There has been an increase in the amount of colleges that either recommend or require that students interview for certain programs. Out of the three colleges I applied to, one of them required an interview for the honors program, and another had an optional interview portion for all incoming students (the third college had no interview opportunities). I surprisingly enjoyed doing these interviews, and today am sharing my tips on how to be successful at a college interview.
Schedule it early
Don’t wait until the last minute, schedule the interviews as soon as possible once you are made aware of them. Also, try to have the interviews earlier in the day or right after school, instead of being the last interview before everyone goes home for the day.
Take advantage of practice opportunities
Many high schools will offer students the opportunities to do practice interviews for a variety of different reasons, including college admission interviews. This is normally organized through the guidance office or transition specialist. I also had teachers that would hold practice interviews with students and allow them to practice, which was invaluable as I learned how to do well with interviews.
Look at sample questions
Some colleges may provide questions ahead of time for students, or at least have a list of sample questions on their website. Write out your answers before the interview, but don’t read your answers off the page, just let the conversation flow naturally.
While they may tell you that there is no dress code, it never hurts to dress nicely, even if it’s just casual. For one of my interviews, I wore jeans with a nice top, infinity scarf, and flats, never once feeling out of place. For my other interview, I wore a cotton knee length dress with wide straps and flats again.
Don’t be intimidated by the interviewer
The people who interviewed me were advisors at the colleges in different departments and typically candidates for a master’s program. They are not meant to be intimidating or out to get you, they want to learn more about you and help you imagine yourself at the college.
Should I disclose my disability?
I decided to note that I had low vision in one of my interviews, since it had impacted my academics. Because the college did not have a reputation for being accessible to people with vision impairments, I think this actually scared the interviewer a bit, and may have been a contributing factor into why I didn’t get into the program. For the other interview, I disclosed my low vision in passing and was not asked any further questions about it. I think it all depends on the college’s general attitude about disability- read these ten questions to ask when choosing a college here.
Don’t go bashing teachers
There’s no reason for teachers you hate to come up in an interview, ever. Talk about the teachers that have influenced you and allowed you to become the student you are today, and keep it positive. If you must talk about teachers that you disliked for some reason, mention the things you learned from having them and refrain from using harsh language.
Share what you are passionate about
There’s a lot of students who played on a sports team, played an instrument, or were on the honor roll. Talk about what makes you unique and different than the other students. Mention how you play an obscure instrument, volunteer at a museum or other cool place, work at an internship, or have a certification. The most asked about item in my college interviews was my Microsoft Office Specialist Master Certification- read more about that here.
Interviewers are looking for people that are connected to the world around them, both in terms of history and in terms of current events. One of the questions I was asked was “if you could have dinner with any historical figure, who would it be?” I remember the interviewer was very impressed with my answer of Frida Kahlo, and told me that so many students had chosen people like Marilyn Monroe or George Washington. During my interview, we also talked about topics related to education, policy, and the future of technology.
It’s better to have difficult goals than no goals at all
When asked about some of my goals, I said that I wanted to become a resource for people on low vision, talk to members of Congress and the Senate about disability and education, be a published writer, and continue to play clarinet. While some of these goals may have seemed unrealistic at the time, it’s better to share goals that are more difficult to accomplish than no goals at all. Relating your goals back to what you want to study is also incredibly important- I remember someone telling me that everyone says they want to cure cancer, even if they’re not studying science. In response to that, I said that I wanted to develop assistive technology that could help people affected by the disease and other conditions as well, an answer the interviewer was very impressed with.
College interviews are not as scary as they may sound, and every student should take the opportunity to participate in one. It’s a great addition to your college application, too!