Fall in Portland. Leaves change color. School is in full swing. The college application process gears up. And, hundreds of college admissions representatives descend upon the metro area to share what their schools can offer prospective students. The fall is ripe with opportunities to continue college research, including the availability of interviews with college personnel. My students often ask if they should interview with their colleges and my answer is unequivocally, yes! The college interview provides students with a rare one-on-one experience with a college admissions representative, often the same individual who reviews applications from our area.
The college interview is not a job interview. Instead, it should be viewed as a conversation that the student has with the college. Here’s a little admissions secret: most colleges consider an interview to be a “yield activity,” meaning that students who interview have a higher likelihood of enrolling at that institution. Interviews can be enjoyable and informative, but keep in mind that an interview is not a basic fact finding mission; instead, it offers an opportunity for students to ask the more detailed questions and determine whether a college is the right fit.
It is important to know who you are and be able to present that to your interviewer. Think of five attributes you’d like the interviewer to remember about you and consider anecdotes or stories you can share to highlight those attributes. People remember stories and impressions during interviews, not necessarily the facts.
A memorable interviewee is personable but also prepared. Let’s skip over some obvious basics—arrive early, dress appropriately, make eye contact, etc—and get to the heart of the interview. Here are some tips for a successful (and enjoyable) interview experience:
• Do Your Homework – review your research and remember why you are interested in the college
• Prepare a resume of your academic and extracurricular experiences to share
• Be sure to participate in the conversation (ask questions during the interview as well as after)
• Complete a mock interview with a friend, teacher, or family member
• Bring a notebook for notes and to refer to questions you would like answered
• Ask for the interviewer’s business card and hand write him/her a thank you note
Here is a list of common interview questions. Certainly colleges will add others, but these provide a good start:
Some Common College Interview Questions
1. Why do you want to attend ___________________ college/university?
2. What makes you think you and _______________ college are right for each other?
3. How would you describe yourself?
4. Tell me about your interests.
5. Tell me about your involvement in extracurricular activities.
6. Tell me about your family.
7. What have you done to prepare for college?
8. What do you consider your best characteristic? How about an area where you can improve?
9. Describe an accomplishment you’re most proud of.
10. What is your favorite book/author?
11. Where do you see yourself in the future?
12. What newspapers and magazines do you read? Websites you frequent?