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4 tips to ace the college interview

If a college or university invites you for an interview, don’t be nervous. In the tenth instalment in our 12-part series on US college admissions, we offer some useful tips to prepare
BY Katherine Ernst Mehta |   02-12-2016
Two women sitting at a small round table, with one facing the other, who has her back to the camera
Image by WOCinTech Chat, used under CC license

When students learn that they’ve been invited to interview with a school*, some are excited – a chance to ask questions and learn more about the university! – while others feel nervous. Interviewing with a college may seem intimidating, but it shouldn’t be!  Ideally, it’s a conversation between you and the interviewer about what you’ve done in high school, and what you hope to do in the future.  Below are a few tips to help you prepare.

 
1. Research the school

If the interviewer asks, “So why do you want to attend our college?” you don’t want to be caught unaware or, worse yet, give an answer that actually applies to a different school!  Before the interview, take some time to browse through the college’s website or social media feeds to identify what about the college interests you, and why it’s the right fit for you.  That way, you can have a more constructive conversation with the interviewer.

 
2. Think about your answers in advance, but not too much

Before the interview, it’s a helpful exercise to think about the main points you want to convey during your conversation.  Perhaps it’s your passion for cooking, your love of playing the saxophone, or the amount of time that you’ve dedicated to community service.  Keep these in mind as you go into the interview.  While you don’t want your answers to sound rehearsed or scripted, you also don’t want to walk out of the interview thinking, “If only I had remembered to talk about…” You may even want to try a mock interview with a friend or adult, to help you practice and soothe pre-interview jitters.

 
3. Ask your own questions

Asking the interviewer questions is one of the best ways to learn more about the school, and create a more conversational, relaxed environment.  The questions can be about the school, but shouldn’t be something that you could have easily answer with a quick Google search (i.e. what’s the average SAT score.)  It can be interesting and insightful to ask about school culture and traditions, or favorite classes, professors, and spots on campus.

 
4. Relax!

Ultimately, the interviewer wants to see you succeed and do well.  If you can keep that in mind, it will help you to relax, enjoy the interview, and use it as an experience to learn more about the school.

*Every school has its own interview policy and procedure.  Some schools allow you to request an interview, while others only invite you to interview after your application has been submitted.  At some schools you are interviewed by admissions staff, while at others it’s by alumni.  It’s always best to check each individual school’s interview policy.


Katherine Ernst Mehta is CEO and Founder of Edvanta Consulting, which works with international high-school students seeking admission to US universities. She first came from the US to India for research, and now lives in Delhi. You can reach her on Twitter at @EdvantaCo. Previous instalments of her 12-part series on US college admissions are here.
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