The Biz by Bentley University

Think back to the first job you interviewed for. Maybe you worked at a local grocery store or restaurant. The manager likely gave you a paper application and asked you a few questions before shaking your hand and talking about your first day within the next week or so.

Little preparation necessary, vague questions with equally vague answers, a mellow atmosphere and a simple answer directly afterward — that interview is far from the experience you’ll get during a college interview. But this isn’t a reason to fret. The college interview is just a different type of meeting that requires a little more planning and care.

We asked Donna Kendall, dean of Undergraduate Admission at Bentley for some tips on how to make sure you take advantage of this valuable time with a counselor. Here’s what she had to say.

“Interviewers want students that apply with purpose, so make sure you know your stuff.”

Start with some studying
First, you should 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? These are questions you may be asked about by the school. Interviewers want students that apply with purpose, so make sure you know your stuff.

Prepare for a few common questions
At the same time, there are a few things almost every interviewer will ask you. 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? You should be preparing for these questions as well. 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, too. Interviewers can often tell when candidates are not being genuine or have memorized answers. Don’t try to be something you’re not during the interview. I can tell right away when a student is telling me what they think I want to hear. That’s not what I’m interested in because often times there isn’t a right answer. The students that 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. Luckily, you can practice keeping your composure in this setting just like practicing anything else. 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.

Try practicing your interview skills with your parents or friends beforehand.Try practicing your interview skills with your parents or friends beforehand.

Fix up your résumé
If you have one, you should plan to bring a copy of your résumé with you for the interview. Most schools don’t require a résumé, but 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. I think 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.

Remember, this is your chance to have face time with someone who knows a lot about the university. This is a big decision and this is one of the best chances you’ll get to learn a few things that are important to you that might help make your decision easier if you are admitted. I would recommend coming prepared with some questions written down, so that you can make sure you didn’t forget to ask anything.

These tips are helpful regardless of whether you are meeting with an admission counselor, current student (who receives special training to conduct interviews) or alumni (who also have special training). The only difference is the type of questions you may ask. All interviews are useful. Check to see if they are evaluative or informational, optional or required.