The 5 Keys to Unlocking A Perfect College Interview

For most applicants, the idea of meeting face-to-face (or even online) with an admissions officer is a scary one. But it doesn’t have to be.

With some sound prep and an informed understanding of the process of applying for colleges, you’ll leave a positive, lasting impression with your interviewer.

WATCH: Wyzant<5

Wyzant Under Five is a video series featuring tutors on Wyzant doing what tutors do best: fitting a ton of learning into a short time!

We challenged tutor Nick S, The College Guy to tell us the five most important things college applicants need to know to nail their admissions interview. Watch it below, and check out all the other videos in Wyzant<5.

Here Are The Two Questions You Should Always Be Prepared to Answer In A College Admissions Interview

The first “question” you should be prepared for is not actually a question, but a simple request.

“So, tell me about yourself.”

Get good at answering this. You will be doing it for the rest of your life, both in situations where it’s asked outright and situations where it isn’t.

Now let’s be honest. If you’re anything like me, it can sometimes be a little uncomfortable to talk about yourself in such an open-ended way. This is where you lean on your best friend: your notes.

The second question you absolutely must be prepared to answer is:

“Why are you interested in this school?”

Again, your old pal, notes, comes in handy here. Jot down in advance a few features of the school that you’re particularly drawn to. 

Consider what makes this school different from others, but also why those differences matter for you specifically. The more precise the better.

You don’t have to lay out your entire schedule for four years of college, but do talk about topics you might be interested in researching, extracurriculars you want to be involved in, and other resources at the school you want to take advantage of.

Other Questions to Prepare For

There’s no formula that every admissions officer follows. Still, though, it’s a great idea to give some thought to your answers for some of the following questions:

– What extracurricular programs or activities at our college excite you most?
– What major are you planning to pursue?
– Tell me about a time you adapted to new information or a big change
– What did you like most about high school?
– If you could change one thing about your high school experience, what would it be?
– What’s your favorite subject?
– What was your most challenging course during high school?
– Tell me about your proudest achievement so far?
– What makes you unique?
– What do you like to do for fun?
– How would your friends describe you?
– What do you see yourself doing 10 years from now?

Using Notes to Prepare

Prepare 3 points in your notes that you want to hit during your interview. They should in some way address:

  1. Your personality
  2. Your accomplishments
  3. Your long-term goals or ambitions

Don’t memorize a speech. It’s likely to come off forced. Keep it natural and to the point.

Come Prepared to Ask Your Own Questions

Every bit as important as answering questions is asking questions of your own.

Yes, this is an opportunity to show that you know the school inside and out, but it’s also an opportunity for you to legitimately learn more about the institution.

Ask questions not just for show, but with earnest curiosity. The most important things to ask are what you genuinely want to know, and then pursue avenues of conversation that you find interesting. These will emerge naturally, just as they do when talking with friends, teachers, and family.

A few questions you might consider asking

– Ask about opportunities at the school that many students may not know about or take advantage or as much as they could
– Ask about notable alumni
– Ask about a school tradition
– Ask if there’s anything they would change about the school
– Ask what challenges students tend to face at the school and any methods they found particularly effective for overcoming them
– Ask what makes the school different from others

When It Comes to Your College Admissions Interview, Practice Makes Perfect

Practice with as many different kinds of people as you can. Both people you know well and people you may not know so well. People who will play nice and people who will challenge you. People who will take it seriously and people who won’t.

By practicing with a range of different interview partners, you’re exposing yourself to a wider variety of conversational styles and avenues that your interview might take.

Prepare Well, but Spontaneity Counts

As much as preparing your talking points in advance matters, so does spontaneity. No college recruiter wants to be bored!

Be willing to go to places you haven’t prepared for directly, and concentrate on expressing the best possible version of yourself and your experience when you’re chatting with your interviewer.

The irony is, though, the more you’ve prepared, the easier it is to be spontaneous because you’ll feel more comfortable.

Before A Virtual College Interview, Check Your Tech

If possible, try to complete your interview when no one else on the same network is using up substantial bandwidth (whether that’s streaming video or taking video meetings of their own).

About half an hour before your interview is scheduled to start, do a tech test run with a friend to make sure your connection is good, microphone and speakers are working, and video is clear.

Close any other applications or websites, both to improve the quality of your connection and to decrease distractions.

A Few Tips About Online College Interview Etiquette

Interview etiquette is as much about helping you as it is impressing your interviewer.

Make sure you’ve chosen a quiet, bright location with an appropriate background and as few distractions as possible. Don’t go outside unless necessary – lighting and sound tend to be harder to predict and control out there.

Clear your desk and silence your phone to minimize distractions to both you and your interviewer. Keep just a pen and paper with your notes in front of you, though.

When speaking online, you lose some of the nonverbal cues we use to understand each other when speaking in person.

Try to be a bit more demonstrative and animated than you normally would. No need for anything wild, just some extra emphasis and energy, particularly cues like nodding and smiling when listening to show that you’re thinking about what your interviewer is saying.

More Help Preparing For College

To learn more powerful stuff to help you with your college admissions, check out the articles below, and watch all the other videos in Wyzant<5!

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Good luck!

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