College Interviews: Meet the College Reps

College interviews with candidates for admissions are required by many private colleges and universities. Many schools will arrange for you to meet with an interviewer who lives in your area, usually an alumnus.

Other colleges will request that you meet with an interviewer on the campus itself. If you are given a choice, take this one.

Some don't require an college interview at all, and still others offer the option. TAKE IT!

For schools that require a personal interview, you'll need to be prepared.

Remember in the admissions information, I mentioned that the application essay was the most important part of your admissions protfolio - your chance to shine?

Well, this is your second big opportunity to show your "wonderfulness" and fabulous potential as a student is the personal interview.

Schedule your most important college interview as your last one, so you can be gaining experience from the early interviews.

If the interview is optional, why should I do it?

  • Most of the time, the college interview can help you. You are a real person, not one of thousands of applicants.

  • The interview adds to the information you put on your application, and may allow you to improve upon it or to explain those parts that are not as strong as you might like them to be. (I was abducted by aliens at the beginning of my junior year, and hence my grades are not as high as I would like...)

  • The college interview is an excellent chance to learn more about the school and to ask questions that show your interest, and demonstrate that you have researched the college, its culture, and its programs.

  • If you are a "borderline" applicant and the interviewer is impressed with you, he/she may write a letter recommending your acceptance

  • The interviewer will be an important contact for you throughout the admissions process.

A secret you need to know about the interview

College interviews are not as important as you might think, depending on the school. In fact, at some schools the college interview may be one of the least important parts of the process.

At others it is extremely important, and the fact that you were asked to interview may be a sign that you are a serious candidate for admissions.

I cannot stress enough the need to practice ahead of time for the interview.

Should you still do it? Yes.

  • Colleges may use the interview in various ways:

    • To assess your interest

    • To 'sell" you if they are really interested in you

    • As an additional stop if they are not sure about you

    • Sometimes to verify their decision to reject you

    • To weed out people who may have looked great on paper, but in person don't have the personality that fits into X university.
  • As a litmus test in the process

    How do I prepare?

  • Look through all the notes you made before writing you college essays, any questionaires you filled out, your Brag Book, and your high school transcript.

    Learning Disabled College Applicants - go here for campus interview guide

  • Do your homework about the college where you are interviewing

  • If possible, practice your interview with a parent or your college advisor

  • If given a choice, schedule the college interview on campus

  • If you know any, talk to graduates of the school to hear their opinions and comments

  • Don't just talk about yourself

  • Prepare your list of questions about the school or about the interviewer. These are just examples, think of your own.
    • When you graduated from college, did you feel prepared for a career?

    • If you were starting college today, what would you do differently?

    • Was there an important non-academic lesson you learned from your own educational process?

    • What do you think is the most difficult part of college life?

  • Prepare answers for the questions you may be asked:

    • Why do you want to attend this university?

    • What are your strengths?

    • What are your weaknesses? Important comment: When preparing for an interview, always plan on being asked this question. Think about it ahead of time and do your best to put it in a positive light. For example: Because I tend to procrastinate on things I find difficult, I have learned to discipline myself to break those activities into small parts to get them accomplished.

      Or: Because math is hard for me, I know I have to work harder on it than say, history.

      I am not as organized as I think I should be, so I find that if I make lists I can get more done.

      What not to say: I don't have any weaknesses or faults.

    • What have you done to prepare for college?

    • Tell me about yourself? (Limit this to three or four things)

    • What do you do in your spare time?

    • What kind of music? (Personally I would not, for instance, mention violent Rap, but hey! That's just me. As a female interviewer, I would be biased against an applicant who thought it was cool.)

    • What is your favorite movie, book, author?

    • Do you have any hobbies?

    • Tell me about your family?

    • Tell me about your childhood.

    • Tell me about your extracurricular/volunteer activities

    • Which of your accomplishments do you regard as the most important? (Not "The Big Game")

    • What historical figure do you regard as the most important?

  • Do and Don't for the college interview

  • Do not bring up that shoplifting arrest your sophomore year, or any other encounters with law enforcement, including numbers of speeding ticket, or that you are wanted in 50 states, Guam and Puerto Rico, or any other illegal acts.

  • Don't bring up any drug or alcohol history you may have. If you are smart enough to get into college, you should be smart enough to stop using dangerous substances.

  • Don't discuss sex and your personal history

  • Do skip over your membership in radical associations, including such things as anarchy groups, or cults. The majority of colleges in the U.S. have an undisputed left-wing tilt, some more than others, but tone it down if you belong to political groups on either side of the spectrum. Remember, you are trying to make a favorable impression on the interviewer and you will have no way of knowing his or her opinions on these topics.

  • Do not mention that you want to end poverty, cure world hunger, save a village in the Amazon, cure AIDs, or any other unrealistic or idealist goals.

  • Do stay honest.

  • Do think before you speak.

  • Do remember that any topics that cause your college interviewer to look uncomfortable should cause you to veer off that subject.

  • Don't pose as an expert on something you know nothing about.

  • Do not feel obligated to tell the interviewer your SAT/ACT scores, or where else you have applied, unless you want to do so.

  • Do ask yourself if you present yourself as a person one would like to be stuck in an elevator with for five hours.

    Other suggestions

  • Learn about social, political and economic events in the world. Show that you have read a newspaper or magazine, and that you can enter into a logical conversation about the event.

    You do not have to be an expert, but you need to be able to analyze events and demonstrate critical thinking skills. Unfortunately, this important skill is is not taught in our high schools today, and your college propfessors will expect it of you.

    Do not respond with trite sayings or cliches that indicate no thought or analysis behind your answer.

  • If you do not know that answer to a current events question, say so and move on.

  • The matter of speech: Try to limit your use of "like" and "you know" and other teen-age sayings. Use pronouns, adverbs and adjectives correctly: for instance, when asked, you are not "good", you are "well."

    Use of the F___ word is out of the question.

  • Speak natrually and avoid excessive gestures.

  • The matter of attire! Sales people say you never have a second chance to make a good first impression.

    No shorts, prison-garb jeans that are 40 sizes too big, no navel views, no halter tops. In spite of the belief by half the members of the U.S. Girls Volley Ball Team that flip-flops were appropriate wear for a White House dinner, they weren't, and neither will they be for a college interview. Remove the tongue-stud as well.

    The Conclusion of the Interview

  • Ask the interviewer if he/she thinks are a good match for this school. If they ask you the same question you are not obligated to reply unless you are absolutely sure this is your first choice.

  • Thank the interviewer and follow it up with a personal note.

    • Write it soon after the college interview - you will still be fresh in the interviewer's mind.

    • Make the tone of your note match the tone of the interview, formal, informal, casual.

    • Send an expression of gratitude for the interviewer's time and help.

    • Mention something you like about the school.

    • Refer to something you discussed in the college interview.

    • Keep it brief.

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