College interviews are not usually a major factor in admissions decisions, but they can be a great chance for you and a college to get to know each other better. So what should you expect from a college interview? And what’s being expected of you?
Even before the interview begins, there are important things to consider. If you’re interviewing in person, make sure you factor in plenty of time to get lost, find parking, and still arrive calm and collected. If you’re interviewing virtually, don’t skip the prep! Make sure your computer’s camera and microphone are working well in advance, and if you’re having connectivity issues, write to your interviewer before your meeting. Think carefully about your space, too. Choose a blank background – or at least one that isn’t distracting – and be sure that your light sources are in front of you, not behind. Some schools are choosing to solicit short “video profiles” instead of interviews. These are self-recorded videos that will convey much of the same information as an interview. Usually, the same advice applies here as to virtual interviews, but schools that are going this route often provide their own tips, so be sure to refer to the specific school’s website.
Whether in person or online, choose an outfit that presents maturity and polish, something like what you would wear for Picture Day at school. Avoid t-shirts, cargo shorts, and flip-flops; opt instead for collared shirts or sweaters, dress pants or khakis, and some nicer closed-toed shoes. And don’t forget about these important accessories: a pen and a notebook. You’ll hopefully be learning as much about the school as the interviewer learns about you, so you want to look engaged and be prepared to take notes. An interview is a conversation, not an interrogation!
The conversational aspect of the interview is really important to keep in mind. Avoid one-word answers as well as longer responses that feel rehearsed. Be prepared to talk specifically about the school you’re interviewing with, to give robust answers, and to elaborate and keep the conversation going. If you need to think about an answer that’s fine! Take a breath and be thoughtful in your response. Interviewers generally like to see that you’re taking their questions seriously, and there’s no need to fill a pause with an uncomfortable phrase like, “that’s a great question” or to thank them for asking it.
With so much to think about before you even walk through the door or turn on your camera, don’t forget to brainstorm some answers to common interview questions. Some of the most frequent topics of discussion are your interest in the school you’re interviewing with, your activities outside of school, and your role models or favorite teachers. The last question you’ll almost certainly be asked is, “Do you have any questions for me?” Don’t let it catch you off guard! Think ahead about what you might want to ask your interviewer. Don’t ask questions that have answers easily found on the school’s website. Also, be sure to tailor your questions to the person who is interviewing you (e.g., an alumni representative versus a current student versus an admissions officer).
More in-depth, personalized help with your college interviews is available through our services at Expert Admissions.