from the Experts
Managing the College Application
By Bem A., Undergraduate Ventures Scholar
Although most colleges require a personal statement,
some will use interviews in the application process.
Depending upon the school, the interview can be a luxury,
an encouraged necessity, or a critical step. Generally,
highly selective colleges and universities with large
applicant pools (e.g. Ivy League schools) have applicant-alum
interviews, but you should always check with the school.
There are as many types of interviews as there are schools. Some
schools have an interview between an admissions officer and the
applicant, while others have an applicant meet with an alum. Some
interviews are done by phone; others are done in person. There
really isn't a general mold that college application interviews
fit into. There are, though, some general tips that can make the
interview run smoothly.
- Plan to arrive ten minutes early. This
rule needs little explanation. Hardly any adult wants to wait
on a high school student.
- Shake hands, speak clearly, and send a thank you
note. You can't ignore this basic social etiquette.
It tells the interviewer that you're mature and confident. He/she
has to write a report on the discussion (the interviewer will
probably be taking notes as you're talking) so make sure that
you speak clearly. After the interview, express your thanks
by sending a card.
- Dress accordingly. Your interviewer
may ask you to dress casual; in that case, dress casually. If
he/she doesn't say anything, dress as if you were going to a
- Get directions to the site. Some
interviews are held at the college, the interviewer's home,
or even a coffee shop. Make sure you have reliable directions
and give yourself ample time to travel.
- Expect both the eccentric and introverted. On
my first interview, I expected the alum to be really energetic
and full of ideas. I was wrong. He was in his seventies and
very lethargic. We had a difficult time communicating (so much
that the school scheduled a second interview). It wasn't awful,
but it wasn't great. In short, be prepared.
- Be yourself. Although it's generic
advice, it's useful. Many people can see through a fake laugh
or false compliments. The interview is supposed to highlight
your best personal qualities; show them.
- Tread carefully. You never know
what personal beliefs your interviewer holds. Don't start an
interview with your criticism of the Vietnam War or your beliefs
on abortion. You shouldn't alter your personal convictions,
but settle into the conversation before introducing controversial
topics. (Note: your interviewer might introduce a controversial
topic. If so, don't simply agree with him/her on the issue.
Opposing viewpoints make for an interesting discussion.)
- Talk. This is the last and most
important piece of advice. Ask questions and encourage discussion.
Your interviewer may be very shy or very talkative. Either way,
try to probe interesting facts about the college. Ask questions
that only an alum would know. It is important for both you and
the interviewer to have a rewarding conversation. From experience,
it is very awkward when you and the interviewer share long moments