You may not believe it, but college admissions interviewers really want you to succeed. To mangle one of my favorite lines from the movie "Jerry Maguire," help them help you.
A great interview won’t ever overcome a weak transcript. But, for students whose grades and SAT/ACT test scores are in the middle of a college’s range – and who are genuinely excited at the prospect of attending the school – the interview can be a tipping factor. The interview is an opportunity to demonstrate your interest and leave with the admissions office wanting to be your advocate.
Interviews generally measure four things:
Your personality : How engaging and likeable are you?
Your intellectual curiosity: Will you be an academic fit at the college and contribute to the college community?
Your character: Will your special talents and interests make a difference?
Your interest in the school: Are you really interested in attending the school? Make sure the interviewer walks away knowing that you did your homework prior to the interview.
There are no right answers during interviews, but there are wrong answers. Here are some common questions and bad responses:
Why are you interested in attending this college?
"It’s far away from home." "It’s old."
The worst: "I don’t really know, my mom wants me to apply."
Tell me about yourself – what do you do in your spare time?
"I’ve been thinking about getting involved in extracurricular activities, I just haven’t done it yet." "I hang out with friends." "I just do homework every day."
The worst: "I play a lot of video games."
What doesn’t our school know about you after reading your application?
"Nothing, I covered everything."
This is a softball question that you should be prepared to answer with substantive material.
The worst: "I am not really sure I want to come here."
More Information — Interview Don’ts
Here are some seemingly obvious don’ts. Not abiding by these rules could quickly take the interview from bad to worse.
Don’t be late. Assume there will be traffic, assume you have to park far away, assume you won’t be able to find the building immediately. Pad your schedule accordingly.
Don’t lie or even exaggerate. If you weren’t president of the debate team, then don’t say you were.
Don’t butcher the English language with excessive "ums," "likes" and "you knows"
Don’t be insincere in your enthusiasm for the college.
Don’t be a jerk. Don’t chew gum, slouch, wear strong cologne or perfume. Turn your phone off. If you forget, don’t answer it if it rings. Don’t use slang or profanities.
Don’t be arrogant. Confidence is fine, but overzealous confidence can leave a bad taste.
Don’t be rude to the receptionist or anyone in the admissions office.
Don’t forget to come with your own questions.
Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com