Top 10 College Interview Tips That Will Get You Accepted!
Colleges and Universities across the country utilize a number of tools in evaluating prospective students for admission. But, none of those evaluation tools is more daunting than the dreaded college interview. In this article, we’ll give you some college interview tips that are often overlooked but can make a world of difference in how you impress the admissions representatives!
While it is not a requirement at most of the larger schools, many colleges still use a face-to-face interview as part of their admission process. The reasoning is simple: college admissions representatives can only get a limited “snapshot” of a student on paper. Conducting an interview of the applicants gives the college a perspective of what that student is all about, how he or she carries themselves, and provides a deeper insight as to what that student will bring to their institution, should they be admitted.
And let’s be honest: You have one shot to make a good, first impression.
10 College Interview Tips To Knock Their Socks Off!
Below you’ll find our top 10 college interview tips, in the order of their importance. If you follow these tips, you should put yourself in the best possible position for getting accepted to your respective college or university and start living the college dorm life!
1. Do Your Homework
No, we’re not talking about schoolwork here. Prior to your college interview, you should be researching the facts and gathering information about that school. Nothing puts college reps in a good mood quite like flattery and telling them how great they are. For that reason, this is our #1 college interview tip that we recommend you put into action. Here’s why…
When colleges are interviewing prospective students, they want to gauge your level of interest in attending, as well as how you respond to their questions. If you have no idea about any of the programs they offer, campus improvements, or reputation for academic excellence, how is that going to look to them?
Let’s use a prestigious college as an example: Princeton University is an institution that still conducts admission interviews, has very competitive admissions, and is highly selective in who the admit. If you go into that college interview without any facts or information about them, you are dead in the water! Princeton will want you to demonstrate that you’ve at least been on their website and took note of some things that prompted you to want to become a student there.
So one of our very best college admission tips we can offer you is to get on that school’s website, memorize at least 3 major facts that you can present to them as reasons why you are so interested in getting accepted. As a result, you will be prepared to answer this common college interview question: “So, why do you want to attend Princeton University?”
2. Be On Time
This tip really seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised! One of the easiest ways to shoot yourself in the foot before the interview even begins is to show up late. And, it happens often.
One of the biggest reasons that we feel students are not prompt to their college interview is because they under-estimate the time it takes for them to travel to the school, and then find parking near the building their interviewing in. All of these things need to be taken into consideration.
Our advice here would be to arrive on campus 1 hour before the interview is set to begin. This will allow some “built in” time for you to get lost, stop for gas, find a parking spot etc., and still make it on time for your interview. If you make it there early without any problems and know where you’re going, take a quick drive around campus and make a few mental notes that you can bring up in the interview. Oh and when we say “be on time”, that means in the building, ready to interview 15 minutes early!
3. Dress Like A “Grown Up”
First impressions say a lot. So when the admissions rep comes out to greet you, make sure you are put together well so that you pass the first impression test. Now, most high school students think they have an idea of what it means to dress like a “grown up”. However, simply running a comb through your hair, putting on a polo shirt and some non-ironed khaki pants is not going to cut it.
If a college is going to take the time and resources to interview you in person, you better make sure you look like you appreciate the opportunity, and are taking it seriously by dressing appropriately. An interview is in an interview. It doesn’t matter if it’s for college admission, or a 6-figure salary position at a Fortune 500 company.
For guys, you will need to put on a suit jacket, dress pants and a button-up shirt with a tie. Yes, a tie. If you do not own a suit and cannot find the resources to buy one, put on the nicest button-up shirt you can find with black or dark gray dress pants, and a tie. Yes, a tie.
If you have a beard or other facial hair that looks “un-groomed”, trim it up or remove it altogether. The same goes for your hair. Get a haircut if it’s in your face, or make sure it is out of the way and not distracting to the interviewer. Also, get rid of any jewelry.
For girls, casual business attire is appropriate here and is pretty similar to what the guys should wear. Get a nice suit jacket, button-up shirt and dark, dress pants. Again, if you cannot get a women’s business suit, dark dress pants with a button up shirt will do just fine.
4. Brake The Personality Mold
Next up on our list of college interview tips has to do with how you conduct yourself during the meeting. We talked about first impressions, but now it’s time to focus on your personality, but more specifically, how to be memorable. College admission reps will be conducting hundreds of interviews with prospective students, so your job is to make them remember you, but in a good way.
90% of interviews with applicants will have these common factors:
- nothing additional to add
- no facial expression
- no personal experience or story
You need to brake that mold! When you are asked a question, try to tie it in with a real life experience you’ve had. Loosen up the room with a personal story, some facial expressions or by adding your own spin. It’s ok to laugh, but make sure it’s in context and isn’t off-putting. They want to see some personality and reassurance that they aren’t just getting a book-smart student with absolutely no social skills.
We can talk all day about the more traditional college interview tips, like a firm hand shake or eye contact, but in the end you have to ask yourself: What is going to make them remember me in a good, positive way?
5. Prepare Your Responses
The key to this interview tip is to minimize your chances of being caught off-guard by a question you weren’t expecting. Below is a list of common college interview questions that you may have to answer. At a minimum, expect to be asked at least half of these…
- Tell me about yourself
- Why are you interested in our college?
