You’ve applied to your dream college and just received an email from their admissions office asking if you’d like to participate in an optional interview. Now what!?
First, say yes! Participating in an optional interview is a great way to show a college you are really interested in attending their school. And even if the college does not track demonstrated interest, an interview is a great way to learn more about life and academics at the college.
Second, understand what you are walking into. When we hear the word “interview,” most of us think of an intimidating experience where you will be grilled with difficult questions. But a college interview is much different. In fact, I advise students to think of the experience as more of an informal discussion (typically the interviewer is an alumnus of the school). The interviewer wants to know more about you, but you should also be learning more about them and their experience at the college. It should really be a two-way conversation.
Third, and maybe most important, what questions should you be prepared to answer? While each interview will take different twists and turns depending on the conversation, I strongly recommend students have prepared to answer the following:
· Tell me about yourself. This sounds so easy, right? But really think about it. Where will you begin? What should you mention? What should you skip? The only bad answer here is to have no answer. I’d recommend talking briefly about where you were born and raised, where you attend high school, your academic interests, your extracurricular interests, and what you are looking for in a college experience.
· Why do you want to attend college X? You might have answered this question in a supplemental essay, and if so, make sure to review what you wrote before the interview! If not, spend some time reviewing the specific aspects of the college that you find appealing. Remember, the interviewer is likely an alumnus of the school, so talk specifics. It’s a great way to connect.
· Do you have any questions for me? When I was conducting interviews for Princeton, this was always my last question (as it probably is for all interviews). Please come to the interview with at least one question! Since the interviewer is likely an alumnus of the college, asking about the strength of the alumni network is always one good option. Again, the only bad answer here is to have no questions!
Take a deep breath and relax. You’ve got this!