The Personal Interview

Snow has now replaced the beautiful fall foliage that colored campuses here in New England. The thousands of newly minted freshman college students have adjusted to college life after saying good bye to parents. Most are already on holiday break and back home. Meanwhile, high school seniors are finishing their college essays and submitting college applications. Many of them have had personal college interviews. For many students there is nothing more nerve-racking than the college interview. But it need not be, with proper preparation.

The personal interview is rarely a required part of the admission process, and is seldom a deciding factor in accepting or rejecting a candidate.  In fact, the interview most often serves to confirm other information about a candidate.  Similarly, an interview does not transform an unacceptable applicant into an acceptable one.

Colleges also realize that they need to prepare their interviewers as well. An interview may be given by an admissions counselor or an alumni volunteer. Some students and counselors, however, prefer alumni interviews to those conducted by admissions-staff members. Alumni can share their personal stories about a college, and if they are relatively young, their experiences will not be too far removed from what the student might find on the campus.

“Alumni, who are not college employees, can come off as being more genuine, too” as explained here in a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

An interview can be an excellent way to learn about a college. It is a two-way exchange.  If you are a prospective applicant you should be ready to ask questions that will help you learn more about the college. Be sure to read all the FAQ postings on the website first  and be ready to answer questions that will help the interviewer learn more about you.

Do not hesitate to identify one or two things about yourself you want the interviewer to know as the result of talking with you, and be sure to mention them when the interviewer asks, “Is there anything else our (admission) committee should know about you?”

In addition, do not hesitate to share the leadership of the interview.  You are not on the witness stand; it is seldom a grilling.  You should use the interview as a chance to see if the college fits you, too.  Moreover, colleges will want to make both your campus visit and your interview a positive experience for you.

Students using the AAA method will learn quickly as to what the colleges’ interview policies are. Franklin College, for instance, not only recommends them but also makes off campus interviews available in Asia, United States, Europe, the Middle East and Latin America. That may tell you what kind of campus demographic they have.

Also, many selective colleges will grant local interviews with alums; these are helpful, and alumni can be valuable sources of information about a college. Remember, however, that alums are likely to be volunteers, not employee of the university. As such, their level of current information about the college varies considerably.

If you are a student we are working with on essays and application preparation and one or more of your colleges offer or even require interviews call us to discuss your strategy. A mock interview may be a good idea for you. Give us a call or send an email.

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