Now that you’ve started—and for early applicants, submitted—your college applications, it’s time to begin preparing for another important part of the application process: the college interview. Not all schools require an interview, but for those that do, it’s critical to be prepared. Below are some tips (and a few common interview questions to get you started) from the experts at VSA Future:
- Be yourself. Always be honest, since this process is about finding the best match, both for you and for the school. Take the time to think about (and write down if you have to) why the school appeals to you and what your interests are. Of course, there’s no need to be didactic, or too cliché, in your answers about your interests. Don’t open the interview with an unsolicited spiel about your love for the school! Instead, just share your genuine enthusiasm for the activities, pursuits, and classes you love—your excitement about what you do, and what you will do in the future, will make itself clear. Regardless of whether your interviewers just graduated or attended their 30th reunion, establish a rapport with them—and help them imagine you thriving at their alma mater.
- Practice, practice, practice. Nothing gets you more comfortable with interviewing than familiarity. Ask friends or family members to serve as mock interviewers, and to give you feedback on your answers. Always do at least one full run-through, with feedback at the end—it’s important to get used to the rhythm and pace of an extended conversation, and practice improvising on the fly based on your previous answers. Practice difficult questions multiple times (and with variations), so you can refine your responses.
- Find your interview voice. We know it’s easier to say “Be engaging!” than to actually do it, but here are some easy ground rules. Avoid speaking in sing-song tones—speak clearly and confidently. Don’t give extended, rambling answers that lose your interviewer. Practice telling the stories that are most important to you: learn which details are essential to include for a stranger to understand, and which you can wisely leave out. Take the time to think through what you want to say, before you say it. Better to take a five-second pause after a question than to trail off in the middle of an irrelevant, or poorly chosen, answer.
- Prepare questions for the interviewer. Whether it’s an evaluative or informational interview, your interviewer will gauge how interested you actually are in the school. Do your research and make sure to ask specific questions about what the school has to offer—or ask about your interviewer’s college experience, especially if you share similar interests or backgrounds. Pay attention to their responses. Since they’re dedicated enough to serve as alumni interviewers, they’ll naturally have positive answers—but take note of the school or student body qualities they emphasize, and consider whether those are the qualities you’re seeking in a college.
- What to wear? Each interview is different, so gauge the expected formality and dress code accordingly. Whether you’re meeting in a coffeeshop or corporate office, business casual is always a safe choice.
- Follow up. It may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how often the little things get missed. Send a thank you note (email is okay), and be sure to mention specifics from your conversation to show that it mattered to you. Whenever possible, follow up within two days of the interview, but later is better than never. There are many variations on an interview thank you note, but a barebones note would include variations on these lines:
- “Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me [yesterday/on Monday/etc]”
- “I appreciate gaining your perspective as an alum, and I’m particular excited for [details]”
- “I greatly enjoyed learning more about [school name], especially [details or stories from the interview].”
Common admissions interview questions:
- Tell me about yourself.
- What is your biggest strength? Weakness?
- Which extracurricular activities are most important to you, and why?
- What’s your favorite class?
- Why do you want to attend this school?
- How would you contribute to campus at this school?
- What do you want to do in the future (college and beyond)?
Oddball admissions questions you might be asked:
- If you could have dinner with any well-known figure (past or present), who would it be and what would you ask him/her?
- Tell me about a book you read recently.
- Do you follow current events? What is an issue that you’re personally concerned about?
- What do you feel you didn’t get to talk about enough on your application.
- Tell me about a time you failed, or struggled, and what you did about it.
- What accomplishments are you most proud of?
- What challenge(s) have you overcome?
- What has been the most important part of your experience in high school?
Visit us at www.vsafuture.com, or call us at 844-VSA-FUTURE for more advice and to learn more about VSA’s personalized counseling services. We can help no matter what stage of the process you’re in—just ask!