The college admission process provides a lot of opportunities for prospective students to tell colleges about themselves. Though most colleges do not require an interview for admission, some do, and many more offer interviews as an option to help both college and student gather more information about each other. Some interviews may be held on campus, in your hometown or region, and increasingly more colleges are interviewing using phone or online services like Skype. Colleges also utilize trained alumni or other staff members to conduct interviews when admission staff are unavailable. For many colleges the student has to initiate the interview so make sure you check early to see if interviews are an option for a particular college and if so, what procedures are in place for requesting one.
Here are some tips for successful and stress-free college admission interviews:
· Prior to Interviewing - Make sure you’ve done your research. You don’t want to ask a question about information that is easily accessible on the website or in the college’s printed materials. Prepare some questions for your interviewer. This not only shows your curiosity about the college but can also help steer the conversation into areas that you are interested in regarding the school. It will also help to bridge the gap in any conversation lulls. Practice your handshake and dress appropriately. It may sound trivial but a firm handshake and neat clothing makes a good impression.
· During the interview – Greet your interviewer with a firm handshake and a smile, eye contact and a clear verbal greeting. Make sure you are looking at the interviewer when you ask and answer questions. It’s difficult to build a rapport with the interviewer if you never look them in the eye but at the same time this is not a staring contest. Avoid yes/no or one word answers if possible. You want to turn this into a conversation, not just a question and answer session. You can create a dialogue by answering a question and expounding on your answer, but then in turn ask a question on a related topic. If the person interviewing you is a graduate of that particular school ask them about their collegiate experience.
· After the interview – Follow up with a thank you. Either a written note or email is fine but make sure you use proper grammar and no texting-like shortcuts.
· For online web-chats – Just like appropriate dress is important for an in-person interview, you want to make sure what the web camera shows behind you is also appropriate. This is especially important if you are web-chatting from your bedroom!
Remember that interviews are a two-way street. Not only is the interview an opportunity for the college to gather more information about who you are and what is important to you, it is also allows you to learn more about the college and see if it is a good fit. Good interviewers aren’t out to stump you; they want to learn more about you and will try to make you as comfortable as possible. And practice makes perfect, so don’t feel silly asking a parent, teacher or friend to do a mock interview with you. When the time comes you might be a bit nervous but remember that the interviewer is just trying to get to know you better to provide supportive information for your admission candidacy. The College Board's Big Future website provides some more general information and advice on college interviews.