6 Ways to Prepare for Your College Interview

Don't try to be someone you’re not—college interviewers are turned off by insincerity.

The college admissions process can look pretty daunting. The thought of having some stranger in a university office poring over your academic past, then making a decision that could impact the next two to four (or more) years of your life is enough to make anyone nervous.

The truth is, you have to stand out from the other applicants, and a college interview is a great way to do it. What admissions officer wouldn’t remember a passionate, confident candidate who’s capable of making a dynamic first—and lasting—impression. All you have to do is ace that interview.

Here are a few ideas to help you do it:

  1. Do Your Homework: Start by researching the school—and yourself.  Ask yourself, “Why am I interested in attending?” Don’t settle for broad answers. Does the school offer a particular major you like? Is there a faculty member you respect? Do they have a degree program that matches your passions? Aligning what you care about with what the school offers will allow you to be genuine and passionate during your interview.
  2. Practice, Practice, Practice: Being articulate requires practice. Lots of it. Have mock interviews with your school’s guidance counselor (or even a parent) to help you become comfortable with the format. Doing this will also help you identify and correct problem areas like distracting speech habits (such as “ums and likes and uhs”) ahead of time. It’ll also help you pinpoint any body language that could make you seem less confident or sincere—like looking at the ground or fidgeting.
  3. Be Your (Thoughtful) Self: Be yourself—a more confident, serious version of your usual self, but yourself nonetheless. Don't pretend to be someone you’re not in an effort to impress. Admissions officers are turned off by insincerity. Strive to be comfortable, and don't be afraid to smile or be humorous. Before you sit down to talk, take a few deep breaths, tense your muscles, and then loosen them. It’s a quick little tip to help you calm down.
  4. Look Sharp: Don't just sound the part, look it. Jeans, t-shirt, and dirty hair will simply not cut it. Pick an outfit that’s appropriate for the occasion. Guys, you can’t go wrong with a suit. And ladies, a business suit or dress skirt/blouse combo will do the trick! Looking clean and presentable is half the battle. When in doubt, err on the side of formal.
  5. Ask Questions: This is your chance to get a candid account of what the college experience is really like. For starters, ask your interviewer about academics, campus life, student organizations, etc. Then, drill down a little further with questions that focus on what’s important to you personally, such as the reputation and quality of a major you’re interested in. Asking questions shows you genuinely care about attending the school.
  6. Follow-Up: Even if you think the interview went poorly, send a thank-you note to your interviewer. A note shows you are appreciative of your interviewer's time and can serve as a final opportunity to express your interest in the school.

Above all else, don’t overlook the importance of a college interview simply because some schools don’t require it. Interviews can be a difference-maker come decision time—for the admissions people and for you. The admissions officer is deciding whether you’re right for the school just as much as you’re deciding whether the school’s right for you. A great first impression can really help make the decision easier for both of you.

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