If you’re meeting at Starbucks or another coffee shop, think about making a trip there beforehand to prepare.
What can I say to get this stranger to accept me into their college?
If you’re starting to prepare for a college interview, this may be the question that’s running through your mind.
First, let’s address how this question is based on a mistaken assumption: that these interviewers can even get you into their school. The interview is just one of several pieces of your college application, including test scores, teacher recommendations, personal essays and your transcript. Chances are it’s not going to make or break your application.
Second, this isn’t an accurate picture of why the interviewer is meeting with you. Although sometimes you will meet with a professor or admissions officer, you will likely be meeting with an alum. Alumni interviewers are people who volunteer to interview applicants (unpaid) and often view this as an opportunity to get you (the future them!) excited about their school.
In other words, let’s not think of this as a “test,” where someone is judging you (that’s the SATs); let’s think of this as an opportunity to connect with an alum and learn about a place you are thinking of spending the next four years of your life.
Now that we’ve covered the why you’re doing this, let’s dig into the other basics you should know going into this experience:
• WHERE you’re going to meet. It could be at the admissions office, or if you’re meeting an alum, it might be in their work office, home or a cafe. Let them choose (unless they say they want to you to choose). If it’s a cafe, go and scope out the place before the interview if you can. That way, you’ll know how to take public transportation or where to park, where you order and pick up your drinks — anything that might throw you off on the big day. If your interviewer offers you a drink or a snack, it’s completely polite to accept. Plus, you’re gonna want that water about five minutes in — gives you something to do!
• WHEN you should schedule the meeting. If you’re meeting with an alum and they ask you when you are free, be sure to suggest three or so potential times. That way, they can find what fits best with their schedule. Aim to arrive five minutes early.
• HOW you should dress. The short answer: nicely. The long answer: what makes you feel comfortable and confident. Take the time to try on a couple different options, and see what you feel most comfortable in on the day of your interview. If you’ve only got one set of nice clothes, think about including something that makes you feel like you — a bracelet, a pair of socks, whatever it is. You want to look presentable but also feel like you.
• WHAT you should prepare. It’s impossible to prepare to answer all the questions your interviewer might ask. What’s better is to prepare five to 10 good stories. A good story can be applied to many different questions. For example: You rescued a cat from a tree. Just as you were climbing down, a fire truck arrived on the scene. You spoke with a fireman and he convinced you to train to be an emergency medical technician (EMT). Ever since, you have been going to the local station once a week since. Needless to say, you’re pretty cool. And you’ve probably told this story once or twice, at least at holiday events and to your parents’ friends. Now, your interviewer might ask you: What’s something you’re most proud of? What’s your favorite extracurricular activity? When’s a time you faced your biggest fear? What do you see yourself studying in school? The story above could be applied to any of these questions with a little tweaking. So always, always tell your best stories.
Then, get someone to ask you questions and act out a mock interview with you before the big day. The first time telling a story will be the most awkward, so get it out of the way with someone you trust. And if you can, try to schedule your interviews so that your “reach” or “dream” college interviews are later — by then, you’ll be ready to rock!
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