What Is a Batch Interview and How Do I Survive It?

Most of you are familiar with the average college interview process. A student meets individually with an admissions officer, alum or student for a casual conversation either on the college campus or in a location close to the student’s home. But, what about the batch interview? What is it and what do you need to know in order to survive it?

Batch interviews are not meant to intimidate candidates but might if the student isn’t prepared for what he or she will face. They are offered in cases when a school is simply trying to process a high volume of student interviews in a short period of time. For instance, Harvard University, who tries to grant an interview to everyone who applies, often employs the batch process.

Here’s how it works. Instead of getting an email from your interviewer suggesting a time to meet at your local Starbucks, you will receive an email from the interview coordinator to tell you a time and location for your interview. You will not likely receive the name of your interviewer in advance so you probably won’t be able to do any research on him or her. Your interview will usually be held in a large building with lots of rooms, like a big law firm or hotel.

Upon arrival, you will check in at the desk and will be escorted to a conference room where you will be met by other students who are all vying for the few coveted spots in the incoming freshman class. This can be awkward. If you are not prepared for this, it can mess with your head as you look around the room, and size up your competition. One by one, an interviewer will enter the room and will call a name. When yours is called, your interviewer will escort you to a private room where you will proceed with the one-on-one interview, much like those that are occurring at Starbucks around the country. Once your interview is over, you will head toward the exit. On your way out, you will probably stare at the new group of candidates who are anxiously awaiting their interviews and will wonder what special talents and accomplishments each brings to the table and why you ever thought the college at hand would even consider you as a student.

Here’s my advice for how to survive – and, dare I say, succeed – at the batch interview:

  1. Understand that the format of a batch interview is simply a function of logistics and not some social experiment to determine how you perform under extreme stress.
  2. Remember that, while the other candidates probably have great things to contribute to the school’s community, so do you.
  3. When you are in the conference room, don’t fall prey to the heavy blanket of awkward silence. Instead, flash a smile, extend your hand and introduce yourself to the other candidates in the room who are just as nervous as you are. This will not only help you “warm up” your interview skills; one of the interviewers may take notice of the role you are playing to make others feel welcome and included.

As I’ve written on many other occasions, the interview rarely diminishes the strength of a student’s candidacy. So, take a deep breath and walk in confident knowing what to expect and prepared to succeed.

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