Acing the Interview: Top Interview Tips
The admissions interview is a great chance to add another personal touch to your application and gives you an opportunity to have your questions answered by an admissions officer or alumnus of the school. For seniors, the college interview is one of the final steps you’ll take toward application success, while for juniors, the interview is an excellent opportunity for you to get to know more about a school and to meet a representative of the school who you can maintain contact with throughout the college admissions process. While interviews are optional at many schools, at IvyWise, we recommend students always have an interview if given a chance. Our expert counselors, including former admissions officers from Georgetown University (which requires all students to interview with an alumnus), share their expert interview tips.
Students can do more harm than good to their candidacy if they haven’t prepared adequately for an interview. If you’re a senior, you should have already done your research; now you just need to review everything. This includes the notes you took during the college visit, your thoughts as you researched and drafted the “Why This School?” essay, and any other findings from your application process. If you’re a junior, this is where you should start. You should review your existing notes well in advance of the interview. Just as we would never recommend cramming for the SATs on the way to the testing center, we do not recommend cramming for your interview either – plus, it will only make you more nervous.
Practice makes perfect. Whether it is with a friend, parent, teacher, your IvyWise counselor, or your school counselor, mock interviews can be an extremely helpful tool in your interview preparation. Sure, you may have thought about how you would respond to the questions, but verbalizing it effectively can be a challenge all its own. The more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll be with the process. For a list of questions to think about and prepare for, check out chapter 10 in Dr. Kat’s book The Truth About Getting In.
Remember, this interview is about you, not how many school facts you’ve memorized. We encourage students to be as relaxed and natural as possible. The interviewer is trying to get to know you and you should not make it difficult for him or her to do so. During your prep time, when you are considering how you fit into the school’s academic and social atmosphere, be prepared to communicate who you are and what it is about you that makes the school a great fit. Bonus tip: Dress as you normally would with a little extra attention to neatness and detail.
It’s a Two-Way Street
The interview is a dialogue. It is a chance for you to shine, but also a chance for you to learn about the school. There will be questions or concerns that, despite your hours of research, have gone unaddressed. Write down these questions and ask them in the interview. Even if you think you’ve got all the information you could ever need, I still recommend asking at least a few well-thought-out follow-up questions. Finally, remember that you can go beyond questions about the school itself and ask the interviewer questions about his or her experiences and recommendations. These answers might even add a new dimension to your impressions of a school.
At the conclusion of your meeting, thank the interviewer, shake his or her hand, and be sure to ask for a business card and/or email address. As you would with any representatives you meet on campus, follow-up with a short email thanking your interviewer for their time and information and referencing a specific aspect of the interview as a way of keeping the interview fresh in the interviewer’s mind. This is also a great time to follow-up on any questions you think you did not answer effectively, pose any questions that you wish you had asked, or ask any new questions you may have upon further research. Once you have made the initial follow-up, aim to keep in touch again before sending your application.
With thorough preparation and these tips, you will be able to effectively communicate who you are to your interviewer and make your application come to life even more. Best of luck from all of us at IvyWise!
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