The interview process

Guidance Director Mary Hoyt offers tips and advice for the college interview and lists the best ways to arrange and prepare for an interview

Interviews are a very important component of the complete college application process. They give the student a chance to demonstrate his or her verbal skills, values, perceptions about the college and perceptions of self as a learner and community member.

If a school grants interviews, students should really try and make every effort to arrange an interview at every school they are applying to.

Basic types of interview arrangements

  • Interviews held on the specific college campus with an admissions counsellor
  • Interviews held at an informational session by admissions counsellors, but held at local hotels/conventions halls, etc.
  • Interviews given by regional alumni representatives from the individual colleges - these are held at a school or an arranged meeting place between interviewer and student (such as a local coffee shop or library)

Regardless of the type of admissions interview students are having, they need to bring at least the following with them to the interview:

  • Their most updated activity/award/employment sheet
  • A school transcript with senior courses and the school profile

In addition, a student might want to also bring a small sampling of supplementary materials (such as a lab report, an expository paper, a few samples of photography, drawings, etc.)

Arranging the interview

  • To arrange an interview, the student should call the undergraduate admissions office of each school and request an interview - even if the school indicates an interview ‘really doesn’t matter’, if the school grants them, students should arrange one
  • Sometimes, the school will grant an interview after the student has applied to the college.

How to prepare for the interview

  • The student needs to write out three or four open-ended questions. This is because during the interview, the person will ask the student if there are any questions. Without preparing the questions ahead of time, it is too hard to just come up with them out of the blue. Students should be very familiar with the school’s mission statement and specifically allude to it whenever possible during the interview
  • Open-ended questions are questions the interviewer can not say just ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to (for example, if you ask, “Do you have an internship programme?” - that is not an open-ended question as the interviewer can just say yes or no)
  • The questions could be on anything related to the college such as: curriculum, activities, sports, study abroad, teachers, internships, etc. However, students should develop questions around several categories/clusters, for example: not all questions about academics or not all about sports. Having a variety of question areas displays the student’s well-roundedness
  • When presenting the questions to the interviewer, always try to frame them in this way: “I noticed on the college’s website… I saw in the catalogue … I read in the viewbook … When I visited the college on (date), the tour guide indicated… When I attended the informational session on (date), the presenters said…” This demonstrates to the interviewer that you have taken the time to do your homework/research about the college and that you are prepared and taking the interview seriously
  • Bring these written questions to the interview in a notebook - as the interviewer is giving the answers, write them down - again, this shows the interviewer you are serious about the answers
  • When you first go into the interview, hand the person the packet (with your transcript and activity sheet) while shaking the person’s hand
  • It is very difficult to predict what type of questions the interviewer might ask you because so much of it is dependent on the person’s personality, but typical questions are: Why do you want to attend this college? Why are you a good candidate for this college? What could you bring to the college campus community?
  • You need to be very specific in answering the above questions. Again, this is another reason you need to be sure and research specifics about each college you have interviews for
  • Interview lengths vary greatly - interviews can go from twenty minutes to an hour - the length of the interview doesn’t indicate a ‘good’ or ‘not so good’ interview; again, it is dependent on the personality of the interviewer
  • Dress professionally for the interview. No jeans; boys should wear a tie

Bringing professional closure to the interview process

  • As soon as possible after the interview, write the person a personal thank you note ( Dear…, Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to help me. I learned a lot about the college ….[Name college] is one of my top choices in a school, and I hope you consider me as a candidate… Sincerely...)
  • If the interview has taken place on the college campus, send the note to the interviewer directly at the college’s admission office address
  • If the interview is done outside of the campus (by an alumni), write a note to the interviewer at his/her home or business address (whichever one the person gives you)
  • In addition, if it is an alumni interview, also write a hand-written thank you note to the Director of Admissions – you don’t have to put in the person’s name, just Director of Admissions, and write something like: Dear Director of Admissions, Thank you for arranging to have me interviewed on (put in date) by (put in interviewer’s name). I learned a lot about the school and it was great to speak with someone who graduated from the college and who spoke of it so highly…
  • If the school is definitely your first choice in a college, make that very clear in the thank you note (and throughout the interview)

Written by Mary Hoyt
Guidance Director and 12th Grade Counsellor
The Prout School (USA)