Do you want to know how to survive the college admission interview? Well, the short answer is pretty straightforward. It amounts to one word: Preparation. That’s it. Thank you for coming. Please don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
Wait, you want more?
Well, okay then. I guess I could spend a bit of time telling you how to prepare (and how not to). So here goes the long answer.
Know what they’re going to ask about
The first thing you’ll want to review is all the documentation you sent them. After all, that’s what they know about you so that’s probably what they’re going to base their questions on. So, reread your submission essay. Check out your transcripts and get ready to explain why you got that low grade (or high grade) in that one course and think about what makes yours different and be ready to elaborate on that.
If you’re struggling to see where that may be, then consider asking somebody to help you out. Perhaps somebody else is also preparing for their college admission interview. In that case, you can both read the other person’s submitted texts and see what you would ask questions about. This will help both of you as it will cancel out the curse of knowledge and help you see your own texts as others might.
Know where you’re applying
Why did you apply to the university you are going to be interviewed at? Note – ‘because you guys are the only ones who will take me’, even if it’s true, is not a good response. Some more bad choices are, ‘the guys are really hot’ and ‘This place has the coolest parties’. You’ll want to find academic reasons for going.
So explore their website and check out what they pride themselves on (the earlier on they mention it, the more important they feel it is). So take whatever excites you and make sure you weave that into your story.
As you’re pretty much guaranteed to get this question, work it down to an elevator pitch.
Know your questions
People’s favorite subject is themselves. So make use of that by getting a list of questions ready you can ask them. Because when they’re talking you don’t have to (and you significantly reduce the chance of saying something that you’ll regret.
Your questions do need to go in depth, though. If they’re the kind of thing that a simple Google would have answered for you, they’re not going to be impressed. Also, consider how your question might reflect on you. Something like, ‘What are the minimum number of classes I need to attend to get a passing grade?’ sends a bad signal.
Write down a short story about what you’ve accomplished, what motivates you and similar topics. By actually sitting down and writing it down you’ll remember it better. This will mean you’re more likely to have it at your fingertips when you’re being interviewed. As an added bonus, when you write stuff down you’re far more likely to notice the logical leaps you’re making and think of how you would close those.
No, this doesn’t have to be the best thesis writing or something like that, but it should be high-quality.
Have ready-made answers for the big questions
Here are a few:
- What is your greatest strength/weakness? (On the ‘weakness’ front you can be a little honest but not too honest. ‘I sometimes get too into a subject that fascinates me’ is okay, ‘I like to drink in the morning’ is not).
- What is the one thing you would change about yourself? Ditto here. A bit of honesty is okay (I am very sensitive and it would be nice if I could dial that down’ is okay. ‘I often spend months at a time seriously depressed and unable to get out of bed’ is too much.)
- What is your greatest achievement?
- How did you prepare for this interview and for university?
- Describe your favorite teacher/subject
- What is your favorite book, singer, movie, TV show? Why?
- Talk about [insert current event].
- If you could meet any important figure, living or dead, who would it be? What would you talk about?
- What other schools are you applying to?
- What should we know about you?
Find somebody to run through the interview with you. This can be a parent or a teacher. Make sure they take a bit of time to actually look at the texts you’ve provided and the university you’ve applied to, so they can come up with some questions that are similar to the ones you’re going to be asked.
Also, though the first time they might go easy on you, don’t let them do so every time. Ask them to ask the hard questions so you can prepare for them and learn to deal with them before you actually go into that meeting and end up blind sighted.
Also, after you’ve done a practice round ask them for feedback. Perhaps they won’t agree with you about what are good and bad answers. In this way, they can give you insights you otherwise might not have had.
And finally, make sure you relax. Yes, I know, easier said than done. Nonetheless, there is a lot of evidence that if you take a moment to hang out with your family or watch a few cat videos or in other way do things to improve your mood, you’ll find the interview a lot easier.
This is because while negative emotions focus us laser-like on one subject or thing, positive emotions broaden our perspective. This will let you be more creative and even make more connections. And that is sure to help you during the interview.