Colleges and universities often encourage students to interview with a university representative or alumnus as part of the application process. This extra step can help to get a better sense of a student’s interest in the school, personality, and fit for the campus culture.
These interviews are usually not required and do not replace all other factors like grades, test scores, and personal statements on your college application. However, if a college interview goes well, a university representative’s recommendation can definitely help you earn an extra point on your application.
College interviews are really just opportunities for networking with a representative from your prospective college, which can also help you learn more about the school. However, they can be intimidating, so you should definitely keep some strategies in mind.
Below are 7 tips and strategies to help you prepare for college interviews. By feeling prepared, hopefully they can be fun!
1. Brainstorm answers to common questions.
If you know you’re going to be interviewing for a college or university, take some time to brainstorm your answers to the most common questions interviewers ask prospective students.
Some of those common questions include:
- Why do you want to attend this specific college or university?
- What will you uniquely bring to your prospective college campus?
- What subject(s) do you hope to study in college?
- What is your favorite high school subject, and why?
- What do you do in your free time?
- What are some interesting facts about you that I can’t learn from your application?
- What is an obstacle or hurdle you’ve had to overcome, and how did you overcome it?
You can write down your answers to later think more deeply about them and edit them as needed. Read your answers to adults who you trust and see if they have any feedback.
Make sure, above all, that your answers are specific and true to you. For example, when you brainstorm about why you love a college or university, make sure you know which individual programs, professors, classes, organizations, etc. interest you the most at that school and why.
2. Practice, practice, practice.
Once you have your answers written down and in your brain, ask parents, teachers, other mentors, and friends to interview you for practice.
Interviewing is definitely a skill you can learn and practice over time, and the more you practice, the more comfortable you will be talking about yourself and your interest in your chosen college or university.
Practicing the interview process will also help you identify any holes in your answers and allow you to get used to speaking improvisationally rather than from a script.
3. Research your interviewer (within reason).
Knowing your audience can definitely help you feel more confident during your interview. If you can, find out who your interviewer is, whether they are a representative or alumnus of the college or university, and either when they graduated or what role they play as a representative.
If you know who your audience is, you can better understand how you should frame your answers, what details to highlight, and how you can relate to the person who is asking you questions.
Everyone is human, including your interviewer. So, if the interviewer finds commonalities between you and them, they will inevitably like you even more than if you make no effort to relate to them.
Of course, avoid researching your interviewer so thoroughly that you bring up any personal details about them or make them feel uncomfortable. You can always opt to ask questions in the room to find ways you two can relate to each other as well.
4. Drop the script, and have a conversation.
After you have practiced and thought in depth about your answers to possible questions, be ready to drop your script and just have a conversation with your interviewer.
Again, your interviewer is a human being, and they will feel more comfortable around you if you are conversing with them as a fellow human being. If you sound too robotic, your interviewer will have a harder time remembering your answers and relating to you as a prospective student.
You will also have much more fun if you are comfortable enough with your answers to have a conversation. Allow yourself opportunities to be surprised during your interview and to make some new discoveries about yourself and the school you’re interested in attending.
5. Be your authentic, professional self.
Having a conversation also frees you up to be your authentic self. Rather than thinking about what you imagine your interviewer wants to hear, focus on what you want to share. You don’t need to pander to the interviewer.
However, you should be professional. Let the side of you that is mature, a bit more formal, and ready for college to shine through.
Though you can find moments to be a bit more informal if the situation allows, remember that you are interviewing to give a great impression of yourself and convince your interviewer that you are prepared to attend the college or university that they love.
6. Offer plenty of gratitude.
To leave your interviewer with the best possible impression, make sure you thank them for taking the time to interview you. Gratitude will always go a long way, and your interviewer will remember that you were polite and respectful.
7. Don’t overthink it.
During and after your interview, try to focus on the moment and avoid overthinking every detail.
You don’t need to stare at the clock or worry that a shorter interview means your interviewer doesn’t like you. If you’re too worried about what their questions or comments mean or if the interview is running too long or short, you will seem distracted, and your interviewer might notice.
Then, try not to run over the interview in your head too much afterwards; just let it go. Do something fun right after you’re done to get your mind off of the interview and move on with your day.
Overthinking your interview will only get you in your head and open up doors for you to overly criticize yourself. As long as you were prepared and shared your authentic and professional self, you will have left the impression you needed to leave.
Most importantly, have fun! If you love the school you’re hoping to attend, you should have plenty to talk about with a person who also, presumably, loves that school. Then, staying in the moment during and after will be much easier.