Many schools offer prospective students an opportunity to have a college interview either with a local alumni volunteer or on campus. With a few exceptions, interviews are not “evaluative” or used as part of your application, but they can help by adding a personal dimension and demonstrate interest in the college.
Here are a few tips to make the most of a college interview:
1. Determine whether the interview is evaluative or not.
For a “non-evaluative” interview, you will request the interview. Because you have initiated it, be prepared to lead the conversation with questions as well as information about yourself.
During an “evaluative” college interview, which is required by the college, much of the conversation may be driven by the interviewer. However, you will be given plenty of opportunities to distinguish yourself from other applicants so you should be prepared to talk about your activities and interests as well as your academic goals.
2. Arrive prepared.
It’s perfectly fine to carry a notepad with you with your questions and to jot down the occasional note during the conversation. However, don’t spend all your time just reading from your notes. They should serve to jog your memory, not act as a script.
3. Know where you are.
Are you at the University of Michigan or Michigan State? University of Rochester or Rochester Institute of Technology? Some colleges have similar sounding names but are very different.
Make sure you are asking questions about the correct college and don’t ask questions that are readily available on their website such as whether they are public or private, average SAT scores, etc. Instead, ask how the college can meet your expectations of what you are looking for in a college. If the interviewer is a graduate of the school, ask about his or her experiences as a student.
4. Watch your verbal and body language.
Slouching, crossing your arms over your body, avoiding eye contact, speaking too low – these are all signs of discomfort or lack of confidence and will not serve you well. If you are shy or nervous, practice with friends or family to be sure you appear more confident. Practicing your questions and answers will also help you be more confident. Slang, street language or cursing is never appropriate.
5. Dress comfortably but appropriately.
There’s no need to be overly formal in your attire for a college interview; a casual but neat look is fine. Look up images of “business casual” for ideas of what will work.
6. Be honest.
Don’t try to impress the interviewer by pretending to enjoy reading Tolstoy when you really prefer reading graphic novels. If you’re not the best science student but you’re still passionate about climate issues, talk about that. There are no right or wrong answers when you are talking about yourself.
7. Say “Thank You.”
Immediately follow-up your interview with a written thank you. Receiving a note by “snail mail” makes more of an impression than the same message by email. If you are visiting several colleges on a trip, carry thank you cards with stamped envelopes that you can write after your visit and mail right away. Remind the interviewer of who you are by including a short reference to the interview such as “I really enjoyed our conversation about the impact of global warming on polar bears”.