Some college admissions offices want to know more about you than what is covered in your application; they want to meet you, put a face to a name, and probe your commitment to ensure that you will fit in with their college community! For a student, a college admissions interview is a great opportunity to show an admissions office something about them that it won’t see in the application.
Here are a few do’s and don’ts for success with the college admissions interview:
- Do determine the kind of interview the school conducts: evaluative or informational. In an evaluative interview, your performance will contribute to your overall application. In an informational interview, you’re given the opportunity to learn more about the college, while the college learns a little more about you. Most alumni interviews tend to be informational, while an interview with an admissions officer (or student working for admissions) is most likely evaluative.
- Do arrive early. For an in-person interview, arrive 5-10 minutes early. If you’re meeting virtually, log on 2-3 minutes early.
- Do dress appropriately. Wear “business casual” attire. This means no hoodies or t-shirts.
- Do prepare for the interview. Almost all interviews start with the question, “Tell me about yourself.” Be prepared with a memorable answer conveying your enthusiasm for your chosen major, your future ambitions, and some positive qualities and/or activities you’re involved in.
- Do practice what you want to say beforehand, but don’t sound over rehearsed or robotic. At International College Counselors, we prepare students with mock interviews that can not only help students get used to what an interview feels like, but also gain confidence in their responses.
- Do research. Identify specific aspects about the school that appeal to you (programs, professors, extracurriculars) and talk about them enthusiastically. Remember, an interview is also a way to demonstrate your interest in a college, so show your interviewer that you know why you want to apply there.
- Do speak thoughtfully. Be clear in your answers. Remember it’s not so much what you like (school subjects, books, movies, etc.), but rather how you articulate what you like and why.
- Do ask smart questions of the interviewer that aren’t answered by the college’s website. (This means general questions about average class sizes and the size of the student body, etc.)
- Do send a thank-you note. The note should be sent via email or USPS mail; do not use text! It should include one or two takeaways from your conversation.
- Don’t be shy; interviewers expect you to be positive and talk about yourself. Keep in mind that this isn’t going to be a really intense conversation – the goal is truly to get to know you!
- Don’t bring food or chew gum.
- Don’t look at your cell phone. Make sure it is turned off and in either your pocket or a bag.
- Don’t say you want to go to a college for its reputation or because of the connections you’ll make.
- Don’t say you want to go to a school just because of its location or sports team.
- Don’t ask what your chances are of getting admitted; the admissions process is much more complicated than a simple conversation.
Where does the college admissions interview fit in?
Grades and rigor of curriculum are the top criteria for most colleges. Depending on the college, standardized test scores also rank very high. Then, schools typically look at essays, a student’s demonstrated interest, counselor and teacher recommendations, class rank, and extracurricular activities.
When it comes to admissions decisions, college admissions interviews generally hold the most weight with a collection of elite and private schools. But no matter what school a student is applying to, an interview is a great way to get to know a college and ask questions about it. Interviews may be conducted by an admissions officer, a student hired by admissions, or an alumnus of the school. More and more colleges are offering virtual interviews, but many still conduct them on campus, as well.
For additional assistance with college admissions interview preparation or the college admissions process, contact us at