How to ace the college interview

Jessica Guiver is an American Education Consultant providing counselling services, advice and support to students who are applying to study for a degree at a college. 

The college interview; possibly the most nerve-wracking part of the whole college application process.

It’s one thing to be sitting at home alone in front of your computer typing madly away as you write up your college essay or fill in the application form. It’s another beast entirely to have to sit in a coffee shop or library face-to-face with someone representing the university of your dreams as they grill you with questions about your motivation to study there. The anxiety caused by the college interview is almost overwhelming for many students.

But it doesn’t have to be. With good preparation and few confidence boosters, you can train yourself to welcome the interview with open arms. Look at it this way, the interview is an opportunity for you to let your talents shine in a way that cannot be expressed on an application form. If you follow these tips for success, the college interview can be a breeze (or at the very least, not as stressful as you imagined).

Mind your mannersArrive early, wear smart clothes, look the interviewer in the eye, have a firm handshake, say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when appropriate. All of these things might seem obvious or trivial, but it’s the little things that matter. If you arrive late to the interview or scruffy with a stained t-shirt on, what does that say about you? It says that you aren’t conscientious or that you don’t care. And if the point of the interview is to convey your desire to study at a particular institution, not caring is the definitely NOT the message you want to send.

Do your homeworkBe sure to learn as much as you can about the college or university. The interviewer will want to see that you have a good knowledge of the institution and you really do have a genuine enthusiasm for studying there. It’s going to look a little suspicious if you are asked what you are most looking forward to at University X and you stumble over an answer.

Ask questions and don’t memorise answersThe interview is a two-way street. It’s meant to be a conversation, not a grilling. So relax, open up and ask some questions of your own. Think of the interview as a chance for you to learn more about the institution so that you can better decide if it’s the right place for you. On the same note, be prepared but don’t try to memorize responses in advance. Again, it’s a conversation, and your responses should flow naturally. If you memorize your answers, you’ll sound like a robot and the interviewer will definitely pick up on that.

Be yourselfThis may seem an over-used phrase and perhaps a bit of a cliché, but it’s good advice.

If you pretend to be someone you aren’t, the interviewer will pick up on it.  Remember, the interview is about you, who you are, what you think, how you feel. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to be during the interview, just be yourself.  If you can be yourself, you will relax, your responses will come naturally, you’ll be genuine in your enthusiasm for studying at the university, your true self will shine through.

The interview is your chance to showcase your interests, your talents, your goals, so open up and talk about yourself proudly. That is what the interviewer wants to see and is what they will appreciate about you. And THAT is what will make it a successful interview.

The college interview is only one part of the whole application process, so it won’t necessarily make-or-break an admissions decision. If you keep that in mind, it will take the pressure off and help you to relax. A successful interview will only serve to make the college or university of your dreams want you more!

Jessica Guiver

American Education Consultant.