How to Ace a College Interview

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If your dream school has an option for an admission interview–  take it! (Some even require an interview.) An in-person or virtual interview provides another opportunity for you to share more about yourself — beyond test scores and academics — and let an admission counselor know why their college or university is a match for you.

Interviewers want students who apply with purpose, so make sure you know your stuff. Here are some tips on how to prepare so you can take advantage of this valuable time with a counselor, current student, or alumni interviewer.

Download our tips on How to Ace a College Interview here!

Research the institution. Focus on the specific institution you’re applying to. Why do you want to go to this school over any others? What program are you interested in and why? What can you contribute to the university? How do your goals tie into the school’s mission or philosophy?

 (Hint: the school’s social media accounts provide solid and up-to-date news that may spark conversation.)

Prepare for questions about your character and skills. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Can you describe a leadership position you’ve had at school? What’s something you struggled with, and how did you overcome it? What do you do when you’re not in class? Think carefully about topics that you can speak passionately about that also communicate something about your character.

Always be yourself. Your character is a very important element of the process. Interviewers can often tell when candidates are not being genuine or have memorized answers, so don’t try to be something you’re not. Students who stand out are authentic and passionate about what they believe in; it shows.

Practice, practice, practice. This is often easier said than done. Feeling comfortable in an interview that may have a profound impact on your life can be a tall order, but practice will help you keep your cool. Ask a friend or family member to conduct mock interviews with you, asking questions a counselor may ask. This will help you refine your answers and increase your comfort when you’re sitting in that chair.

Update your résumé. If you have one, you should plan to bring a copy of your résumé with you for the interview. Updating the document beforehand can give you some more inspiration for how you can answer questions about your achievements. Also, if you lose your train of thought during the interview, the counselor can refer to your résumé to bring up other activities you’ve been involved with.

Prepare your list of questions. As with most interviews, candidates normally have an opportunity to ask a few questions at the end of the interview. This portion of the meeting is critical. Asking thoughtful, composed questions specific to the institution shows you care, and you’ve put some thought into this. The answers to your questions can also help you determine if the school will be the right fit for you, so don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions.

 (Hint: If you are doing an alumni interview, the questions will vary. Google the person you’re meeting to find out where they work and the kind of work they do. Looking at their LinkedIn profile could provide insight into commonalities.)

Dress appropriately. A good rule of thumb is business casual. Some schools will provide a dress code, so check the website or call if you have questions.

Turn off your cell phone. Don’t text, take a call or check your social media during the interview. (We had to say it!)

Follow-Up: A thoughtful, hand-written thank you note or email can go a long way.  Make sure you ask for the interviewer’s business card if they don’t offer it, so that you can follow-up. 

Choosing a college is a big decision and an interview is one of the best chances you’ll get to learn a few things that might help make your decision easier if you are admitted – and maybe even increase the odds of your acceptance.

Download our tips today!

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