Most students think the college admissions process begins and ends with the physical application.

While this may be true for some, others get to enjoy the unique stressors of the dreaded college interview. But have no fear! By going into these meetings well prepared, you can save yourself from disaster.

A great place to start is by understanding the different types of interviews offered:

Informal Interviews

  • Each year thousands of prospective students visit college campuses and meet with admissions staff. While these conversations are not formal interviews, it’s possible that they may feel similar, uncover the same information, and impact your decision in similar ways. In any interaction with admissions, make sure you behave and dress appropriately, have basic knowledge about the college, and have prepared thoughtful questions in order to learn more.

Student Interviews

  • Student interviews have become much more popular in recent years. This is when a current college student interviews a prospective student for their own institution. While these may seem more relaxed since they are with someone your own age, don’t be fooled! These interviews carry the same weight as ones with full-time admissions staff, so make sure to bring your A game! It may be helpful to ask them questions about the current campus culture, or events on campus that they are excited about.

Alumni Interviews

  • Interviews are frequently conducted by alumni from the school you're applying to. Similarly to student interviews, these provide a great opportunity for you to learn more about the college—specifically, what your interviewer liked most about their time there. If you find yourself getting nervous before an alumni interview, just remember you have one major thing in common: You’re both passionate about that particular college. Let them know why!

Admissions Interviews

  • Admissions interviews often cause the most concern among prospective students. But know this: Every admissions officer enters an interview hoping you will be amazing. You have been invited to interview because you meet the admissions criteria and you’re an interesting person! Now we just want to see that you’re knowledgeable and genuinely interested in our school. Coming prepared with a few thoughtful questions about the college can show that you have done your research and really understand this next step in your education.

But what if you’re not the most outgoing person? How can you possibly be asked to make small talk with a total stranger? Being introverted is not a kiss of death. Have a game plan and go into your interviews with realistic expectations. Everyone who might interview you knows you’re a high school student. You are not expected to be the most intelligent, elegant, or graceful person in the world. You’re simply expected to be enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the school.

That's why I suggest going into your interviews with some concrete ideas. What are a few things a new friend should know about you? What do you like to do with your free time? Why are you interested in this particular school? Our interview prep worksheet can help you gather and organize your thoughts. By having answers prepared for simple questions, you can alleviate the fear of being caught off guard. You should also come up with some questions to ask your interviewer—you may learn quite a bit from their experiences at the school in question, and you will have some material prepared in case there is a lull in the conversation!

One important factor to consider when scheduling your interviews is location. These can be held on campus or regionally (closer to your home). No matter where you will be interviewing, it's important to scope out the spot beforehand. This way, you won’t get lost or show up late, and you will also know exactly the type of environment you are about to enter. Just another way to help ease some of those pre-interview jitters!

While this process may seem scary, I can assure you that very few interviews go totally awry. Admissions understand that you’re a high school student in a vulnerable situation. The interview is a great way to show a school just who you are and how much you’re excited for this next stage of your life.

Looking for more tips on the college process? Grab our free Guide to College Admissions!