The College Interview – It’s Worth the Trouble

September 26, 2010

I hope everyone has had a smooth start to the school year.  It’s important that our students keep in mind that academics are very important right now, for both juniors and seniors.  Fall semester grades will definitely count for seniors as updates will be sent to schools even after an application is completed.

Today’s focus will be the college interview.  I think it’s always in a student’s best interest to request an interview. Some colleges will not conduct formal interviews, but there may be an opportunity to meet the admissions officer who handles your geographic area. At the very least, it would be important for your student to make contact with the admissions officer by e-mail or phone to ask a question and give them a chance to make a connection.

Long distance interviews can be done if a college representative visits your area, by a local alumnus, or possibly by skype. Some schools have deadlines coming up soon to schedule these for students applying early action or decision.

The idea of an interview is daunting to some students. If your child is shy or not inclined to open up to other adults, this is a good opportunity for them to practice beforehand. These are lifelong skills that will serve them well.

Tips for students:

An interview is a chance to emphasize some of your more positive aspects.  Particular areas to get across should be thought about beforehand – what makes you stand out? Are there any issues on your application that need an explanation?  (lower academics due to moving, illness, family issues).

It is fine to start with some friendly chatting – try to relax and be yourself.  Plan on spending 2/3 of the time talking about academics and 1/3 on extracurricular activities.  Don’t just rattle off accomplishments but follow the interviewer’s lead.

Be prepared to show your love of learning – comment on what classes you enjoy in high school. Try to get across what you might bring to their college campus. Be enthusiastic about something that you are passionate about.

Review the website in advance so you are quite familiar with the campus and the academic offerings. Have a question or two prepared that is not readily apparent on the website. It could be something specific to an area of interest or more general. (How much input do students have in planning their curriculum?  Do students typically form friendships with faculty? Or whatever is important to you)

Here are a few typical questions the interviewer may ask you:

  • What have you read recently / What is your favorite book?
  • Tell me about your high school /What are your favorite classes / favorite teacher?
  • Why do you want to attend this college/ Why would you be a good match for this college?
  • What do you do outside of school / in the summer?
  • What are your strengths/weaknesses?
  • Do you have any accomplishments that you are most proud of?
  • What are you thinking of studying?
  • What other schools are you considering?
  • How would your friends describe you ?
  • What new experience would you like to try in college?

Some schools recommend having a copy of your school record with you and others just want to have a conversation.  Your dress should be neat –avoid jeans or t-shirts. A firm handshake and good eye contact will help leave a good impression. Most of all, be friendly and enthusiastic, and be yourself.  At the end, express your continued interest in their school , thank the interviewer,  and ask for their business card. You will want to write them a thank you note as soon as possible.

Good luck!

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