college application interview

Interviews: Their Impact on Admissions Decisions

How not to walk into an interview at your “dream” college — bathed in sweat with an acid stomach, a nervous twitch, and a sense of impending doom. True… there may be a lot riding on this conversation, but you should feel relaxed, upbeat, and confident as you approach a college interview.

Not all top-tier colleges consider interviews to be part of their admissions process. Many elite schools conduct interviews only for their information-gathering value to prospective students and they don’t evaluate them. However, some schools consider interviews to be a critical factor in admissions. Colleges that score the demonstrated interest of applicants may weigh interviews in that calculus.

It pays to schedule an interview at each of your targeted colleges. You should be as well prepared for each interview as you are for any test that may have an impact on the achievement of your educational goals.

Your IvySelect consultant understands how each elite college treats interviews and can advise you accordingly. Whether the school is among those that weigh interviews heavily or lightly, you need to speak intelligibly about yourself and to build a positive relationship with the interviewer. IvySelect helps you through the following steps:

  • Expectations – Determine if the school’s interviews are informative or evaluative. If informative, does the school weigh demonstrated interest? If evaluative, how much of a factor will the interview be in acceptance? Rely on the expertise of your IvySelect consultant to fully understand how each targeted school treats interviews.
  • Information about the interview – Gather useful information about the interview such as the location (on-campus or local), the medium (in-person, telephone, or Skype), and the interviewer (alumnus, student, or admissions official). If you have options, select those that favor your strengths and help you to make your case for admission.
  • Information about the school – Research the school so you can converse intelligently about it. This will prove that you take yourself seriously and that you “do your homework.”
  • Answer questions – Your IvySelect consultant can alert you to unique questions that individual colleges may ask. They also help you to prepare for commonly asked questions, such as:
    • Why are you interested in our college?
    • What would you like us to know about you?
    • Who has influenced you the most in your life and why?
    • What do you do for fun in your free time?
    • Why do you want to major in ___________?
    • In what ways will you contribute to our campus community?
    • What is your favorite book and why?
    • Can you describe a challenge that you have overcome?
    • How have you shown your leadership capabilities?

Don’t memorize prepared answers. You should have talking points in mind so that when a common question is asked, you’ll be able to answer spontaneously but intelligently. Know when to stop talking.

  • Ask questions – Interviews are an opportunity to ask questions to see if the college is a good fit for you. If you’ve already determined that this is the perfect school for you, then ask questions that relate to your interests even if you already know the answers. Be sure to reflect your knowledge of the school so that you don’t seem clueless. The interviewer will see that you’re well informed and that you have a healthy curiosity about the college. Make your questions concise and don’t interrupt during the answer.
  • Dress – IvySelect will assist you in determining how to dress. Dressy casual attire is often de rigueur, especially if you’re going to be hiking around on a tour. When in doubt, err on the side of formality.
  • Relax – Get there early. Create an opportunity to decompress.
  • Etiquette – Remember that the college wants you to fit in well with their entire community, so show off your best manners. Shake hands, make eye contact, be attentive, and make sure that the conversation is a two-way street. Avoid controversial topics. Be respectful but not obsequious.
  • Authenticity – Even though you’re trying to make a good impression, it’s best to be genuine. Interviewers can sense if you’re acting. It’s good to be prepared but don’t seem rehearsed. Express your passions and let your exuberance and joie de vivre shine through to the interviewer.
  • Gratitude – Send a hand-written thank you letter. Include a personal note so that the message is not generic, but keep it brief and simple.

One response to “Interviews: Their Impact on Admissions Decisions”

  1. […] students prepare for frequently asked interview questions. Several such questions are in this IvySelect blog post. We coach our students so that they are thoroughly prepared and are therefore relaxed and confident […]