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Tips From an Interviewer: How to Ace Your College Interview

How to Ace Your College Interview (from a College Interviewer)


You submitted your college applications a few weeks ago and had just received some fantastic news: you have received an interview invitation! But that raises a few questions: how do you go about preparing for your interview? What are the most important topics to discuss? What should you wear? Here are a few tips to get you started – our private Irvine college admissions consultants are only a call away.

1. It’s Better to be Overdressed than Underdressed

Since I recently graduated from college, I tend to be a little more laid-back when I am interviewing a student to make them feel a bit more comfortable. But this does not mean I expect them to show up in jeans and a t-shirt. A good rule of thumb for all interviews is that it is always better to be overdressed than underdressed. When I was going through my own college interviews, I would usually wear a dress shirt and slacks and bring a blazer in case my interviewer seemed like she meant business. During my time as an interviewer, I have interviewed students in all types of outfits, from full-on suits to board shorts and sweatshirts. And even if the students who were more casually dressed had amazing things to say, my opinion of them was definitely affected by their outfit of choice. And vice versa, even when my conversations with the suited students were not the best, I appreciated the effort they put into their appearance, and that reflected in my report (READ: College Admissions Essay Crunch Time).

2. Be Conscious of your Interviewer’s Schedule

I am aware that many of the students that are applying to these top-tier schools have a million things on their plate so I try to be flexible with interview scheduling, but often students don’t return that flexibility. I’ve emailed students with a few possible interview dates and students only to have them respond “I can only do X time on X day.” Now, there is a better way to go about asking for a different time slot, and that is not it. Many of the people who conduct interviews are busy professionals who have been kind enough to volunteer their time to meet with you, so be conscious of that. Remember to be respectful of your interviewer’s time and if you cannot do the time/date they offer, apologize and offer other options always making sure that you are not inconveniencing your interviewer.

3. Bring Only a Copy of your Resume/CV

The only thing you need to bring to an interview is your CV/resume in a nice folder and yourself. As much as I appreciate you bringing the 20-page paper you published on why soda is bad for you, am I going to read it? No. Interview reports are usually written right after the interview so I do not have time to read any additional material. If you want me to know about that paper you published, bring it up during the interview!

4. Give Specific Reasons as to Why you want to attend that particular school

I cannot stress this specific point enough. I attended a college in a big city with many other colleges, but whenever I asked students “Why X school?” They only ever answered: “Because I want to live in X city.” Well… what about all of the other schools in that city? You could use that argument for any of the other schools in that city.

Give me a specific reason as to why you want to go to X school. Maybe you want to go into architecture and you know that X school, in particular, has an amazing architecture program. I am especially impressed when students cite a specific class or professor that they are interested in taking or working with. The more specific you can get, the better because that shows that not only do you know what field you’re interested in, but also that you’ve done your research.

5. Bring Specific Questions about the School

Again, relating back to doing your research about the school, bring school-specific questions. Don’t ask me generic questions that you could ask about any school. Or, if you do, pepper them in between specific questions. I volunteered to be an interviewer because, as a recent graduate, I can give students a very clear idea of what the school is like and answer questions about the curriculum, specific classes, the learning environment, etc. This is especially helpful to students who are unable to visit the campus, so try to take advantage of that! I know it’s harder to do this with older interviewers who graduated 20+ years ago, but some things do tend to stay the same so don’t be afraid to ask them specific questions about a class or professors! I remember during my interview I asked my interviewer who had graduated in the 90s about a specific professor and, lo and behold, I had that same professor in college!

I know the idea of an interview can seem scary and daunting, especially if it’s the first ever interview you’ve had, but don’t worry! Just remember to research the school, your interviewer, and common interview questions beforehand. And, most importantly, be yourself!

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