Many universities offer students the chance to interview either before or after submitting their application. While this is often not a required piece of the application, the question is, if given the option, should you interview?

As long as the interview can be done virtually, the answer is typically yes! A strong interview can enhance your application and gives you the chance to add a more personal element to the admissions process. The reality of the matter is, if you’re applying to college right now, you likely don’t have grades from the last 3 months of your junior year; you might not have grades for the first 3 months of your senior year and you don’t have to submit standardized exams – you want to give the school every chance to get to know you as well as possible.

How can you ensure your interview leaves a positive impression? Here are five tips to help you prepare:

  • Know yourself. Reflect on your high school experience so far. What has been your favorite (and least favorite) course? What accomplishments are you particularly proud of? What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them? It’s also important to think about your future plans — why do you want to major in a particular subject in college, or why are you still not sure of the path you will take?
  • Know the college. Take the time to research the university and figure out what about that school appeals to you: Is it the proximity to home, or the reputation of the engineering department? Is it the opportunity to interact with faculty members, or the chance to study abroad? It’s important to be able to show how the university you’re interviewing at fits your goals.
  • Create a résumé. What activities did you participate in for several years? Which awards and honors have you won? How many summers did you work? If you create a résumé in advance, you won’t be struggling to remember what you’ve done the last few years. Keep in mind that a résumé should only be one page, so you’ll be forced to keep only those activities that mattered most. You can bring this to the interview, but be prepared to expand on your activities and accomplishments in greater detail.
  • Bring a list of questions. Your interviewer will likely ask if you have any questions. Think about the questions you want to ask, and don’t be afraid to write them down and bring them with you to the interview. This will ensure that you haven’t forgotten any questions, and impress the interviewer that you took the time to prepare.
  • Practice. The best way for you to be comfortable talking about yourself, your interests and why you want to attend a particular college is to practice with someone. Find a friend, parent, or school counselor who is willing to give you a mock interview. The actual interview should only take about 20 to 30 minutes, so a mock interview will not take too much time – but will be time well spent.

Approach your interview more like a discussion than an interrogation, listen to the interviewer and don’t be afraid to ask questions, too. Relax, take a deep breath, and remember to turn off your cell phone!

About the author

Kyle received a BS from Vanderbilt University and a certificate in college advising from Columbia University. Kyle has more than five years of admissions experience, including at the State University of New York as well as Rice University, where she was an Assistant Director of Admissions and oversaw the BS/MD program with Baylor College of Medicine. Kyle manages a caseload of clients as well as a team of AcceptU counselors. She is an IECA Associate Member.

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