After all the recommendation letters are gathered, SATs taken, and applications sent, there still may be another step for high school seniors taking on the college application process. Though many schools do not require it, the admissions interview is an option for many hopeful students. Preparing for your college interview is essential, as this meeting is an excellent opportunity to build rapport with admissions officers, elaborate on points discussed in your application essay, and let your personality and communication skills give you an extra boost toward “Accepted!”
The admissions interview will also serve as a preview to what you can expect in potential interviews for internships or jobs, and can enable you to get started on perfecting those crucial skills. It’s natural to be nervous, but with a little preparation and some helpful tips, you can nip the nerves in the bud and be ready to rock any interview.
1. Practice. At this point in your high school career, it is not likely that you have yet conducted a formal interview of this caliber. It can absolutely be intimidating, so shake off some of the nerves by rehearsing. Have your mom, dad, or favorite teacher hold a mock interview, so you can become comfortable with the motions from the initial handshake to the drilling questions. Be sure to not over-rehearse, so that your answers sound robotic. The point of practicing should be to familiarize you with the mechanics of the situation, so that you feel loose and prepared to speak to your interviewer.
2. Maintain a professional appearance. A trick of the trade for interviewing in the real world to always dress for the job you want, and that it is better to overdress than to under-dress. True, once you get to college you’ll probably spend a lot of time in not-quite-clean jeans and t-shirts with your school’s logo. But for the interview, dress the part of a professional, responsible, respectable student who will be an asset to the campus community. Girls will do best in tailored pants or skirt suits or office-appropriate dresses. Boys will go a long way in suits or, at least, khakis and sport jackets with ties. A well-groomed appearance will present you as attentive to detail and respectful of the school and its administrators. If you bring any documents with you, print off fresh copies with no water, ink, or other stains. And don’t forget to get rid of the gum!
3. Know what to expect, and what they expect of you. If you’re applying to attend a school, hopefully you’ve researched it quite a bit. But if you haven’t gotten around to it yet, be sure to do so before your interview. You don’t need to know the first president of the college or where the dorm buildings get their names from, but do make sure to be familiar with the school’s mission and strengths as well as any recent news concerning it. Know the name of your interviewer, his/her position, office location, and all the details of your interview to ensure you’re there on time. Practice a few standard interview questions, be prepared to talk about your academic history with detail, and review your application materials beforehand so you know what they already know about you.
Interviews are often your only in-person opportunity to demonstrate to the college or other interviewer why you not only would benefit from them, but also why they need YOU! Remember your personality, but don’t forget professional manners and appropriate conduct. And don’t ever underestimate the impact of a bright smile and a firm handshake.