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COLLEGE APPLICATIONS

How to Prepare for Your College Interview

Author: Harrison Wallace

Receiving an invitation for a college interview can definitely seem overwhelming. You may be unsure of what to expect, or feel like your entire application is on the line. It’s important to understand, however, that interviews aren’t necessarily make-or-break for your application! Nonetheless, they are a great opportunity to demonstrate that you’re a kind, pleasant individual and thus further showcase the strength of your application. With just a bit of preparation and practice, you can ace your interview!

The purpose of a college interview is to help an admissions office assess your fit for their school and/or program. Interviews are most often conducted by alumni of the school; before the pandemic, it was commonplace for interviews to be held in-person with an alum who lives in your area. Following a shift to Zoom in the heat of the pandemic, it’s now possible for interviews to take place either in-person or online.

Here are our top 7 tips to help prepare you for your college interview!

  1. Research the college and program you are applying to!

During the interview, your interviewer will likely be interested in your motivations to apply to their school. So, be sure to look into the school's history, mission, and values. Research professors whose work you are interested in, unique points about the classes/curriculum that stick out to you, and the nature of student life. Knowing about each of these can help you understand what the school is looking for in a student, and thus give you a better idea of what parts of your profile to emphasize. And while it’s common that interviewers do not review the rest of your application before meeting with you, it’s generally good practice not to repeat the content of your essays and activities list verbatim– vary things up a bit and make sure your tone is conversational!

  1. Practice your responses!

Practice answering common interview questions to make sure you can talk about them with proficiency and fluency. Some possible questions are:

  • "Why do you want to attend this college?"
  • "What are your goals?"
  • "What are your strengths and weaknesses?"
  • "What extracurricular activities are you involved in?"
  • "What are your plans after graduation?"
  • "How would your friends describe you?"
  1. Dress professionally!

Dress professionally for the interview. This shows that you respect the interviewer and the school, and it also gives you a sense of confidence and professionalism. While you don’t necessarily have to be wearing a full suit or blazer, dressing up shows the interviewer that you care about the impression you’re giving.

  1. Be punctual!

Arrive early to the interview, whether in-person or in a Zoom room. Being punctual shows that you respect the interviewer's time and that you are serious about the school and your future.

  1. Be honest and enthusiastic!

During the interview, be honest and enthusiastic. Express your interest in the school and your desire to learn more about it. Show that you have researched the school and understand what it has to offer. Your responses don’t have to be exactly what you think the interviewer wants to hear; rather, be yourself!

  1. Ask questions!

During the interview and especially towards the end, ask the interviewer any questions you may have, perhaps about their experience at the school. This shows that you are interested in the school and that you have been paying attention during the interview. But of course, don’t ask questions just for the sake of it; asking questions that matter to you will naturally seem more authentic to the interviewer!

  1. Follow up!

After the interview, send a note or email to the interviewer thanking them for their time. Being cordial goes a long way, and this is a great way to stay in touch with the interviewer as you continue the application process! 

College interviews can seem daunting, but following the tips above can help make the process much less scary and much more tangible! Remember that an interview is an opportunity to showcase your strengths and interests, learn more about the college and program you’re applying to, and simply have a good conversation. So, stay calm, be yourself, and enjoy it. Best of luck!

 

Need any more help? Sign up for a session with a Harvard student mentor to talk about your own applications and work one-on-one!