How To Ace The College Admissions Interview

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An overview of the college admission interview process.

“Hello, My Name Is…"

In addition to the basic application and personal statement, many universities also offer the opportunity for students to interview. These interviews put a face to your paper application and can put you in the minds of admission officers as they make their decisions. However, these interviews can also hinder your college goals if they are not taken seriously.

Who Is The Interviewer?

Who you are interviewed by varied depending on the size, location, and prestige of the university. For prospective students who live far away from the campus, remote interviews may be arranged in an area usually within driving distance of his or her home. These interviews are typically conducted by alumni of the college. In recent years, the objectiveness of these interviewers has been called into question, but they are still utilized because of the number of college applicants interviewing.

Those living within driving distance of the university might be interviewed by an admissions officer or staff member from the college. Though these interviewers might be more selective, they generally look for the same set of skills that alumni are looking for. They also are closer to the decision-making process, a great advantage when it comes to interviewing for your top choice.

What Are They Looking For?

To impress an interviewer, make sure to:

  • Show an interest in the college. Ask a variety of questions about the college. Even if the questions do not concern academics, the interviewer will be happy to answer them for you.
  • Arrive early to the interview. Late-comers can be seen as disinterested or unreliable, two characteristics colleges are definitely not looking for.
  • Talk about yourself. This interview is definitely not the time to be shy. Staff and alumni want to see confidence, leadership, and experience.
  • Bring your work. Colleges do not want to see your algebra homework from last week, but they do want to see work you have done in your spare time. This includes creative writing, architectural designs, art, or research.
  • Bring up any blotches on your record. Now is not the time to banish that D from your memory. If you explain why an incident occurred, colleges are more likely to be forgiving.
  • Dress for success. Appearances do matter, and even though you will not be wearing business casual around campus, the college admissions team wants to know you are serious about your decision.

In general, treat this interview as if it was for your dream job, especially if you are interviewing for one of your top colleges.

What Will They Ask?

Like a normal interview, topics for questions vary. Nevertheless, you should be prepared to answer a variety of questions concerning your academic history, your extracurricular activities, or your reasons for applying to the college. When answering questions, try to:

  • Be succinct. Long-winded and circular answers will only disinterest the interviewer.
  • Relate your answers to the college. What does your experience on the tennis team have to do with getting into your top school?
  • Avoid using fillers, like “hmmm" and “uhhhh." It shows bad leadership capabilities and nervousness.
  • Make eye contact. Lack of eye contact shows lack of confidence.

And finally, when interviewing, make sure to smile. Even if your stomach feels like it is taking a roller coaster ride and your palms are letting loose waterfalls, a smile shows confidence and calms you down.

Rebecca Levin is currently enrolled at the University of California, Irvine, documenting her experience and sharing her personal opinions as a college student in today's changing economy.

Date of original publication:
Updated on: October 06, 2016

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