Applying for college is a huge task. It involves all sorts of things like writing standardized tests – the SAT or the ACT – gathering your reports, filling out long applications, getting testimonials from teachers and peers, and writing essays. If you’re trying to win a sports scholarship, you also have to worry about highlights videos, sports resumes, coach interactions, and registration. Now, after all that, you might have to actually sit down and talk with the college you’re applying to about your interests! As a part of the applications process, it is therefore important to be able to ace your college interview.
Not all colleges will require, as many have done away with the practice. But some schools, including the Ivy League universities, will still reach out to you to schedule an “evaluative” interview – which means that it will matter in your admissions process. If this happens to you, we’ve compiled a list of the best tips for preparing for a great college interview – so you can make sure you nail that application to your dream school.
Here are the top 10 tips for preparing for a college interview:
Do the Research
It is very important to come to the interview prepared. You would be shocked at how many socially confident candidates think that their natural charm will see them through any question, only to come unstuck at simple questions that they just didn’t take the time to look up the answer to. Know about the school that is interviewing you, and know what about it appeals to you. Whether it’s a specific major, a unique extracurricular, or the location of the school, you need to be able to give a solid answer as to why this school in particular is of interest to you.
This is another easy way to come across well to the person interviewing you. Keeping an eye on current affairs and knowing enough about popular issues to have an opinion on them allows you to be prepared for any unexpected questions. Having a feel for what is going on in the world will also help you relate to the interviewer more easily should they start to ask you questions about things other than yourself. This is a great tip for any formal one-on-one, but will also make sure you succeed in your college interview.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
Like any skill, your interviewing will get better with practice. Mock interviews with an adult can help you refine your answers to the more common questions, and will help to eliminate little distracting things that you didn’t even know you were doing. These can be things like scratching your head in between answers or using filler words excessively. Therefore, a good way to see this for yourself is to film your practice interviews to see what you look like, and taking note of the ways you want to improve. A mock interview won’t always get your adrenaline pumping in the same way a real interview does, so if you have more than one college requesting an interview, you can schedule the lower stakes ones first. This gives you a chance to prepare and practice in a live situation, and will make sure you are ready for the perfect college interview.
Make Sure You Know What You Want to Say
Knowing which aspects of your application you want to highlight will come in hugely handy. This will prevent that moment where you suddenly remember something crucial that you forgot to say in the interview as you walk out the door! Make sure to review your application and your essay beforehand. Pick out the parts that you think are most important to highlight, and make sure to remember them. You can split these into sections if you like – for example, personality, extracurriculars, and academics. Then, when each aspect comes up, you will know the best things to mention without having to stress or sweat!
Know the WHY of Everything
For every question that you prepare an answer to, also know WHY that is your answer. This is most important for the more up front questions like “Why do you want to attend this school?”or “Why do you want to study this major?” Knowing the “why” can help you answer these questions extremely effectively and without rambling to find the right words. Even for questions about the future, or about your favourite book, you must be able to speak about the reasons behind your answer. Remember: the “what” does matter, but not as much as the “why”. Being able to articulate it will help you easily ace your college interview.
Dress to Impress
Like with all things in life, first impressions can be lasting. It is important to present your best self in the interview, and that starts with what you wear. You shouldn’t go in looking like you just jumped out of bed; but nor should you arrive looking like you are dressed for an evening at the opera. You’ll want to wear something that makes you feel both comfortable and confident. Be sure your clothes are free from stains and creases, and that you are neatly groomed.
One of the most important aspects of the interview is getting the interviewer to think you would be good to have around. Therefore, it is important to make them like you! Being nice and polite, and showing that you are compassionate and understanding, can go a long way toward making the interview a success.
Keep Your Answers Positive
This is similar to the point above. Showing that you have a positive outlook on the world and on the issues you discuss will help make you feel like the interview is going well. You will also come across as someone who is good – and maybe even inspiring – to be around. Becoming bogged down in negative answers about a range of topics will undoubtedly make the interviewer feel that you’re someone they would rather not interact with.
When you have the option, make sure you have questions about the college, or about the college experience, at the ready. Having the opportunity to speak to someone who went to the university is rare, and they can share valuable insight into what college life will look like, and may even reveal a shared interest in the process. It will also demonstrate actual interest and investment in the school, something that all interviewers are on the lookout for. If you show that you are enthusiastic about attending the college, your chances of a positive interview increase!
Remember: the interview is not the be all and end all of any college application. There is a ton of work that you do throughout your high school career that goes into a college application. College admissions counsellors know this, and they are used to taking everything into account. Also, remember that your interviewer also wants the interview to go well! So they will not be looking for ways to trip you up. Take what they give you, and use it to show the best version of yourself.
While preparing for the interview, there are questions that are commonly asked in almost every interview. Having an answer ready for those questions will help you look prepared, and can stop you from waffling when asked.
Here are a list of Aspire Atlantic’s most frequently asked interview questions:
- “Tell me about yourself.”
- “Why do you want to go to college?”
- “Why do you want to go to THIS college/university?”
- “What do you want to major in?”
- “Why do you want to major in that?”
- “What are your academic strengths?”
- “Do you have any academic weaknesses, and what are some steps you’ve taken to address them?”
- “What do you plan to contribute to this school?”
- “Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?”
- “What would you change about your high school?”
- “Whom do you most admire?”
- “What is your favourite book?”
- “What do you do for fun?”
- “Describe an obstacle you faced, and how you overcame it.”
- “What makes you unique?
- “What are some interesting things about you that I will not find on your college application?
Now you’re ready to ace your college interview! If you keep in mind that this is the culmination of all your efforts to study at a college or university in America, and take on board these tips above, nothing can stop you! Soon, it will be time to say, “Hello, Harvard!”
Remember, it’s always the perfect time to begin your journey towards studying at the university of your dreams. Sign up here for a free consultation with one of our recruitment experts. You could join over 300 student-athletes already placed in the USA, competing at the highest level and earning a world-class degree!