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6 mistakes to avoid in your college admissions interview

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The college interview is an opportunity for admissions staff to associate a face and a personality with a mere name on an application. If you are a hardworking student who has devoted the necessary time and effort into academics over the past four years, a strong first impression can only aid your application status further! Ensure you avoid the following mistakes in your college admissions interview to secure this grand first impression:

Mistake #1: Arriving late
Whatever you do, do not be tardy for your interview. Very busy admissions staff members are taking time out of their days to specifically meet with you. To ask that an admissions officer wait for you is not only rude – it also suggests that you do not sufficiently care to arrive on time. Internalize this advice from the film, Drumline: “You’re on time if you’re five minutes early. You’re late if you’re on time.”

Mistake #2: Dressing inappropriately
If you appear as though you woke up in the outfit you’re wearing, display too much skin, or wear ripped jeans, you are harming your chances before you even utter a word. Business casual is always a safe dress code when attending an admissions interview. When you walk in the door, you want to create a positive impression from the first moment onward. After arriving on time, dressing the part is the second step to success.

Mistake #3: Fidgeting
Everyone has their own nervous ticks. However, you must identify what yours are (your friends and family can likely aid you in this) and work to consciously avoid them in your interview. Playing with your hair, pulling at your collar, clasping and unclasping your watch, or jiggling your leg are all habits that will distract and detract from the points you are attempting to convey. No matter how clearly the words leave your mouth, it won’t matter unless your non-verbal communication skills are in line with them.

Mistake #4: Providing one-word answers
Remember, the point of your interview is to allow the admissions officer to get to know you. Your interviewer should ask open-ended questions (or questions that cannot and should not be answered with a simple “Yes” or “No”), but even if he or she doesn’t, you should expand upon your responses. There is little chance that an individual can learn what drives you, as well as what your likes, dislikes, and interests are, if you only answer questions with a yes or a no. Generally, the interviewer will look to see whether or not you can critically think and formulate sound opinions, regardless of what they are.

Mistake #5: Avoiding eye contact
This suggestion warrants a separate category from fidgeting because it is so important. Avoiding eye contact signals several things to an admissions officer, none of them positive. One, you are disinterested, meaning you are not making eye contact because you are glancing around the room or out the window. Two, you are so unbearably nervous that you can’t look the interviewer in the eye. Or three, you are lying. By no means should you stare directly into the interviewer’s eyes and never lose contact, but you should make a point to maintain fairly regular eye contact throughout the interview.

Mistake #6: Winging it
Do not arrive unprepared. When you fail to know information about the school and have no questions for the interviewer, you convey that you are disinterested. Aside from portraying disinterest, the less prepared you are, the more likely you will be to stumble over words or forget to mention key details that could assist you in making a positive impression. Prepare beforehand to ensure you understand the basic points you wish to highlight during the interview.

The moral of the story? Come promptly and prepared, dress the part, and work on those verbal and non-verbal communication skills. Good luck!

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