Succeeding at the college admissions interview

Succeeding at the college admissions interview

August 29, 2019 14 By Stanley Isaacs


– For the schools that
I worked at that did evaluative interviews, it was always several things that I was looking for and I think the way to
think about an interview is very much a conversation. Admissions people by
nature are chatty people. They like getting to know you. They’re not really looking
to catch you in anything. They want to have a good
conversation with you and see what you’re
interested in and really try to get to know you. So, coming into that interview I was always looking for
students A, who would one, done their homework about my school. You know, so did they come
in knowing a lot about my institution and ready
to sort of talk about that? How it fits them, but also how
they might contribute to it. – Talk about your experiences. Talk about what you’ve been involved with. Add a layer of depth that we wouldn’t know if we just read an essay or saw the activity listed on a resume. – If you want to apply to selective and highly selective schools, you need to learn how
to talk about yourself. That’s a skill, and especially
doing it in a verbal way. A lot of students, I would say to them, it could be very easy if
I said do you, you know, tell me a little bit about how your best friend would describe you. In your head you could
probably come up with several examples and things they might say, but to say that out
loud for the first time might be a difficult thing to do. I know a lot of students
who would actually not like that question at all because they don’t like talking about themselves. You know, if I gave them the option of, you could write me a two page paper about how your best friend would describe you or you could stick yourself
in the eye with your pen, what would be less painful? A lot of kids would go boom, be done, and be excited about that because they’re not used to talking about themselves. So, going into an
interview, you definitely want to be thinking about,
what am I comfortable with? How can I talk about myself? And in different areas of my life. So, my academic life,
my extracurricular life, maybe a little about my family. These are all areas that
interviewers might talk about. – What you want to do
to prepare yourself is not think of it as a formal job interview but an opportunity for
you to learn more about the institution and to
discuss your interest in that institution, why
you’re applying to that school. Maybe there’s a particular program or a particular professor
that you’re interested in learning more about that really sort of encouraged you to
apply to that institution. Prepare yourself by coming prepared with questions to ask that interviewer. – And don’t ask them questions you can get out of a guidebook, right? You know, ask them questions hat they can answer personally. A lot of times it might
be a recent graduate. Ask them what their experience was like. Was it what they thought
it was gonna be like? What has it been since they’ve graduated? Have they liked the
alumni network in terms of helping them get jobs? If it’s somebody who’s my age, you know, you can ask them a little
bit about, you know, how long have you worked here? What’s your take on this school? What do you think the strengths are? Or look, I’m really
interested in double majoring. I know I can, but how easy is that? ‘Cause that’s hard to
differentiate in the catalog. Or, you know, the really hard thing is can you tell me a little
bit about what you think the sort of philosophy
of student life is here? Like, I think that’s a
great question to ask ’cause that’s really what students want to get at, but especially
if they’re in the summer and kids aren’t around, that’s
really hard to figure out. – And of course, be prepared to answer questions about yourself. About what interests
you, what you love about not only school, but your
other interests and hobbies, and also to engage that interviewer in a more conversation like setting. They’re not going to sit there and shoot various questions at you. They might ask you a couple questions, but it really is just to
get a conversation going. – Admissions officers are
going to ask you questions in the academic arena, right? So, and that’s fair game, so
what are you excited about? What subjects have you really, you know, loved in high school? Are those things you want
to continue with in college? Is there are certain teacher
or a certain way of teaching that’s really got you excited about this? I think all of that is fair game. I always talk to students to say look, make sure you’re able to sort of articulate why you love math. Not just that I’m a math guy, but why? Right, like what gets
you excited about math? And why do you think
you’d be a good fit to… What about, the, say,
Williams math program would be really exciting for you, here? All right, so academic stuff is game. If you say I love the 60s and I spent a lot of time reading about the 60s, and, you know, I was an
American studies major. I loved that time period too. You’ve opened yourself up to me asking you a lot of questions about that. If you don’t know about that stuff, you open the gate, I think it’s fair game for me to go into that gate. You know, it’s not fair
for an admissions officer to say what do you think about the art from the 19th Century? What’s your favorite period? Because you may have no interest in that. But if you say I love
art from the 19th Century and I’m an art history major,
I may go right into that. So, again, academics is
always gonna be on the table. They’re gonna certainly
wanna know about your extracurriculars, what
are you involved in? What do you like? What do you think you might
want to do in college? – If you’re talking about
something that you’ve done, talk about the why
behind what you’ve done. Talk about the passion. Talk about the energy, you know. Talk about the time that you put into it. Talk about the emotions of the experience as opposed to thinking
there’s a certain thing that we want to hear or just worrying about your articulation. – Some colleges have a secondary purpose for college interviews and that is to sort of gauge how much interest you have in them. If you go to a website,
if you go to the college website it’ll give you
some information about what’s the purpose of
the interview, but also, is it required, is it
not required, you know, those sorts of things and if the interview is strongly suggested
or required, obviously, that’s something you probably
want to take advantage of. And schools will look at that and see, especially if it’s strongly required or just, I’m sorry, strongly encouraged and you don’t take advantage of that, the school may read that as you’re just not as interested in us. I know, you know, from
personal experience, we’ve had schools that will say to us your students are within two hours of us, you know, unless they’re from a low income background and don’t have the opportunity to come to us, we’re going
to expect them to come and if they don’t, and do a
tour, do an information session, maybe do our interview, we’re probably going to read that as
being less interested. – If you are granted an interview and feel like you may not be able to
participate for whatever reason. Maybe it’s distance, maybe
it’s a scheduling issue, it’s okay to let that institution know and communicate with them and perhaps offer an alternative such as a phone interview or a Skype interview. – Again, some schools,
they’re gonna put a lot of emphasis on an interview. A lot of other schools,
you know, may not have any. So, it’s understanding
sort of what the process is with the interview as well. So, again, it’s something you’re gonna potentially do in this process and it’s something to get prepared for.