You thought all of the heavy lifting was over when you sent out your applications in December. You might have thought to yourself, “Now I just have to let the College Gods decide my fate.” Well don’t think so fast because many universities are setting up their top picks with interviewers this very moment. If you are sweating over these college interviews, you might be asking, “Does this interview really matter?” At JLP we want to remind our students that even the most equipped students have stiff competition where the odds for getting into their top-pick schools are concerned, so don’t ever miss a prospect to wow an interviewer. Seize any opportunity you have to get in front of a school, even if it isn’t your number one pick. You never know where the cards will fall, and besides, we all know the old saying, practice makes perfect. We have a few helpful hints that might aid you in making a favorable and lasting impression.
- Dress the part. This might seem like simpleton advice, but many students genuinely don’t know what this means. The first rule of thumb is to wear something you can be comfortable in. Avoid shaky stilettos that may cause a trip and fall or stuffy wool suit jackets, which could easily lead to a sweaty interview. Try fitted slacks or a modest pencil skirt as a starting point. A nice blouse or collared shirt on top will be perfect, and blazers are definitely a great way to polish off your look. Remember the focus should be on you, so keep hair, makeup, and accessories simple and easy. A winning smile is the only essential in this department! Keep shoes comfortable and classic, and you won’t need to fret about your footwear during the entire interview. If you are applying for a school of fashion or a business program, you might bend these tips to fit the institution, but the general imperative is to look professional and mature.
- Be prepared. This interview is as much an opportunity for the school to gain more information about you as it is for you to learn more about the school. Have some background research ready ahead of time and know key things about the school, such as where it is located geographically, well-known alumni, what the school is known for in academics or athletics, and most importantly, why you want to go there! Have well thought out answers prepared for the latter subject. It is just as important for you to come with insightful questions of your own. Don’t waste an interviewers time with run of the mill questions that could easily be found in a student handbook or online. More personalized questions will get your interviewer talking about important aspects such as school morale, involvement in student organizations, or life in the dorms. It might also help to ask about the city or town and get some insider information, especially if your interviewer is an alumnus of the institution.
- Practice makes perfect. As a high school student, you might be embarking upon your very first interview. This is an inevitable rite of passage that gives even the most confident people the shakes, but the chances are that you will go on many, many interviews in your lifetime. One thing that any good interview coach would recommend is practice. Look up typical questions online and prepare your answers. A go-to inspirational quote or a roll-model in your life could encourage you to talk about your personal goals or desires for the future. Don’t hold back on talking about what motivates you. Thinking in this direction during rehearsals will guarantee a more relaxed interview. Once you have this part done, practice with a parent or friend. Writing down your response is a much different experience than saying it aloud to another human being. Through rehearsal exercises you can work out nervous jitters, avoid stumbling through your thoughts, and gain confidence.
- Be courteous. This is Charm School 101. Do your best to be pleasant and display excellent manners. Let your interviewer lead the conversation until you find an appropriate time to begin talking about yourself or asking questions. It is never a good idea to speak over the interviewer or make any out-of-bounds remarks about them or the school. Definitely leave your phone in the car or power it off if you think it might be a distraction. Lastly, don’t assume that the interviewer knows how gratified and excited you are to get an interview with them. Thank them for their time, and be pleasant from start to finish! A thank you email is always a great follow-up for an interview as well.
The interview process is sure to be a source or stress for most, but many college admissions officers would agree that it will not make or break your chances of being advanced as a leading applicant. Your grades, test scores, extracurricular activities, and admission essay will be weighed heavily in the decision-making process, but these tips are sure to make the interview a success!