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Best Practices for Virtual College Interviews

Feb 4, 2021

Best Practices for Virtual College Interviews

So you’re done with college apps! Congratulations! Next on the agenda is nailing the college interview. Interviews are conducted by alumni and are a great way for colleges to learn more about you as a person outside of how you look on paper. 

Although the interview process might seem demanding and stressful, most college interviews tend to be informal conversations in which you and the interviewer can get to know each other! Use the college interview as a great opportunity to showcase your talents and learn more about the school you’re applying to. 

Due to COVID, all interviews are now being conducted virtually, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a productive chat with your interviewer! Here are some of the best practices for virtual interviews. 

Take Initiative when Scheduling

When the interviewer first reaches out to you, take a moment to thank them for their time in your initial response. 

Then, take initiative and propose a series of times for the two of you to meet! In college, one of the most important skills that you can have is time management, and because your day isn’t as preset as in high school, you are more likely to be productive if you take initiative and schedule your own study time, activities, and meetings. Taking initiative to schedule your meeting demonstrates confidence and organization, two traits that will take you a long way in college and will show your interviewer that you are prepared for the rigorous course load and student experience that their college will offer!

It’s best to propose a couple of times that work with your schedule to increase the chances that one of your proposed times will also work with your interviewer’s schedule! The interviewer will be impressed.

You might also be asked to choose between platforms such as Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts, and FaceTime. You can propose using whichever platform you are most comfortable with, but always offer to download an alternative platform in case the interviewer has a specific preference.  

Dress to Impress

Showing confidence is not just a matter of actions but a matter of appearances as well. Just as you should demonstrate your confidence by taking initiative, dressing well will allow your confidence to shine through in the interview. If you’re a guy, you can wear a nice button-down, and if you’re a girl, you can wear a nice blouse or even a dress. Looking your best will show the interviewer that you put time and effort into your appearance, and this, in turn, will show the school that you’re interviewing for that you care about presentation. Good first impressions are always a nice bonus! 

Making sure that you have an appropriate background during your Zoom interview will also make a big difference in terms of presentation. If possible, find a blank wall to sit in front of during the interview so that there are no external distractions! This will ensure that the interview will go as smoothly as possible! 

Create a distraction-free virtual environment

To ensure an optimal interview experience, put your phone and computer on do not disturb for the duration of your interview so that neither you nor your interviewer are distracted by notifications. You should also let your family members know that you’re having an interview so they don’t interrupt, and close all other applications running in the background of your computer so that you can give your interviewer your undivided attention.

Come to your interview prepared

The various moving parts may feel a bit overwhelming at first, especially if you’re eyeing an interview at your dream school, but remember to relax and centralize your core passion for the school as a grounding force.

A stellar follow-up email won’t mean much after a lifeless and dull interview, and even the finest of suits can’t hide your lack of knowledge about an institution, so prepare, prepare, prepare! Know both yourself and your dream school like the back of your hand. 

To prepare for this new virtual format, be sure to cultivate a confidence that teems through the screen, an airtight understanding of the school’s unique value proposition, and an articulate style that portrays you and your academic goals in the best possible light.

Ask Insightful Questions

So you’ve reached the end of the interview! It’s gone swimmingly so far (phew!), you’re feeling super confident about reaching the home stretch, and you’ve truly perfected your delivery of the concluding “Thank you!” Amazing!  But what about that dreaded final inquiry?

“Do you have any questions?”

Do not panic! This question is neither rhetorical nor scheming, so it’s best to just relax and approach with honest curiosity! 

The most impactful questions demonstrate at least one of the following four qualities: (1) enthusiasm about the school, (2) enthusiasm about the interviewer’s story, (3) familiarity with the school’s academic, social and cultural aspects, and (4) a solid understanding of your own personal goals and precisely how the institution will help you reach them. 

Here are some great examples!

  • “Of all the courses and texts you encountered in the core curriculum, do any resonate with or inform your present career?”
  • “What is your fondest memory of X school tradition?”
  • “If you could describe the X University student in 3 words, what would they be?”
  • “Which special offerings did your major present at X University that you knew you couldn’t get anywhere else?”
  • “What is the biggest way the X University shaped either your character or interests throughout your four years of study?”

Also, don’t be afraid to allow the content of the previous conversation to drive your questions. Maybe you and the interviewer are HUGE Toni Morrison fans, and you can’t help but pick his brain further on the contemporary implications of Jazz! Or maybe she’s a bonafide Wall Street titan with your dream resume, and the market activity of the day has you brimming with excitement as an aspiring stock trader! 

Let that natural eagerness drive 2-3 insightful and well-composed questions and you’ll be golden!

Send a (Concise!) Follow-Up

A kind, appreciative follow-up note is like icing on the cake for a successful interview! 

Many students don’t know this, but interviewers actually don’t get compensated for the time they spend speaking with you. A simple email conveying your gratitude can therefore go a long way! 

After beginning with a clear and honest “Thank you,” a great follow-up will highlight specific details in the conversation that most deeply aided and resonated with you. If there was a clear gem of advice that emerged in the discussion, don’t shy away from explaining the impact it had on you! 

You’re not aiming for a Pulitzer here, so don’t stress too much about extensive length or poeticism. As long as you’ve double checked for grammatical errors and syntactical simplicity, a short and sweet email will enable you to get your point across without overwhelming your interviewer’s busy schedule. 

Send the email shortly after the call, and no more than 3-4 hours, if possible, and you’re good to go!

We hope these tips help you feel confident and prepared for your virtual college interviews. Best of luck!