The thirty to sixty minutes you have in an interview with a college is certainly not to make or break your admission, so take a deep breath and shine! Frankly, at many schools, especially the larger ones, you won’t even be given the time to interview, so don’t be surprised, or take it personally, when they won’t make time for you. Large colleges simply have too many applicants to meet with. So how do you take the pressure off and actually enjoy the process when you’re offered the opportunity to interview on campus or with a local alum?

Do Your Homework

Visiting the school website and gathering information is not just a way to prepare for the interview and enter the room with confidence, but a method to gather more information on the school while you are determining if it’s the best fit for you.  You’ll be answering plenty of questions in the interview, but prepare to ask a question or two yourself.  Be certain your question is not easily answered on the school website.  This will show you’ve done your homework.

During your preparation, do a mock interview with a teacher, friend, or parent. This will keep you from getting that “deer in the headlights” glazed looked since you will have practiced thinking on your feet. However, don’t be so rehearsed that you sound, well, rehearsed. You want to be natural.

Most questions will fall into one of these three categories, so consider them in preparation.  Questions about:

  • The college. Why do you want to attend? What do you have to offer the school?
  • You. What makes you stand out from the pool of applicants? Where are you headed in life?
  • Your activities. What does your life look like outside the classroom?

Make a Connection

The interviewer wants to get the know you, so leave your parents at home. After all, they aren’t the ones going to college.  Speak-up and don’t be shy. You want to enter the room with a smile on your face, a firm handshake then be conversational.

Don’t Overdo It

It’s not necessary to wear a suit and tie or a dress for the ladies. Simply dress as you would for a school presentation – no t-shirts! If you need to think for a moment, take a moment.  It’s okay. But don’t make up an answer that’s not true to who you are.

It’s very appropriate to send a thank-you note to your interviewer afterward, but don’t stalk them.  Remember, it’s extremely rare the interviewer’s opinion of you would make or break the admission decision.  I recently spoke with an alumni interviewer for an Ivy League school and while she enjoys interviewing students, she indicated it is by far the least deciding factor of the admission process.