College interviews can provide the opportunity to add extra dimension to your application. If the whole prospect of a face-to-face meeting gives you the jitters, you can relax! In contrast to many an applicant’s worst fears, the interviewer is unlikely to try to trip you up or ask you questions out of left field. Instead, the interviewer’s main purpose is to learn more about you than the story revealed through grades, recommendations, test scores and essays. Give yourself the advantage: Prepare your thoughts ahead of time, and bring along enthusiasm as well as an active curiosity about the school you are applying to.
The following tips are sure to help set an applicant off on the right foot:
When possible, interview with your “likely” schools first in order to buff up your comfort level before meeting with target or stretch choices.
Dress for success, which means arrive neatly dressed and comfortable. No need for suit and tie or pearls, but avoid sloppy tee shirts, jeans and flip flops.
Be punctual. Arrive early to campus to leave sufficient time for parking and locating the assigned building. Time for a short walk around campus before your meeting can help to relax you. If you have a phone or Skype meeting, call in at the exact appointed time. If phoning, do so via a landline for the best sound quality and make sure there is no distracting background noise.
Learn your interviewer’s name and become familiar with it. At in-person meetings, ask for a business card and refer to it when you write the follow-up “thank you” note. Be sure to express your appreciation for the interviewer’s time as well as your enthusiasm for the school.
Express why the school is attractive for you. Be able to do the same with regard to the program of studies you are applying to, tying into your involvements and accomplishments in high school. Bringing along a resume may be helpful but is usually unnecessary.
Provide a picture of how the school would benefit by having you as a citizen of the community. Schools are interested in attracting a class of students who will enhance one another’s experience, so come ready to talk about your interests and involvements to paint a picture of how you may add to academic and campus life.
Be honest about your strengths as well as areas of challenge. What inspires you? What excites you? What do you need to succeed? If someone were to ask you how you have dealt with your challenges, what would you say?
Prepare a few questions covering things you want to know about the school or program, but always ask beyond the basics covered in the school viewbook or website.
Familiarize yourself a bit about extracurricular offerings on or off campus and be able to talk about these.
Be ready to talk about yourself through the eyes of others. What would your teachers say about you? What about your friends or parents?
Don’t expect any interview, whether one-on-one or a group format, to be a passive experience. Come ready to express yourself and ask questions! The goal of a successful college interview, like the goal of a good education, is all about sharing and learning.
Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and application process. She is a member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and can be reached via www.achievecoach.com