Now that you’ve submitted some applications, you are likely to be contacted for interviews at colleges where they are a part of the process.
Interviews are wildly different from every other part of your application – they are a direct interaction between you and another person, and that dynamic changes everything.
There is information that gets shared in conversations that would never come out otherwise, and there are observations about behavior and demeanor that make lasting impressions.
What happens in an interview is so distinctive that it always either helps or hurts; it is never neutral. Below are our top tips to get ready for your interviews.
(Need to get caught up with previous weeks? We've posted them on our blog here!)
1. Understand the difference between different types of interviews. Is the interview evaluative or merely informational? An interview is "evaluative" if it will become part of your application file — those are the ones that really count. The school website or admissions office should be able to tell you whether it's evaluative or not. If evaluative interviews are optional at any of your schools, we recommend you do them, assuming you will do the necessary preparation.
2. Prepare to answer four types of questions. You won't know the specific interview questions ahead of time, but make sure to prepare for questions around four topics: your academic/intellectual abilities and interests, your accomplishments in activities outside the classroom, your personal background and character, and your interest in the college. You have already worked out answers to those questions in your story, your resume, and your “Why College X” essays in previous weeks, so you do not have to reinvent the wheel. Here's a chance to work smarter, not harder!
3. Do your homework and have your questions ready. At some point, your interviewer will likely ask you, "Do you have any questions for me?" (Often that happens towards the end of the interview.) Figuring out the right questions to ask your interviewer takes some thought, so think about them in advance. The interview is not the time to ask questions about the admissions process or to ask the most basic questions about the college. Instead, you want to ask questions that actually get to the deeper, more interesting information about the college.
4. Use your best pandemic manners. Given the pandemic, it is more likely than ever that your interview will be conducted on via Zoom or some video conferencing platform. Just because you’ve been Zooming all day every day for months doesn’t mean you’re prepared for a Zoom interview. Consult Indeed’s list of tips for how to make your best impression here. If you are asked to do an interview in person, then observe standard pandemic safety protocols — wear a mask and stay at least 6 feet from your interviewer at all times (which obviously means you should not shake hands).
5. Practice. It is easy to practice interviewing. Recruit a parent or a teacher or some other adult to serve as your interviewer. Give them sample interview questions and a sample evaluation form (found at the end of chapter 20 in our book and also in Inline) and go for it! For the best kind of practice, conduct the interview in a setting as close to the actual setting for the interview as you can manage.
6. Do the follow-up. Immediately after your interview, write down your impressions and add them to your personal research notes about schools. Send a thank-you letter to your interviewer, and notify the college admissions office that you have had your interview.
Anna Ivey is one of the founders of Inline. An experienced admissions consultant and a frequently cited media expert on the topic of college admissions, she is also co-author of the book How to Prepare a Standout College Application. Learn more about Anna's background here.