College Admissions Interviews: Everything Students Need to Know
In Today’s Virtual World, Creating A Personal Connection With A College Can Be Difficult…
Participating in a college interview is one of the most crucial ways that students can demonstrate interest in a college. While interviews are not normally given the same weight as grades, essays, and extracurricular activities, colleges do take them into account when considering an application. While a good interview can increase a student’s chances of being admitted, an interview that does not go well may also be remembered when your child’s application is being reviewed; so your student will need to be prepared.
Yet for many students, this may be one of the first interviews they ever participate in. It can be difficult at first glance to determine how one should act during a college interview or what the best way to prepare may be. Many students bounce from one extreme to the other - either they take the interview too formally and seriously, or they act as casually as they would when speaking to a friend. Striking the right balance in your tone is just one of the struggles students face when preparing for college interviews.
Add to this the fact that many college admission interviews have moved from face-to-face interactions to Zoom meetings, and students have more to prepare for and worry about than ever. Thankfully, once your student knows how to prepare for a Zoom interview, they’ll find that they aren’t all that different from an in-person interview!
In this article, we cover everything students need to know to ace their college interviews, even if they’re interviewing over Zoom. We cover how students can prepare both for the questions they may be asked and every other aspect that goes into leaving a good first impression during an interview.
How Students Can Prepare For College Admissions Interviews
Enlist the help of a family member or friend to play the part of the mock interviewer. Preparing for your college admission interview requires that you practice being in the situation of an interview. Repeated practice with someone who your student knows and are comfortable with will allow them to become more comfortable with the interview process itself. While it may initially be difficult to take a practice interview as seriously as they do the real thing (especially if your student practices with friends) after two or three practice sessions your student should find their rhythm.
While many traditional college admission interviews last upwards of thirty minutes, you and your student shouldn’t feel the need to make every practice session this long. Even several rounds of 10 minute practice interviews followed by one full length 30 minute interview a few days before their real interview can do wonders for their confidence and preparedness. Make sure your student takes their practice interviews seriously in order to receive the maximum benefit from their time.
PREPARE FOR COMMON QUESTIONS
While every college will have a different set of questions they ask students, there are a handful of common questions that nearly every school asks during interviews. If your student can prepare answers to these common questions, it will free up mental space during the interview to think about the more difficult questions an interviewer may ask. These questions include the following:
- What was your favorite subject in high school?
- Why are you interested in this college?
- How will you contribute to our college’s campus and culture?
- What are your academic strengths and weaknesses?
- What makes you want to study this major?
- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
These questions lend themselves well to cliche or short answers, but encourage your student to think beyond the expected or average. How can your student incorporate their experiences, background, personal story, skills, or achievements into their answers? While your student should focus on the question asked, any chance for a small humble brag that paints their hard work in a good light should be taken.
Many students get caught up in “what’s expected of them” and are unaware of the fact that colleges are increasingly valuing diversity - not just of backgrounds, but of opinion, values, and perspective. Therefore, students should never be afraid to be themselves in their interviews. However, they should always aim to be the best version of themselves. This means they should present the version of themselves that they would want to show an important or respected figure in their lives.
Make sure your student knows that playing a persona of the “ideal student” is only likely to backfire on them. The interviewer has probably heard countless students say what they think colleges want to hear from students, and are likely tired of the same cliche answers and attitudes. Not every student is an all-star at everything their high school had to offer, and your student shouldn’t shy away from talking about their weaknesses or challenges they overcame, especially if asked.
One way that students can strike the right balance between casual and formal in their attitude is by making sure they show gratitude to their interviewer. While they don’t need to lay it on thick and say thank you throughout the conversation, a sincere thank you at the end of the interview can be exactly what your student needs to cement their good first impression with the interviewer.
Another fantastic way that your student can show that they’re truly thankful for the opportunity to complete a college admission interview is by sending a follow-up thank you email. While it only takes five minutes to write, a sincere email thanking the interviewer for their time (and perhaps asking a follow-up question or two) can go a long way in showing how serious your student is. Because college interviews are one of the main ways students can show demonstrated interest in a college, taking the time out of their day to send this email will allow them to leave a lasting impression.
ASK QUESTIONS YOURSELF
Make sure your student prepares questions of their own to ask the interviewer about the college. These questions don’t need to be complex, or even something your student believes your interviewer will know the answer to offhand. Merely having questions about their major, the college campus, or the programs offered will show that the student has done their research and has a genuine interest in attending this college.
Your student can ask virtually any question they can think of, but good places to start their brainstorming session are questions such as:
- What was your favorite memory from attending this college? (if being interviewed by an alumni)
- What support services does this college offer for students in my intended major?
- How does this college support causes that your student is passionate about? (such as climate change, ending inequality, or other social causes)
What About Zoom Interviews?
Some students are intimidated by the very idea of Zoom interviews, but thankfully these can be approached in much the same way as a traditional interview. Even if your student will only be visible from the waist up to their interviewer, it can help put them in the right mindset if they get dressed up as they would for a face-to-face interview.
In a similar manner, it can help if your student does virtual interview practice if they know they will be doing a Zoom interview. This will help them become comfortable with the video chat interface, how loudly they should talk to get their tone across, and if they need to make any adjustments to their technical set up. Like any other form of interviewing, the more you practice over Zoom or other video chat platforms, the more natural and confident your student will become.
Making sure your child is confident with the platform they will be interviewing on is paramount. Fortunately, there are a plethora of Youtube videos and tutorials available to help your student become more comfortable with the technology.
College Interviews Can Be Simple
If your student is properly prepared, college interviews do not need to be hectic or make your student feel uncomfortable. Make sure your student starts their prep well in advance of their interview. A month out gives your student plenty of time to think of questions, brainstorm their answers, and practice interviewing in order to become more comfortable. In the end, one of the most important parts of the college admission interview is demonstrating interest. This allows your student to show just how serious they are about attending an institution.
If your student needs extra help perfecting their interview techniques for their college admission interview, we would love to connect them with our experienced WeAdmit counselors. We know just how intimidating your first college interview can be! Our goal is to help you feel more comfortable and confident with the entire college application process, so please reach out if your student needs help with any step.
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