How to Prepare for College Interviews

How to Prepare for College Interviews

As we get into the thick of college application season, we wanted to share some information with you about college interviews. 

There are a few different kinds of interviews you might encounter in the college admissions process:

Informational interviews: 

Many colleges will arrange these for you when you come visit their campus. These are purely informational, but that does not mean you shouldn’t prepare and make a good impression.

Student interviews: 

Often, admissions offices employ current students to interview applicants. These are slightly more casual but are still important. Some student interviewers attend and even participate in admissions committee meetings, so put your best foot forward.

Admissions officer interviews: 

While these may seem scary, admissions officers are just doing their job and “fleshing out” your application file. They will not be making a decision about your admissions right then and there; they will write up a summary and add it to your file so it can be discussed by the committee. They will, however, be able to advocate for you, so make the interview count.

Alumni interviews: 

The most common type of interview, alumni interviews are conducted by former students who currently live in your city or region. They’ll have a form with some basic questions and a space for a summary report to send back to the college, but each interviewer will have his or her own interview style. The people who volunteer to do alumni interviews are often the alums with a great deal of school pride, so be enthusiastic and informed.

Some of these interviews are conducted on campus, while others will be in your hometown. (I had my Harvard interview in a Barnes & Noble, and when I was an alumni interviewer for Harvard, I often suggested a local coffee shop as a place to meet.) The timing of these interviews varies, and, remember, not every college requires or offers interviews. If you’ve applied early action/decision, your interviews will likely be in late November or early December. If you’re applying regular decision, your interviews could take place anytime from when you submit your application to early March.

Regardless of what type of interview and when, you need to be prepared with facts about yourself, the school, and your motivations for applying. 

We’ve put together a comprehensive worksheet with steps for preparing as well as common questions for you to work through on your own. Download it here.

In the meantime, remember that you have the ability to control the direction of the interview. Your interviewer wants to get to know you, so when you show enthusiasm about something, he or she will want to know more. The interviewer will be waiting for your face to light up, so let your excitement show. Also, don’t be afraid to let your interviewer talk! Always come prepared with a few questions. The interview is a great opportunity to learn firsthand from one of the school’s biggest fans about what it was like to be a student there.

Nearly every member of Signet’s admissions team has experience interviewing students, whether as admissions officers, student interviewers, or alumni interviewers, so feel free to request a mock interview if you think it will help ease your nerves. 

Picture of Sheila A.

Sheila A.

Sheila Akbar is President & COO of Signet Education. She holds a bachelor's degree and master's degree from Harvard University and two doctoral degrees from Indiana University. She joined the team in the summer of 2010, bringing with her a wealth of experience teaching SAT, ACT, GRE, literature, and composition in both one-on-one and classroom settings.

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