This series of posts on nailing the college admissions interview as examined why colleges offer interviews, the types of college interviews and interviewers, your objectives in preparing for college interviews, and how to make a good impression.
Today we review some general tips for success, especially as you think about how you might answer various questions you may be asked.
- Remember that the interview is a conversation. It is not an interrogation. Be ready for the give-and-take of a relaxed chat. Admissions officers like working with young people, and most have become skilled at putting students at ease.
- As you prepare, consider the three or four most important aspects of yourself that you want to communicate in the interview. Consider academics, activities, personal characteristics, and goals for the future.
- Students who can control the direction of the conversation stand out. Again, this is a conversation like one you might have with a teacher or coach. You have ideas you want to communicate, so don’t hesitate to guide the conversation toward those aspects of yourself that you want to highlight.
- Answer questions with openness and honesty. If the answer to the question posed is “I don’t know,” then say “I don’t know the answer to that question, but what I can tell you is this.” Don’t pretend.
- Frame your answers positively. For instance, if asked about your least favorite subject, answer honestly, but try to extract something positive about the teacher, the course material, or something interesting you have learned in the class—despite the fact that it is your least favorite subject.
- Have ready two or three specific, informed questions about the college. Here your research is essential. Check out current news from the college, as well as information about specific professors, programs, study abroad opportunities, and research centers. For example, “I noticed that Professor Germ received a big grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the effectiveness of flu vaccines. Will undergraduates have an opportunity to work on his project? In general, how are students selected to contribute to research projects in the science departments?”
- Also, don’t ask questions for which the answers are easily found on the website. For instance, questions like “how many students go this school?” or “do you require the SAT test for admission?” or “how does the core curriculum work here?” reveal that you have not done your homework. You can’t impress the interviewer that you really want to attend if you don’t know the most basic of facts about the school.
Stay tuned for the next installment of our series on how to nail the college admissions interview, in which we will review what you should do after the interview is over.