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Succeeding at the college admissions interview

Ace your college interview with these tips! Show you've done your homework about the school, share your passions, and ask insightful questions. Remember, it's a conversation, not a quiz. Be ready to chat about academics, extracurriculars, and your interests. Practice makes perfect!

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Video transcript

- For the schools that I worked at that did evaluative interviews, it was always several things that I was looking for and I think the way to think about an interview is very much a conversation. Admissions people by nature are chatty people. They like getting to know you. They're not really looking to catch you in anything. They want to have a good conversation with you and see what you're interested in and really try to get to know you. So, coming into that interview I was always looking for students A, who would one, done their homework about my school. You know, so did they come in knowing a lot about my institution and ready to sort of talk about that? How it fits them, but also how they might contribute to it. - Talk about your experiences. Talk about what you've been involved with. Add a layer of depth that we wouldn't know if we just read an essay or saw the activity listed on a resume. - If you want to apply to selective and highly selective schools, you need to learn how to talk about yourself. That's a skill, and especially doing it in a verbal way. A lot of students, I would say to them, it could be very easy if I said do you, you know, tell me a little bit about how your best friend would describe you. In your head you could probably come up with several examples and things they might say, but to say that out loud for the first time might be a difficult thing to do. I know a lot of students who would actually not like that question at all because they don't like talking about themselves. You know, if I gave them the option of, you could write me a two page paper about how your best friend would describe you or you could stick yourself in the eye with your pen, what would be less painful? A lot of kids would go boom, be done, and be excited about that because they're not used to talking about themselves. So, going into an interview, you definitely want to be thinking about, what am I comfortable with? How can I talk about myself? And in different areas of my life. So, my academic life, my extracurricular life, maybe a little about my family. These are all areas that interviewers might talk about. - What you want to do to prepare yourself is not think of it as a formal job interview but an opportunity for you to learn more about the institution and to discuss your interest in that institution, why you're applying to that school. Maybe there's a particular program or a particular professor that you're interested in learning more about that really sort of encouraged you to apply to that institution. Prepare yourself by coming prepared with questions to ask that interviewer. - And don't ask them questions you can get out of a guidebook, right? You know, ask them questions hat they can answer personally. A lot of times it might be a recent graduate. Ask them what their experience was like. Was it what they thought it was gonna be like? What has it been since they've graduated? Have they liked the alumni network in terms of helping them get jobs? If it's somebody who's my age, you know, you can ask them a little bit about, you know, how long have you worked here? What's your take on this school? What do you think the strengths are? Or look, I'm really interested in double majoring. I know I can, but how easy is that? 'Cause that's hard to differentiate in the catalog. Or, you know, the really hard thing is can you tell me a little bit about what you think the sort of philosophy of student life is here? Like, I think that's a great question to ask 'cause that's really what students want to get at, but especially if they're in the summer and kids aren't around, that's really hard to figure out. - And of course, be prepared to answer questions about yourself. About what interests you, what you love about not only school, but your other interests and hobbies, and also to engage that interviewer in a more conversation like setting. They're not going to sit there and shoot various questions at you. They might ask you a couple questions, but it really is just to get a conversation going. - Admissions officers are going to ask you questions in the academic arena, right? So, and that's fair game, so what are you excited about? What subjects have you really, you know, loved in high school? Are those things you want to continue with in college? Is there are certain teacher or a certain way of teaching that's really got you excited about this? I think all of that is fair game. I always talk to students to say look, make sure you're able to sort of articulate why you love math. Not just that I'm a math guy, but why? Right, like what gets you excited about math? And why do you think you'd be a good fit to... What about, the, say, Williams math program would be really exciting for you, here? All right, so academic stuff is game. If you say I love the 60s and I spent a lot of time reading about the 60s, and, you know, I was an American studies major. I loved that time period too. You've opened yourself up to me asking you a lot of questions about that. If you don't know about that stuff, you open the gate, I think it's fair game for me to go into that gate. You know, it's not fair for an admissions officer to say what do you think about the art from the 19th Century? What's your favorite period? Because you may have no interest in that. But if you say I love art from the 19th Century and I'm an art history major, I may go right into that. So, again, academics is always gonna be on the table. They're gonna certainly wanna know about your extracurriculars, what are you involved in? What do you like? What do you think you might want to do in college? - If you're talking about something that you've done, talk about the why behind what you've done. Talk about the passion. Talk about the energy, you know. Talk about the time that you put into it. Talk about the emotions of the experience as opposed to thinking there's a certain thing that we want to hear or just worrying about your articulation. - Some colleges have a secondary purpose for college interviews and that is to sort of gauge how much interest you have in them. If you go to a website, if you go to the college website it'll give you some information about what's the purpose of the interview, but also, is it required, is it not required, you know, those sorts of things and if the interview is strongly suggested or required, obviously, that's something you probably want to take advantage of. And schools will look at that and see, especially if it's strongly required or just, I'm sorry, strongly encouraged and you don't take advantage of that, the school may read that as you're just not as interested in us. I know, you know, from personal experience, we've had schools that will say to us your students are within two hours of us, you know, unless they're from a low income background and don't have the opportunity to come to us, we're going to expect them to come and if they don't, and do a tour, do an information session, maybe do our interview, we're probably going to read that as being less interested. - If you are granted an interview and feel like you may not be able to participate for whatever reason. Maybe it's distance, maybe it's a scheduling issue, it's okay to let that institution know and communicate with them and perhaps offer an alternative such as a phone interview or a Skype interview. - Again, some schools, they're gonna put a lot of emphasis on an interview. A lot of other schools, you know, may not have any. So, it's understanding sort of what the process is with the interview as well. So, again, it's something you're gonna potentially do in this process and it's something to get prepared for.