Written by Diya Gupta, University of Virginia, College Contact Counselor
I hope this blog post finds you well amidst your college admissions process. I hope you are doing well and taking time for yourself to decompress and treat yourself for all of the hard work you have been doing. It is a stressful time of year, but reaching the process of preparing for a college interview should signify to you that, one, you are doing something right, and two, you are really at the home stretch of this long process. I want to start off this blog post by saying that we, at College Contact, are extremely proud of the hard work you have been putting in, and that all of this work and perseverance will soon pay off.
Preparing for college interviews can be a daunting task. It is not as simple as filling out an application or answering an essay prompt, but it is more personal and open-ended. It is more of a supplemental fact that helps to holistically shape your overall college application to ensure that universities get the whole scope of the kind of student and person you are.
Knowing this, I offer you my top two tips for succeeding at a college interview:
1. Remember that interviewers already have your application and resume.
When going into an interview, I want you to go in visualizing the kind of person you are. Not what extracurriculars you are involved in, not the leadership positions you have, and not what sports you play. Instead, I want you to go in recognizing what kind of friend you are, what causes matter to you in your community, and who has played a role in shaping who you’ve become.
All of your interviewers have access to your resume and your application. They know what you do outside of school where you thrive academically. However, what they do not know is the kind of person you are. Thus, through these interviews, they want to get to know you. They want to make sure that you will thrive at their respective schools – they know that you will be able to get the grades you need to succeed, but beyond that, interviewers want to make sure that you are a good fit, as a person. And so, speak with inflection. Talk about things you care about, even if they are not what would look best on paper. Make sure to show when you answer questions, not just tell.
There is so much value in focusing more on how you say something instead of what you are saying. Interviewers can so-easily pick out a student who is speaking about something they are passionate about, over a student who is simply reciting their activities list. Show these interviewers that you are curious and willing to learn, over telling them about the A you received in Biology Honors. Show the interviewers how you interact with those around you in order to foster an inclusive learning environment, over telling them that you are President of your Robotics Club. There is so much to be said and so much to learn from a person who can articulate what they care about, what they want to change about their communities, and who they hope to work with in a future. I don’t think I can say the same for a student who got an A in Biology Honors.
2. Be prepared with questions at the end.
This piece of advice may not be one that you are expecting. I know that the word “interview” means that you are getting asked questions, and you may solely be focused on how articulate your responses need to be. However, something as equally important as answering the questions you have been asked, is also making sure to express your creativity through asking questions.
Every interviewer you will speak to will ask you, at the end of your interview, if you have any questions for them. Although most people say no, I would encourage you to do the opposite. Asking questions not only shows interviewers that you are curious and interested in what they have to say, but also establishes a more personal connection between you and the interviewer. Regardless of the questions that you ask, a question asked is never ill-received or a bad idea.
Whether you ask them about their personal experience at a university, about an individual student’s experience at the university, or about a school-specific fact, it is completely worth it and encouraged.
How has your experience with the _____ department shaped how you feel about ____?
What is one piece of advice you would give to a prospective student at _____ University?
What is the core curriculum at ____ like? Is there room for flexibility?
I hope these two pieces of advice stick with you throughout the course of your college application season. You will do amazing, I am sure, and I hope that these two tips offer you the guidance and clarity you earned. Nothing that happens in this interview will completely dictate the status of your application, nor will it completely sway you any which way. I wish you the best of luck, and feel free to reach out if you have any further questions.