College Interview Do's and Don'ts Article Type: Checklist
Before the College Interview
-Background research on your college. Odds are pretty high that your interviewer’s going to pop the “Why do you want to go to this school?”, so you’d better be prepared.
-See if you have to sign up for an interview. If you do have to sign up, it’s always a good idea to do so, even if you aren’t good at interviews—it shows that you care about attending, and a good interview helps your application a lot more than a bad interview hurts it.
-Look up your interviewer on LinkedIn, Google, or other social media sites. Don’t mention that you quasi-stalked them during the interview, but it’s worth checking up on them to see if your interests match theirs so that you can highlight the similarities on your resume, or to just see what their face looks like so that you both don’t end up sitting at different coffee tables wondering who is who.
-Put together a resume. If you’ve already written one for the application, think about whether or not you want to shorten it. When your interviewer contacts you (or in your initial contact with your interviewer, if that’s how the college wants you to do it), be sure to offer to send your resume so they can “preview” your accomplishments. If they agree, remember that the resume will be their first impression of you, so make sure it’s formatted neatly and contains only information you’d be willing to talk about for thirty minutes to an hour.
-Think about all the common questions they might ask you, and prepare solid answers. Remember that your interviewer knows nothing about you besides what you tell them, and that they’re trying to get a holistic opinion of you, which is hard—you want to make their job easier. Here are a couple potential questions to get you started:
- Tell me about yourself.
- Let’s talk about this thing on your resume.
- Why do you want to attend XYZ college?
- What were your favorite classes/clubs/extracurriculars?
- How would your friends describe you?
- What gets you up in the morning? (don’t answer “my mom” or“my alarm clock”)
-Do a mock interview, either with yourself in the mirror, or with a friend, parent, counselor, teacher, etc. And if you think your mock interviewer is going hard, check out these guys.
-Be courteous to your interviewer. Their first impression of you comes from your initial email communication, so be sure to emanate the three C’s: calm, cool, and collected. Sit on your emails before sending them out to make sure you haven’t missed anything. Be flexible in terms of scheduling and location.
-Be annoying to your interviewer. There’s a fine line between being enthusiastic and responsive and being insistent and not giving your interviewer room to breathe. Remember that your interviewer is scheduling interviews with potentially dozens of other applicants, so don’t pester them with too many emails.
-Stress yourself out. Interviews are important, but there’s no point in worrying about them incessantly. Keep in mind that your interviewer is just a person who happens to be doing the college you’re applying to a favor.
-Do nothing and plan on “winging it”. As good as you might be at communication and making people like you, you’ll be so much better if you’re well-prepared. Regardless of how busy you are, it’s worth the thirty minutes to an hour it takes to do some baseline research.
During the interview
-Dress nicely. Even if your interviewer tells you to dress casually, they can’t fault you for a dress shirt and khakis. Ideally, dress business formal.
For guys, this means khakis or black dress pants, maybe a Polo or dress shirt on top. A tie is probably overboard, as is a suit jacket. Don’t be afraid to put on a light sports jacket, though, especially if it’s cold.
For girls, wear a nice blouse or buttoned-up shirt with dark-colored pants or a skirt that isn't too short. A good test to see if your skirt is too short is to put your arms by your side and see if your skirt is above your fingertips. Be sure not to show any cleavage and make sure not to wear excess makeup or perfume. You never know if your interviewer has the same tastes as you do.
-Be polite, courteous, all that. Your job is to convince the interviewer that you’d be a good addition to the college’s class of 20-whatever, and being good-mannered will put you one step closer.
-Bring a copy of your resume, even if you’ve already sent one to your interviewer. The only time you shouldn’t bring one is if they explicitly tell you not to. Bring it in a nice folder, and hold it with your left hand so you can shake your interviewer’s hand without having to switch which hand it’s in.
-Be yourself. Don’t try to make yourself seem like someone you’re not, because most people will be able to tell and it looks bad. You should be applying to college as the person you are; being genuine will take you a lot further than trying to act like someone you’re not.
-Ask questions. Odds are, they’ll ask you if you have any questions for them, so try to come up with a few (ideally based off your conversation). Even if you can’t, it’s always a good idea to have a couple ready on hand, like:
- What was your most/least favorite part about XYZ college?
- Is there anything most incoming freshmen don’t know that they should?
- What clubs/organizations did you join/would you recommend joining?
- If I have more questions later, do you mind if I shoot you an email?
-Order messy food. It’s your choice if you want to order a drink (especially if you’re meeting at a coffee shop), but if you do, order something with a lid so spills aren’t an issue, and only order one if your interviewer does too. Having a cup of coffee is handy to sip while listening to your interviewer, but be sure to be respectful about it and not let it distract your from your responses.
-Let your interviewer see your parents. If they’re dropping you off at the interview place, have them drop your off somewhere your interviewer won’t be able to see you, and walk in alone. You want to give an impression of independence.
-Bring up hotly contested issues like politics, the death penalty, abortions—the off chance that they’ll disagree with your opinion could turn an otherwise great interview into an argument over something irrelevant to your application that will invariably hurt their opinion of you.
-Stick around after it’s over. When the interview is done, shake your interviewer’s hand and leave, even if it means waiting outside for a while for a ride home. There’s nothing more awkward than hanging around with nothing to say. If you have any questions for your interviewer, ask them during the interview, not after it.
After the interview
Send your interviewer a thank-you email. Ideally you want to mention how you enjoyed the discussion, even if you didn't and think it went terribly, and highlight some of your strong points again. It’s important to sound sincere in giving thanks (and you should actually be thankful), because they’re volunteering their time to help with your college applications. A thank-you email lends a sense of closure to the interview, and will leave you on good terms with your interviewer.