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How to Ace Your College Interview

After all the paperwork required to get into college, you would think that admissions officers know enough about you to make the decision. They have essays, test scores, grades, GPA, rank, resumes--what else do they want?! At this point, you should just write a memoir about your high school days and maybe that would give colleges everything they need to know.

For many colleges, paperwork is enough. They know who you are and can make informed admissions decisions. But for others, the interview is that extra link between student and school. Indeed, not all colleges require an interview, but for those that do (or offer the choice), it is a key part of your application and can ultimately determine whether you get accepted or rejected. As with anything else in your college applications, don’t take the process lightly.

What exactly is a college interview? It is often a brief meeting with an alumnus of the respective university. It is usually conducted in a public space, if not the university itself, and lasts 30 minutes to an hour. The purpose of the interview is not to ask challenging questions but to get to know your personality. Consider it another way to express yourself, similar to how you would in the essays.

Of course, without the right preparation or mindset, you could really underwhelm--or even offend--the interviewer and hurt your chances at getting accepted. Here are some recommendations on how to ace your college interview:

1. Prepare

This should be incredibly obvious, but still, you should do your research about the university and be able to answer why you want to attend. A nice trial run is the supplemental essays that the university probably wants you to answer. Write your responses before the interview as a way to understand better why you want to attend. If it looks like you don’t even know the basics--like in which city the school is located--than you will come across poorly. Be able to name specifics, such as classes, professors, and programs. Here are some sample questions (see if you can answer them):

-What makes you want to attend the University?

-What do you think you will add to the University?

-What is your favorite book (non-school)?

-What is a current event that you’ve been following?

-What would you do if you could start your desired career today?

-What do you like to do outside of school?

2. “Do you”

Interviews are not plays. Do not script your responses and practice them. Instead, practice the interview process with a friend or family member to ease your nerves and allow you to show your true nature. Be the best version of yourself, but don’t make it too performative or robotic. The whole purpose of the interview is to get to know you as a human being. Humans reflect, pause, and even ask questions.

3. Relax

The interviewer is not out to get you. You shouldn’t expect complicated questions or “gotcha” questions. Sure, you may be asked something that strays from standard questions, but the intention is to get a full understanding of who you are, not make you sweat. Treat the interviewer like a friendly acquaintance (because they are!) and not someone who will judge your every word and gesture.

4. Go the extra mile

Make sure you dress appropriately--such as business casual--and that you thank your interviewer with a handwritten note, if possible. Always show interest in and pay attention to the interviewer. Your body language and etiquette will say just as much, if not more, than your responses.

The interview will seem daunting. That’s normal. But it isn’t going away, and you will be interviewing for many positions throughout your life. The key, as always, is the right preparation and attitude. Realize that the interviewer--and the admissions officers--are just people, like you and me. Talking to them like people is exactly what they want, and I imagine that is how you like people to treat you. People want people to act like people; who would have thought?

At B2A, we help students be the best people they can be, and that means we assist them through the interview process. Also, we help develop essays with the students. And we do much, much more! Check out our college admissions services to see how we can guide you through this key moment of your academic life. You’ve got questions, and we’ve got answers.

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