Overall, interviews are an opportunity for a college to get more information about you in a more informal, personal setting. Think of it this way: The only real information they have on you is a big folder of documents — your essay and any supplementary essays, your transcript, your resume, your list of activities, and so on. This is your chance to rise above the “on-paper you” and connect with the interviewer — and, by extension, the college itself.
How do these interviews work?
Interviews are generally conducted by someone affiliated with the school — whether that’s someone from the admissions office, an alumnus, or even a current student. How much the interview “matters” can vary from school to school. It may not make or break your application, but you should take it seriously as an important component of a complete application process. And if a school offers you an interview, always accept. Not doing so can make you look uninterested in the school at best or less-than-personable at worst.
Of course, some schools don’t even do interviews, or conduct interviews only with a select group of students. Don’t sweat it if this is the case for a school you’re applying to — all colleges are different, and no one way of doing things is necessarily better than another.
How should I prepare?
Remember all your basic interview mores: Look presentable (business attire should be good), get there early, brush your teeth beforehand, be polite and outgoing, and so on. These things might seem unimportant, but they’re vital for making a good impression.
Make sure to do your research about the college. Remember that many colleges take demonstrated interest into account when evaluating your application, so displaying a strong knowledge base about the school in the interview is a good idea.
What will we talk about?
Questions like “what do you like about X college?” or “what makes you a good fit for Y university?” are to be expected, so make sure you’ve thought about your answers to those questions. That being said, be careful not to memorize some canned spiel about the twelve reasons you and this college are a perfect match. It’s good to be prepared, but you don’t want to sound over-rehearsed. Keep things light and natural. (Alternatively, just bring this article and read it verbatim. Your interviewer will love that.)
Additionally, if there are parts of your profile on paper that need explaining — anything from a drop in your high school grades to a mark on your disciplinary record — now is a good time to discuss that. Obviously you should use your judgment in determining what is and isn’t appropriate to discuss in this setting, but it’s usually better to discuss potentially problematic or inconvenient things face-to-face.
More than anything, be personable! Yes, this interview is about you. But that doesn’t mean you should talk about yourself the entire time. The ability to forge personal connections will be vital in college and beyond, so think of it as a conversation rather than a chance to monologue at the interviewer.
Do you have any questions for me?
Ah, the dreaded question that comes at the end of most interviews, which has long stricken fear into the hearts of interviewees. If you don’t have questions for your interviewer, you should. Try to engage them regarding their own experience at the college — for instance, if they’re an alumnus, ask them about their experience at the school.
But to really demonstrate interest, ask deeper questions pertaining to your own desires to go to the school. If the theater program is a big selling point for you but you haven’t been able to find that much information about it on the website or college tours, now’s the time to ask.
What should I do after the interview?
It’s always a good idea to send your interviewer a thank-you note. You probably already have your interviewer’s email address, so you can send them a quick note that way, typically no more than a few hours after the interview concludes. Use it to reiterate your interest in the school and say what a pleasure it was to talk with them. This is not only good for your chances with the school — it’s just basic politeness, and you can never go wrong with that.