- What can I tell you about our college?
- Who is the biggest influence in your life?
- Why do you want to major in ________?
- What will you contribute to our college?
- Tell me about a challenge you overcame.
- What do you do for fun outside of school?
- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
You should formulate answers to each one of these questions, read them over, and try to commit them to memory. That way, you will have a prepared response that you’ll be ready to present before the interviewer even finishes asking the question! When formulating your answers, make sure you tie in your personal experiences and also highlight your most marketable attributes. For instance, if you were a volunteer at a pet shelter, try to work that into one of your responses so the admissions committee sees that you are involved in your community without them asking!
But, be careful here. Having a reply that sounds “rehearsed” or memorized will be a negative. You want it to sound natural as if it is just coming to you out of thin air, so try not to sound robotic.
Also, be prepared to answer questions about any possible negatives. The interviewer will have your application and high school transcripts in front of him/her. If you have a blemish on either one be ready to explain, in detail, the reasoning behind it whether it’s a mediocre grade or a discipline infraction. If at all possible, try to put a positive spin on it.
6. Cut The Cord!
Number six in our list of 10 college interview tips is a little tricky. Now, we know you love your parents and appreciate everything they have done for you. But, your college interview is exactly that, yours. You are 18 (or close to it) and will be going off to college soon. When that happens, your educational rights become yours, not your parents, which means the college will have no obligation to provide them with any information including a report card!
So, you should approach your college interview as such. If you are ready to be on your own and responsible, show the college representatives by arriving for your interview by yourself, and on time of course. Bringing your parents and/or grandma to the meeting will simply convey the message that you are dependent on them for everything and that the school should expect daily phone calls and emails from them about your schoolwork, whereabouts etc. Not cool.
Unless the colleges specify that they’d like your parents to be in the interview with you, we highly recommend leaving them out. If possible, have them wait in the car!
7. Ask Questions!
When conducting a college interview, there is one thing you’ll hear 100% of the time: “What questions do you have?”. Do not reply to them with: “None, you answered them all”. If you do, that will tell the interviewer that you were not truly paying attention during the interview, and did not do any research prior. If you did, and you were paying attention, there are always questions you can ask.
Here is where a little bit of research will do you good. Remember when we told you to memorize 3 facts about the university that you could comment on? Turn one of those into a question you can ask them. Here’s an example…
Admissions Rep: “Are there any questions I can answer for you?”
You: “Yes, I noticed you added a new residence hall this year on the north side of campus. Is this hall open to freshman, or just upper-classmen?”
…or something to that effect. This shows that you’ve got a vested interest in the school and have some basic knowledge of campus life. Have a couple questions on hand that have to do with different aspects such as living, academics, class location, graduation rates etc. Even if you already know the answer, ask anyway!
8. Give Them Something To Look At
Did you volunteer for something at school or in your neighborhood? Where you involved in an type of unique activity outside of school? Or better yet, did you develop a club, activity or community service project? If you did, let the admissions committee know about it and all that it entails by giving them a description that outlines the specifics.
For instance, let’s say you developed an idea for a new school club that ended up getting approval by your high school administrators. Make an outline or a blueprint of the steps you took in getting that activity to run. Make it look professional, then print it out, make a handful of copies and put them into a little folder or binder. When you bring something like that into an interview, they cannot help but ask “what is that you have with you?”. That is a perfect segway to show the admission reps what you’ve done and how you are a leader in your school and community.
This tip isn’t for everyone, but if you have been active in a leadership role of any kind, you want them to know about it in detail!
9. Signal Your Intentions
Once the interview begins to wind down to the end, you should begin think about your closing statements to the interviewer or admissions committee. There is a little know and under-utilized tip you can employ to possibly boost your chances of getting accepted.
Once the questions have been answered and both parties are ready to adjourn, make sure you are able to make one last statement. It should go something like this…
“I would just like to take this opportunity to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to meet me. I would also like to make it clear that if selected for admission, I would commit to attending here in the fall. This is my top choice school, and if you are looking for someone who would be a leader on campus in the very near future, I’m that candidate. It was a pleasure meeting you and I really look forward to hearing your decision.”
By simply wrapping things up with a clear-cut statement that you are committed to them says a lot. Colleges like a sure thing, especially if you are one of their top choices. This tip is rarely used, and can be one of the biggest difference-makers, especially if they are still “on the fence” about you! This may just put them over the edge.
10. Send a Thank You
Lastly, you will want to send them a hand-written, thank you letter as a nice gesture. This is common practice, and should be on your to-do list after the interview concludes. Try and work in some specific things you talked about during the interview that you’d like to remind them of. Obviously, touch on the positives and high points of the meeting, but also reiterate your intentions of enrolling if chosen for admission.
Don’t skip this one! Colleges notice the little things and simply choosing to not send out a thank you may mean the difference between you and one other candidate that they’re considering. You don’t want to get this far in the process and not do everything in your power to impress the college.
Hopefully these 10 College Interview Tips will help if you are applying to a school that requires an interview! Remember, be calm, personable and memorable…and don’t be afraid to point out your best characteristics!
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