Going into application season, many students and their parents are interested in college interviews. Interviews can be useful, but there are a lot of misconceptions about them. Here is what you need to know.
Interviews are important, but not that important. Interviews are important in that they demonstrate to admissions offices that you’re a committed applicant. However, the interview itself, even a truly great interview, is usually not going to have much of an effect on your admissions decision. There are certainly some exceptions, but they are truly exceptions to the general rule. Think of the interview as supplementing and supporting your application instead of as a major factor. If you’re already a strong applicant, the interview will help you appear even stronger, but if you’re too far out of range academically, then a positive interview will have little to no influence.
It’s best to interview during senior year. Some colleges offer interviews to juniors in high school, but junior year is still too early to interview. Eleventh grade is a pivotal year, and by the time the year is over you may have changed significantly, or had experiences you would want to talk about in an interview. Colleges want to get to know the most recent version of who you are, and as close as possible to who you might be when you enroll. In addition, your college list isn’t final in junior year. You may end up not even applying to schools you interview with during junior year. With that in mind, it’s best to wait until fall or winter of senior year before scheduling any interviews.
On-campus interviews and alumni interviews are given the same weight. In almost every instance, there’s no advantage to having an interview on-campus instead of with an alumnus in your area. Colleges understand that not everyone has the time to visit colleges, especially during the school year or if the college is across the country, so students who interview off-campus are not penalized. In fact, many colleges no longer offer interviews on-campus, and an alumni interview may be the only option. The only time it’s more important to have an on-campus interview is if you live in the same city as a college you’re applying to. In that case, it’s usually expected that you will visit campus, and if interviews are an option, it’s highly recommend that you also interview on-campus.
If the option is available to you, it’s generally best to have an interview. Interview reports are usually positive and support what’s already in your application. However, if you request an interview and don’t get one, or you can’t make it to campus, it’s okay. You won’t be penalized if you don’t have an interview, and many colleges don’t even offer the option to interview anymore. If an interview isn’t an option, you can still reach out to the college in other ways to show that you’re a committed applicant.