College Admissions Interview

Five Tips to Ace a College Admissions Interview

by | May 8, 2020

Some colleges require or offer the opportunity for students to have an interview as part of their college admissions process. While the COVID-19 pandemic has made these interviews harder, some colleges will still offer the opportunity, and students should take advantage of a virtual meeting when they can. 

There are two basic types of college interview: evaluative and informative. An evaluative interview aims to determine whether a student has the skills, knowledge, and aptitude for a particular program. In some cases, it will be a rigorous meeting with a panel of interviewers who will assess your subject matter knowledge and depth. 

An informative interview offers help to students in understanding a university and its offerings, although often, interviewers will send an evaluation to the university afterward. It might involve an informal meeting with an alumnus or admissions staff member or a meeting with a staff member after a virtual college tour. 

For schools that offer the opportunity to take an admissions interview, it’s almost always a good idea to take advantage of the chance to present yourself more thoroughly than you can in an application. Of course, when schools require the admissions interview, you’ve got to do it!

Here are five essential tips on how to ace your admissions interviews:

Be Prepared

This advice will hold you in good stead for an admissions interview or a job interview. Prepare by learning about the college you’re applying to and why you’d want to attend. Find out about their culture and academic programs, and what makes them a good fit for you. If the school has a department or program you’re especially interested in, be sure to share that. Tell the interviewer why the university’s culture – whether traditional, religious, open-minded, or service-oriented – appeals to you.

Write out a few bullet points about what makes you stand out, and make sure you can explain them clearly. For example, if you’re a gifted athlete or performer, or love science fairs or spelling bees, tell the interviewer that. They want to know about you, not just your grades. And if you love some courses at school more than others, think through that as well.

Interviewers often ask standard “interview questions,” so think through your answers to them. For example:

  • What do you see yourself doing in 10 years?
  • How will you contribute to our school’s culture?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • Of which accomplishments are you most proud?
  • When have you overcome adversity in life, and how did you do it?
  • What are your three greatest strengths and weaknesses?

Get help from a parent or a professional in preparing.

Be Professional

Show up on time. Familiarize yourself with the technology, whether Zoom or Skype, ahead of time. Admissions officials know that a student who can take ownership, be responsible, and speak for themselves is much more likely to succeed at school than one who can’t.

Dress appropriately. Ask a parent, teacher, or counselor what that means. You can still show your personality and identity, but you must look dressed for the situation.

Be Conversational

Making easy conversation with an adult who they don’t know is a challenging skill for many students (and for many adults too). Remember, the goal of an interview is never to tell the other person everything you came prepared to say. Listen to what the other person is saying and respond. Practicing can help you learn this skill. Use a friend, a parent, or a coach to help you prepare to have a good conversation in which you still get your points across.

Ask Questions

Think through some questions ahead of time so that you’re not surprised when the interviewer asks you if you’ve got any questions. Come up with items that have to do with the specific school, so they know you’re thinking through it seriously. These questions are critical to show “demonstrated interest.” Demonstrated interest is one of the factors universities use in deciding whether to admit you. The way they figure it, admitting a genuinely interested student improves the likelihood of that student accepting their offer of admission and attending.

Follow Up

Writing a follow-up note is the thing many many students forget. After you attend an admissions interview, write an email to the person you met with and thank them. It goes to show demonstrated interest, but it’s also a way of conveying maturity. Tell them you appreciate the time they took to meet with you, answer your questions, and get to know you.

If the interviewer gave you the name of faculty or coaches at the colleges who might be helpful, make sure you drop those people a note. Tell them the interviewer suggested you contact them, explain why you’re interested in the university, and ask some questions about the department or program.

When you apply to college, there will be many students with similar grades and test scores. Standing out among that group involves many things, but the interview is a vital part of the process. Make sure you’re well-prepared, and you’ll ace it!

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Venkates Swaminathan

Venkates Swaminathan

Venkates Swaminathan (Swami) is the founder and CEO of LifeLaunchr, the world's first virtual college admissions coaching platform, and a member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. Swami has been an executive in the education and technology industries for over 25 years. He has an M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Illinois, and a B.Tech in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi. He is the father of a child in college, and in his spare time, he is a jazz and Indian classical singer and pianist.

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