The Truth About College Interviews (for teens)
Anticipating an interview with a college admissions officer makes many students nervous. Unsure students may imagine something more like an interrogation, complete with rapid-fire questions and a bare bulb hanging overhead.
The truth is, most college interviews are relaxed, informative, and even fun.
"The interview is as much about you finding out about the [college] and whether it fits you as it is an interrogation with dire consequences," says John Boshoven, counselor for continuing education at Community High School (MI) and director of college counseling for Jewish Academy of Metropolitan Detroit.
In other words, very few colleges use interviews to weed out applicants. A great interview could enhance your application—especially if your interviewer is the same person who will assess your application—but it won't make up for a weak academic record. On the other hand, a so-so interview probably won't hurt your chances. Just taking the time to visit the college and talk to an admission officer makes a positive impression, because it shows that you're really interested in the college.
But why settle for a so-so interview when a little preparation can make you stand out from the crowd? Here are some tips to change an interview from ho-hum small talk into meaningful conversation.
Know your stuff
Spending your interview just finding out basic facts about the college is a waste of your time (and the admission officer's). Before you schedule an interview, read up on the college and make sure you're really interested.
"I always tell my students to do their homework and not ask for any information they can find elsewhere (Internet, guide books, viewbooks, etc.)," says Sue Bigg, an educational consultant from Illinois.
Know yourself--and be yourself
Admission officers want to get to know you—not some fake personality that you think will impress them.
"There is no 'personality type' or 'lifestyle' that is synonymous with a successful interview," says Cigus Vanni, a counselor at Howell High School (NJ). "Give your interviewer credit for being able to discern if you're being a phony."
Instead, get comfortable with yourself. Be prepared to discuss your interests, talents, and experiences. Also, think about how your interests fit with what the college offers.
"Students who understand their wants and the qualities they desire in a college, and who can articulate their needs, allow for the best interaction," says Kevin Kropf, associate director of admissions at Albion College (MI).
Before the interview, think about how you'd answer the following questions.
- What are your goals?
- How does this college fit in with your interests and talents?
- What majors are you interested in, and why?
- What are you passionate about?
- Why do you want to attend college? Why this college?
- What extracurricular activities are important to you?
- What academic or intellectual topics interest you?
- What types of books do you enjoy reading?
"Students who can share their own thoughts and discuss books impress me more than students who wax eloquently on something they obviously heard from their teacher," says Kropf.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. © 2008 National Association for College Admission Counseling.
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