Acing the College Interview

After going through all the hard work of building a college list and applying your goal is clear: to receive acceptance letters from the colleges to which you applied. Once those come in the mail, you have a big decision to make. 

You may wonder,  “what can I do to ensure I get an acceptance letter from my top school?” Work hard, of course. Write an excellent essay, of course. Achieve high SAT and ACT skills, of course. What else can you do? Give a great interview.  

As the old saying goes, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Therefore, make certain your college interview is the most impressive!

Not all students have to go through an interview, but it is common for some colleges, as well as for some scholarship applications. Here are some tips to follow if an interview is in your future.

Tips to Impress on your College Interview

1. Dress to impress!  

It is not the time to wear your favorite sweatshirt, sporting the name of the college you are seeking admission. The interviewer knows you want to go there and they also know the name of the school. No need to wear it.

Do not wear your high school uniform to the interview! Although it may be the neatest thing you own, it will make you look young. You want to appear as an adult, ready for college and campus life. A uniform, while tidy, creates a youthful appearance.

Business casual is the way to go: depending on your style preference, this would look like dress pants with a blouse or button-up with an optional tie and blazer. You could also opt for a knee-length skirt or dress, with a sweater or jacket. Keep jewelry, hair accessories, and makeup conservative: save the armload of Alex and Ani bracelets at home for the day.

Ask yourself, “Would I wear this outfit in front of my grandparents?” Use that as your guide.

2. Communicate well.

So, you are there, at the interview, dressed well. Now, what do you talk about? 

When answering questions, avoid a simple yes or no. Always be willing to expand to give the why or what behind your answer. 

If you don't know the answer to a question right away, better to respond by saying "I am not sure; let me think about it for a moment.” Then pause, catch your breath, and give the best answer you can in the moment.

The fact that you are taking the time to think will reflect well; after all, you cannot be expected to have a fully prepared answer for every possible interview question.  Pausing shows two things; one that you are interested in their question and that you think before you speak. 

3. Talk yourself up.

This is not the time to be shy about your accomplishments. Did you have the lead in the school musical? Are you the star pitcher on the baseball team? Talk about it! Highlight your accomplishments and also, be very clear that you would love to share these talents with the college. You want to sing on their stage, play on their fields, enter into their scholastic competitions. You are a gift that could be shared with the college or university and this is the time to sell yourself.

Talk about all the things that make you shine, that make you special, and that make you stand out amongst all the others applying for a seat at that particular college and university. Do not underperform; sell yourself well!

4. Be polite.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, mind your manners. In this technological age, we are programmed to look at our phones every five minutes. Hand your tech device to your parent before you go into that office. Do not even bring it in on vibrate!  Smile as you enter, shake hands and introduce yourself. Do not forget to stay standing until you are asked to sit and do not forget to stand up at the end and shake hands once again.  

Make sure you give your interviewer a sincere verbal thank you.  Then, go home and follow it up with a hand-written thank you note. No email or text message should follow this interview! Send a written note, thanking the interviewer for his and her time. Taking the time to say a sincere thank you will speak volumes about your character and your dedication. 

My final tip is to be confident, be energetic, and be yourself! This person wants to get to know you, and it is your job to let them meet the you that will be a wonderful addition to their college!