Wednesday, January 11, 2012

How to: Survive A College Interview

Imagine this- Fidgeting in your seat, you fix your hair for the 10th time this minute, look around the room to scope out the competition, question your outfit one more time, and give yourself a last minute reminder not to forget to talk all about your latest charity project. A serious looking woman walks into the room and calls your name. You reach your hand out, look her in the eye, smile, and give her a firm handshake. Where do you think you are?

Throughout these past few months, my (A) life has literally been consumed by the college application process. Countless applications completed (I know my SS number by heart at this point...), countless supplemental essays written, and a large number of college interviews survived. The thought of a college interview can definitely be intimidating to many, but it was actually one of my favorite parts. All you really have to do is talk about yourself. And who doesn't love that? 
  • By the time you form a list of schools that you will be applying to (around the end of junior year), I suggest immediately checking their admissions page(s) online to see which of the schools require or suggest interviews. Write this information down in a place where you will remember it! Remember: Optional usually means that you should do it. There's nothing to lose and everything to gain, anyways. Some schools require appointments to be made very far in advance and others designate a certain time for interviewing the applicants, so be on top of the ball and know the dates. Always be ahead of the game!
Don't forget your deadlines!
  • Talk to your parents to pick (a) date(s) to schedule your interviews. Some schools offer alumni interviews, where you will be paired up with an alum from your area to interview you; this allows for the interview to take place closer to home if you are unable to travel to the school. Some schools even offer Skype interviews, where you can Skype chat an admissions interviewer in the comfort of your home. Side note: I have a friend who chose this option for almost all of his interviews and wore an oxford and a blazer on the top, while wearing his pajama pants on the bottom for every single interview (Obviously the interviewer could only see him from the waist up. Haha!) If the only option is an on-campus interview, discuss a time to visit the school. Figure out which option is for you.
  • Once you have a date picked, call the admissions offices and make your appointments! Some schools have a first come first serve list for interviews, so make sure to schedule your appointment as soon as possible.
  • Start preparing! Part of your preparation is to research everything about the school with which you are interviewing. Your knowledge of the school's history, current events, majors, and other availabilities will show your interest in the school. The interviewer may throw you a curve ball by asking who your favorite famous alum is or who the school's mascot is. Always be prepared! At the end of the interview, the interviewer usually asks if you have any questions for them. Be prepared with a series of questions to ask him or her. Consider questions like- "Why did you chose ____?" or "What was your favorite class at _______?" (If they are an alum). If you are interested in going to business school, medical school, or law school following graduation, ask the interviewer about the school's acceptance rates to each of those respective types of schools. 
Bonus points if you can guess which school belongs with this mascot.
  • As your interview date gets closer and closer, start preparing what you are going to tell the interviewer about yourself. Compose a list of "talking points" or notes of preparation comprised of what you are about and what you have done during your high school career (i.e. extracurriculars, clubs, sports, academics, service work). Don't feel embarrassed to rehearse these talking points in front of your mirror. Ask someone you feel comfortable with to ask you random questions to practice staying on your toes. You never know what those interviewers may ask you. My favorite question during an interview was- "If you were a breakfast food, what would you be and why?" I definitely had to think on my toes to answer that one. 
  • So its the night before your interview and you obviously have to look way better than the rest of your competition. Appropriate interview attire can vary from school to school. My philosophy is that it's always better to look overdressed than underdressed. You don't want to be that girl wearing jeans to an interview...(Yes, I've seen it done). Western business attire is usually suggested. I also suggest putting your hair up if you have a tendency to play with it out of nervousness. Nothing too loud or flamboyant- you don't want to distract from your responses, which are ultimately the most important part of what you bring to the interview. Here are the two outfits that I usually stick with:
  • First impressions are everything. As soon as you meet your interviewer, look them in the eye, smile, and give them a firm handshake. A friend recently told me the story of how she got her most recent job. She explained that after she was hired, the interviewer admitted to her that after her strong first impression and confident handshake, he knew he wanted to hire her. True story. Confidence is everything. 
  • Answer the questions you are asked honestly and sincerely. Be yourself. Talk about all that you've done thus far in your high school career. If you are genuine, your passion will be undeniable to the interviewer. 
  • Eye contact. You need to find the perfect balance of it. You want to appear attentive while avoiding shooting a creepy stare into the eyes of the interviewer. Don't think about it too much and it should flow. 
  • Obviously you are the one being interviewed, but after a while, the conversation should flow so that it seems more like a conversation. Try to talk about your hobbies, involvements, and accomplishments so that each leads to another. If you can do that successfully, you will secretly be the one controlling the interview.
  • "That's it?!" you think to yourself as the interview comes to an end. That was easy, huh? Before leaving, make sure to thank your interviewer for spending time with you and (whether it was or not) tell them that it was a pleasure to meet them. 
  • Follow up emails are great. Although most interviewers will send you an email themselves, I always try to beat them to the punch and send them an email a few hours following the interview. Again, you should thank them for spending time with you and express your interest in the school. If you have any additional questions for them, now is a great time to ask. 
Good luck to all who are in the process of interviewing! Remember- it is incredibly rare for an applicant to be rejected based solely on their interview performance. You have nothing to lose. Make them love you! 



  1. Y'all are going to be tired of my comments! I love this. I wanted to add that a lot of scholarships have interview training if it is an interview specific scholarship. I know my scholarship was offered to 500 students every year in my state for teaching, but we had to pass 2 rounds of formal interview, and we were offered training, which MANY students turned down. I found those students didn't often receive the scholarship. Being prepared and taking advantage of opportunities to learn and grow is always smart! On the same vein, the school offers a pre-orientation day or an open house--- GO! It's a great way to open doors and network!

  2. Perfect post! Since I applied to so few schools, I only had to do 2 interviews. I think interviews are easy!!! Just look nice and act nice and don't mind sucking up just a little bit. Also, that mascot is TCU's horned frog!!

  3. Thank you Hannah and Hannah! I think this post is useful for any interview! A did a great job! xoox, C

  4. I'll definitely have to remember these when I start interviewing in a couple years! Great tips! :)

  5. This is perfect y'all! I just starred this for when I have my college interviews! And it's from TCU! XO