The Interview

the interviewIf you are offered a personal interview, take it! I know many of you might be terrified of college interviews but they are a wonderful opportunity to make a personal impression and breathe some life into your paper application. I have interviewed applicants for two Ivy League schools, and it is always a pleasure to meet young, bright students who are college bound and seeking information. And, hopefully, they have fun, too.

Some highly selective and niche schools will contact applicants with an opportunity for an in-person interview. Admissions officers or area alumni will conduct the interview. Usually, these are rather informal, one-on-one meetings in the interviewer’s office or a local coffee shop. But, sometimes, you might find yourself in a batch interview. This is where roughly 30 interviewers have one-on-one meetings with 100-150 candidates over a 3 hour interview block. This can be really intimidating because you are sitting in a room, staring at your competition. It’s not intentional; it’s just the most efficient way to get through so many candidates. If you find yourself in a batch interview, don’t freak out! Instead, take a deep breath and introduce yourself. At minimum, this will help you relax which will help you have a great conversation with your interviewer. And, seeing your confidence may even make the competition worry more than they were before! My advice is to try to find out what type of interview is in store for you so you can prepare yourself mentally and develop a strategy.

Bring a paper copy of your resume to the interview which will help the interviewer direct the conversation.  Remember that the interview is not intended to be a question and answer session; rather, it is a conversation.  The interviewer is getting to know you and you are getting to know the school.  The best interviews are those where both the student and the interviewer learn something.  If you can teach your interviewer something new, chances are you will also teach your future classmates. Know the few pieces of information that are critical to building your college application puzzle and make sure to fit them into the conversation.  This is your opportunity to state your unique value proposition and to present that picture of yourself you have worked so hard to develop.

The Complete Candidate™ workbook provides lots of Ivy League interview questions to help you prepare, along with an example rating tool to show you an idea of what interviewers are looking for and how they will assess you.  The applicants I most admired during the interviews were not the loudest or most exuberant or most trained speakers; they were the ones who expressed their passions.

One of my favorite interviews was with a young mathematician and physicist.  For 45 minutes, he spoke energetically about concepts I had no hope of ever understanding.  But his enthusiasm for his area of academic interest was so engaging, I didn’t want the interview to end.  He’s now a junior at Harvard.

P.S.  Practice beforehand with a friend or family member.  And PLEASE, avoid using the word “like” as a crutch. “I was like talking to my counselor, and she like told me that I should like bring along a copy of my resume, and like, well, here it is.” You may like the school but they won’t like you!