College applications can be intimidating. The details can be overwhelming: brainstorming and writing essays, requesting letters of recommendation, getting test scores submitted and transcripts sent. And, it is still a mostly anonymous process because students rarely see the people who will be judging them.
But the rare required interview is face-to-face and most students view it as a “do or die” half hour that determines the success of the rest of their lives. Interviews don’t need to be scary, being prepared is the best possible ammunition. Here are some do’s and next week I’ll share the don’ts:
• Come prepared; that means researching the college website to know about their majors, their unusual programs and highlights of their clubs and activities.
• Practice your responses to the most obvious questions; you can pretty much count on being asked “Why are you interested in our college?” You don’t want it to sound rehearsed, but an admissions representative should be able to determine how much you’ve thought about why the college is a good fit for you from your answer.
• Dress appropriately; No shorts, flip-flops, athletic gear, jeans, baseball caps, etc. For guys simple khaki pants and a collared shirt and girls should wear nice slacks or knee-length skirt or dress.
• Come armed with a folder with test scores, transcript and resume in case they are requested.
• Be respectful and be on time. Allow sufficient time to find the building, park the car and be waiting in the lobby without being breathless.
• Turn off cellphones!
• Anticipate a conversation. Answer questions knowing what points you want to make in advance (specific extracurricular activities that you want to highlight, unique experiences, etc.) Vary the length of your responses, i.e., don’t ramble on for 5 minutes when asked about what you did in high school. Experts recommend that responses should range from 30 seconds to 1.5 minutes.
• Look around the interviewer’s office to see if you can gather any clues as to their personal interests (tennis, horsebackriding, travel, etc.). If you spot a link, use it as an opening to ask them a question.
• Ask thoughtful questions. Insightful questions such as “What do students like best and like least about this school?” demonstrates critical thinking on your part.
• Make and continue eye contact. Greet your interviewer with a warm handshake.
• Request their business card. If you have a resume or brag sheet offer to leave them a copy.
• Send a thank you note within a week of your visit. A hand-written snail-mail note was the old standard and is still appreciated but an email is just fine.
Off My Bookshelf
“Get Into College”, Hundreds of Heads, $17.95
Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com