Make a Great Impression in Your College Interviews

This article focuses on strategies you can use to during your college interviews to give yourself the best chance possible for admission. If you have not yet done so, check out Go See Campus' steps to take before your interviews, since the advance preparation you do can help a lot.

If you have already gone through those guidelines, you are ready to learn how to make the most of your interviews.

After you're finished reading, check out part 3 of the article, "The Admissions Interview: Three Factors Colleges Consider!"

Who Conducts College Interviews?

Some universities offer college interviews on-campus with their admissions staff. Others connect candidates with alumni volunteers in geographic areas near the candidates. Still others make their representatives available at events in regions where they recruit. The approach, perspective, and information that your interviewer brings to your discussion may vary based on these factors.

Basics for College Interviews

The tips covered below help you present yourself as a capable and considerate candidate for admission.

Arrive early for your college interviews. Getting there early helps you start off right with your admissions representative. It also allows you time to relax and to review what you learned from your pre-interview research. Check out the location where your interview will take place in advance so that you have no problem finding it.

Dress in "business casual" clothing. With few exceptions, this is a good guideline to follow. Think of the experience as a job interview. Professional dress shows that you consider the conversation an important event for which you have prepared.

Get rid of any distractions. Whether it is a pair of sunglasses, flashy jewelry, gum-chewing, or a mobile phone that is vibrating or ringing, remove anything that might cause your interviewer to lose focus on your conversation.

Greet your interviewer appropriately. Generally, this means introducing yourself, making eye contact, shaking hands, and thanking them in advance for their time. Call interviewers by their appropriate titles and last names, such as "Dean Hart." Or, if it is an interview with an alum, use "Mr./Mrs. Hart."

Follow-up with a note. Within one week of your college interviews, send thank-you notes to the representatives with whom you spoke. You might also provide additional information or materials related to issues you discussed so that you can continue to build the relationships.

What Counts In College Interviews

Go See Campus' article on advanced preparation covers a lot of the questions you may be asked. However, the way you handle yourself will make as important an impression as your responses. Remember these tips for your college interviews.

Show why you want to attend. Getting admitted is not only about what makes you stand out. It is also about why your interest in that university stands out. There are plenty of people who want to go to highly-regarded universities because, well, they're highly-regarded.

But what makes your application personal? It may be an academic program that is totally aligned with your interests or a school culture that is in tune with the type of person you are. Let the interviewer see why your interest is personal, and your passion and personality will come through.

Demonstrate the interest you have in the interviewer as well as the school. When you connect with your interviewer, the interview has a better chance of evolving into a two-way discussion of your interest in the university and your qualifications. To make this connection, listen well to what your interviewer says and try to elaborate upon his/her points.

Make your challenges into strengths. Your application may have an area of concern, such as a poor grade in one of your courses. Even if you are not asked about it, you may want to bring it up at the end if the interviewer allows you time to do so.

Prepare an answer in advance of your interview about what caused the issue and how you are addressing it. For example, you might have gotten the low grade because you were handling a family hardship. Talk about the way you have dealt with the issues you have faced and, hopefully, how your grades have improved.

Nonverbal cues can help you. For example, make good eye contact and sit in a position that demonstrates interest. Avoid slouching or crossing your arms, which can come across as boredom.

Be the type of person a university would want to have. In other words, be likable. Present your qualifications with confidence and not arrogance. Your advance preparation and mock interviews should help you in understanding the difference. Also, be honest with your answers, especially with factual details of your application. And never make the school feel as though you are not interested in it. Otherwise, it should not be part of your college interviews.

Expect the unexpected. You will almost certainly get a question or two for which you were not planning in your college interviews. There is just no way to anticipate and memorize an answer to something like, "Describe a perfect day at your high school." This is okay. The interviewer may just want to see how you think creatively in new situations.

If you do not have an answer immediately, say that you would like a moment to think about the question. Then, do your best to offer a response. If possible, talk the interviewer through your thinking as you give your response to show how you work through problems critically.

Develop Your Own Questions for College Interviews

Most likely, the interviewer will ask you whether you have any questions for him/her. This is a great opportunity to demonstrate your interest in attending the university. 

The number of questions you ask will depend on how much you want to know and how much time there is available with your interviewer. Here are some things to think about when prepping a question list:

  • Avoid asking the interviewer a question that your research should have answered. It might make him/her think you have not read the material that is already available.
  • Preface your questions by showing the work you have done already to get to know the school. For example, "I'm really interested in majoring in marketing. I've read about the business school's marketing program and went through some of the course descriptions online. Are there opportunities through some of the classes to intern with marketing companies in the area?"
  • A great question to ask at the end of your conversation: "We talked about some of the steps I've taken already. Is there anything else you recommend to give me the best chance at being admitted?" The interviewer may be able to offer advice specific to your application. The question also shows that you want to do everything possible to attend the school.

With some practice, the advice above will start to come more naturally as part of your college interviews, and you will find yourself able to integrate each tip into the conversations you have.

Finally, remember to follow up with your interviewer after your trip to campus. Good luck!

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