular you participated in during high school? Why?
- What did you enjoy most about your high school experience?
- What subject or subjects do you enjoy studying the most?
- What was your most challenging high school course?
- What is your proudest achievement up to this point in life?
- What do you enjoy doing for fun?
- Where do you see yourself in life in the next 10 years?
Bring Your Own Questions
Remember that this interview is a two-way process.
You’ll be asked a number of questions by the admissions officer, but also fire back a few of your own. This inquiry serves two purposes. First, it allows you to learn more from a live person. Second, it demonstrates that you’ve done your research and came prepared for this meeting. Here are some questions to ask:
- How does the school help graduates secure employment or prepare them sufficiently for graduate school?
- Could you talk about the alumni network? What benefits does it provide graduates with networking and employment?
- If you could offer me one piece of advice before my first day of school here, what would it be?
- How does your school differ from other comparable institutions?
Just like prepping for a standardized test or a sports event, practice for that interview.
Have a friend or trusted family member stand in for the interviewer, and go through practice questions together. More importantly, ask for an honest critique, so that you’re aware of any weaknesses you exhibited in your presentation. This honesty is key to success.
Another thing to avoid is perfectly scripting and memorizing your answers to questions. Doing so will make you appear stiff and nervous during the real thing. Instead, be aware of how to answers those questions comfortably for yourself and leave it at that. You can then be fresh and sincere when facing them later.
Observe Proper Etiquette
Make sure to handle all the little details when your interview arrives.
Make sure you are not late, for instance. Remember to dress appropriately. Don’t forget to shake hands firmly and maintain eye contact the entire time. Appear to take this meeting seriously and the admissions officer will respect you more for it. Not only that, but it will factor into their final assessment of you.
Remember that you are not there to present some idealized version of yourself.
The interviewer is gauging how well you will fit into their community, so give them all the information you can. Be as relaxed as possible, so that your actual personality can shine through. Moreover, take the time again to think about why you are interested in this particular school, what you want to achieve academically, and ultimately, where you’d like to be after graduation.
Bring Your Confidence
Don’t be nervous, be excited.
The best thing you can be, above all else, is confident in who you are. Let that confidence shine every other side of you. Show up dressed professionally, and know that the interviewer wants your session to go well. So be comfortable in your skin and let them communicate itself non-verbally, while you handle the questions at hand.
Don’t Forget ‘Thank You’
One last thing you can do to leave a good impression is be thankful.
After the interview concludes and you’re back home, take the time to write and send a brief thank you note. Let the interviewer know that you appreciated the time, and show your continued interest in the school itself. If the two of you have similar interests, or if you learned something helpful, don’t be afraid to share that either.
How Prep Expert Can Help Out
Besides test prep, we also offer comprehensive admissions consulting services for high school students.
We know that getting a great SAT or ACT score is a huge part of the battle, but it’s not the final victory blow. You also need to work on your application essay, itemize and prioritize your extracurriculars, and…work on your interview skills.
Thankfully, our Admissions Director is available to help both students and parents ace the process. For more information, take a moment to check out our Admissions Consulting page for services and updates.
For more information and tips, check out Prep Expert.