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Interviewing Tips

Your applications have been submitted (or are nearly done) and for some, it’s now time for interviews.

The first thing we need to do is to shake your image of the interviewer as the stereotypical older, tweed-jacketed, bespectacled, cranky admission person. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that college admission officers today are young, multicultural and far from cranky.

For a student who loved their college experience, working in admission is often a way to stay on at their alma mater and share their enthusiasm with high school students. Admission entry level jobs involve lots of not-so-glamorous travel, visiting multiple high schools each day and then returning to campus to hole-up and read hundreds of applications.

Seniors in the past have had the opportunity to interview with these admission representatives while they were traveling or, as was more frequently the case, students interviewed with alumni representatives in their hometown. In this time of COVID 19, however, your interview will most likely be held via Zoom or through another virtual platform, and may be with an admission rep or with an alumni interviewer. Many students who have applied for scholarships will also find that an interview is part of the scholarship selection process.

What can you expect from an interview?

Colleges want you to like them, even if they don’t accept you. This means that the interview is not a test. The interviewer is not there to grill you or intimidate you. In fact, many interviewers will err on the side of being too gentle and not probing sufficiently to thoroughly understand the applicants.

A student’s job is to:

Control the conversation. The more the student can make the interview into a conversation versus a question and answer session, the more success they are likely to have. The best way to do that is for the student to make themselves accessible; be genuine, honest and share your personality.

Prepare but don’t be rehearsed. You can anticipate a variety of questions including: “Tell us about yourself.” “What do you think has been your biggest accomplishment, achievement or contribution to your high school or your community?” “Why do you want to attend our school?” “What questions do you have for me?” Think about these questions, practice responding to them and get some critique from someone you trust. Also prepare to ask some questions of your own.

Be respectful. Seems a little silly to even mention this, but students unknowingly eliminate themselves from contention for a variety of reasons including: not turning off their cell phones, arriving late, dressing inappropriately, making a poor first impression by slouching, chewing gum, and acting disinterested, etc.

Follow-up. It’s absolutely the right thing to do to send a hand-written thank you note to the interviewer. Be sure to reference something discussed in the interview and make it substantive. If you are still interested in attending, communicate your enthusiasm in the note.

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