By Irene Yang, Senior, West Windsor Plainsboro High School South, New Jersey
As high school students, we control what our college applications look like. We spend four years striving for leadership opportunities in our extracurricular activities, hours studying for the SATs to maximize our score and editing and re-editing our college essays to show the best “us.” However, there is one aspect of college applications that we can never be prepared enough for: the interview. Most interviews are conducted by alumni and while they say the interview is “optional,” let’s face it, it’s probably not. I walked into my first interview not really knowing what to expect, but here are some ways I learned that you can prepare:
My mom originally wanted me to wear a business suit but thank goodness I didn’t go with that option. Like my own interview, most alumni interviews are done at local coffee shops, or even bookstores. My interviewer was wearing jeans and a baseball cap with his college’s logo. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should dress just as casually. You want to wear something nice (for example, a casual dress for girls or a polo for boys) and look polished. However, dressing too formally would just make you feel even more uncomfortable and out of place. You may also come off as too over the top to the interviewer.
Research the school
This one is a given. Some questions are meant to catch you off guard. However, this is the one question you know that all interviewers are going to start with: why (insert school name here)? So be sure to sound interested in their school by researching the programs and extra-curricular activities you’d be likely to join if you decide to attend that college. The more knowledgeable you can appear, the better impression you can make on your interviewer.
Read the news
This may sound a little bit weird, but it doesn’t hurt to read the New York Times or another newspaper before you go to your interview. Colleges like students that keep up on current events, especially about politics. I’ll be honest, the question that caught me off guard? What do you think about the national debt? The point of these questions isn’t to see if you’re right or wrong, but to test your knowledge of the world. Citing actual evidence rather than giving vague answers can make a completely different impression on the interviewer.
The point of the college interview is for the college to gain more knowledge of you as a person. So before you walk into that interview, make sure that you know yourself. Know exactly what you want to participate in at their college and the things that interest you. The first question my interviewer had was “Tell me about yourself.” So be sure to know the defining characteristics that make you you and what you want to show to the interviewer about yourself.
People think that the interview may make or break you depending on what kind of person you come across as. However, other than a few questions that caught me off guard, most of what my interviewer and I talked about was already in my submitted college applications. Most questions I got asked were reinforcements of what I wrote in my applications. Remember, the alumni interview is just one way to put a face to the application. Of course, major problems like not knowing anything about their school will raise red flags, but other than that, take a deep breath, and you’ll be okay!