The College Interview

A few highly selective colleges have a personal interview as part of their selection process.

Realizing that many students live far away, the colleges often provide an applicant the opportunity to talk with an alumni interviewer who lives in the local community. If your college requires an interview, a college representative will contact you.

In the grand scheme of the application process, the interview is one of the least important parts. Many of the private colleges that have interviews as part of the application use it as a check to the process. The main role of the interview is to confirm the preliminary decisions of the of the admissions board. An interview is also a chance for a borderline student to present herself as a winning candidate by virtue of sincerity or charm, to explain any extenuating circumstances that affected academic performance, and to describe the ways she will contribute to the school.

The success of a college interview may depend on your preparation. The secret of doing well on interviews is to practice. Do a mock interview with your parents or teachers.

Types of College Interviews

There are two basic kinds of college interview. If students plan to (or are required to) interview, they should find out which type of interview the college is offering them.

The evaluative interview is intended to help the institution assess the student as a candidate. The interviewer speaks with the student, takes notes, and reports his impressions to the admissions committee. His evaluation becomes part of the student's application file. The interviewer is often an admissions officer but may be a faculty member or an alumnus.

The informational interview is intended to give the student information about the institution. This can be a one-on-one talk with a college representative or a group information session for applicants. The interviewer may be an admissions officer, but might also be a faculty member, an alumnus, or even a current student at the college.

Although the informational interview's main purpose is to answer student questions about the college, it is quite possible that the college representative will also evaluate the student and pass his opinion on to the admissions committee. Students should therefore always be aware of the impression they are making.

Interviews of either kind can take place on or off campus (for example, the school may match up applicants with alumni interviewers who live in the same area).

How to Prepare for the Interview

Arrive at the interview prepared to discuss:

  • Five questions you want to ask during the interview.
  • Five facts you want the interviewer to know about you.
  • Five well thought-out reasons you are considering the college.

Frequently asked questions:

  • Why are you considering this college?
  • Why is this college a good match for you?
  • How would you describe yourself to someone who does not know you?
  • What makes you special?
  • What magazines and newspapers do you read?
  • What books that are not required by your courses have you read recently?
  • How do you spend a typical afternoon after school? Weekend?
  • What extracurricular activities have you found the most satisfying? Why?
  • If you could talk with anyone living person, whom would it be and why?
  • What has been your proudest achievement?

Tips for a Successful Interview

  • Research the school and surrounding area.
  • Show that you are able to think critically and creatively; avoid superficial answers.
  • Be enthusiastic. Show yourself at your best.
  • Accept the interview time proposed by the interviewer. Change other plans, if necessary. Arrive on time.
  • Dress to show that the interview is important to you.
  • Don’t bring a parent to the interview.
  • Review your essay because you might be asked questions about it.
  • Always follow up with a thank you note.