Careful Preparation Will Highlight Your Strengths

You signed up for an on-campus or alumni interview, and the interview date is fast approaching. Whether the interview is evaluative or not, you want to do your best. But, there are hundreds of questions that you could be asked. Do you try to prepare answers for all of them? Think about some of them and wing it with the rest? Throw in the towel and just take your chances? Here are some suggestions for making a positive impression in your college admission interview:

Be prepared to answer questions that you can anticipate the interviewer will ask, such as: why do you want to go to college? Why do you want to go to this college? What courses did you like (or dislike) in high school? How would you describe yourself? What would you like the Admissions Committee to know about you? Is there anything you’d like to talk about that you didn’t include in your application? How did you choose your potential major? Which of your extracurricular activities means the most to you?

You can start preparing your answers by having a few major themes or “talking points” that you want to convey. For example, one theme might be that you’ve worked hard to get good grades in political science, and plan to leverage that ability by studying international relations and working abroad while in college. Another theme might be that your summer camp counseling job has convinced you that you want to become a teacher. With these core points in mind, you can easily answer interview questions about your interests, motivations, goals and activities.

Be prepared for follow-up questions. The interviewer will probably follow up on the “talking points” with questions like: what country would you like to work in? what is the political climate there? what issues would you want to tackle? Similarly, if you mention camp counseling and teaching, logical follow-up questions would probe your interactions with the campers and whether you experienced some of the same challenges that you might experience as a teacher.

Tell a good story. The best interviewees have at least one colorful anecdote relating to their journey to college. One of my students told a great story about trudging down crumbling country roads on his way to school, and how that experience inspired him to become a civil engineer. This story not only explained his career goal, but also painted a memorable picture that made him stand out from other applicants.

Be sure to raise specific accomplishments (or problems) that weren’t addressed in the application. Use the interview to discuss, for example, awards that you received after the application was submitted. Or, you might want to explain why you received a subpar grade in a particular class.

Don’t feel that you have to fill in all of the blanks. One of my students was stumped by a question about the last book he’d read for pleasure. He hadn’t done any leisure reading because he worked after school. Simply admitting this, and mentioning the books (or genres) he would enjoy reading when he found the time, would have satisfied the interviewer. There was no need to struggle to invent an answer to that question.

Remember that you want to come across as an intelligent, introspective and motivated student who’d make a positive contribution to the college community.  Thoughtful preparation for your interviews, even at the last minute, will move you closer to your college goal.