A Guide to the College Interview
by: Amanda Benbow
It goes without saying that senior year of high school is stressful. The classes are just as rigorous as junior year, maybe even more so, and on top of all that homework and studying, college applications still loom over our heads, with countless essays and supplements being required by universities. As if that isn’t enough pressure, some universities even require or “strongly recommend” an interview aspect of the application, and for a vast number of high school seniors, that is completely new territory. “What questions will be asked?” “How am I supposed to dress?” “How should I prepare?” These inquiries are surely swirling through many seniors’ heads at the moment, and maybe even some underclassmen who are hoping to get ahead in their application process, and hopefully I can lend a helping hand in answering them.
As a high school senior myself, I recently had the opportunity to interview at a highly ranked university that shall remain nameless. I learned a lot from the experience, and have some tips that I can share. Of course, every school conducts interviews differently, so understand that my experience may not be the same as yours.
Preparation is a key part of the interview process. First, you must make sure that the university offers an interview, as many universities don’t. Make sure you understand the interview process for each school you are applying to, as they vary, and make appropriate accommodations. You also need to decide if you want to do on-campus or off-campus interviews. They are typically weighed the same, meaning neither is more advantageous than the other, so it is up to the applicant. It is typically a matter of convenience, so many opt for the off-campus option. Once that is sorted out, the next step is research. One question that you will most likely receive in every interview is “Why do you want to attend this university?”, so make sure you have an appropriate answer that allows the interviewer to see your demonstrated interest in the school. Simply saying “I like the size” or “The location is nice” won’t be enough to prove to the interviewer that you really know about the school and want to go there. Have a few specific programs or classes in mind that you are interested in before going in to the interview, or think of something that can only be gained from this school.
Once you know your fair share about the school, you can prepare some more by conducting mock interviews with friends and family, while also brainstorming answers to possible interview questions. Some example questions could be: “What are some of your extracurricular activities?”, “What is your favorite book or movie?”, or “How did you spend last summer, and how did you grow from it?”. Conducting mock interviews can also provide opportunity to learn how to behave comfortably in interviews, as many people struggle with being relaxed in these situations, which can be unattractive in an applicant. Ultimately, it’s important to remember that interviews can really only help your application, as they allow the university to put a face to your application, so stay relaxed and don’t get too overwhelmed.
Typically at the end of the interview, the interviewer will ask if you have any questions for them, so it is good to have one or two questions prepared for this. Make sure that they’re not questions that could easily be answered with a Google search. Ask insightful questions that only a student or alumni could answer, and example being “What drew you to the university?” or “What is your favorite memory from attending the university?”. With these questions, you demonstrate your interest in the school while simultaneously getting the chance to learn more about the school that you will potentially be attending.
All that being said, just remember to relax and enjoy your time with the interviewer. This interview most likely won’t make or break your admission decision, so think of it as more of an informative conversation with a former student of the university you hope to attend. I hope this was helpful, and wish you good luck in your future interviews!