By January 1st, nearly all our college applications are in, the Common Application website leaves our homepage and we all breathe a sigh of relief. But with the end of applications comes the beginning of interviews. Although some stress out over interviews, for me they didn’t seem like a big deal; I’m pretty personable, articulate, and sometimes even interesting. When I got my first e-mail asking to set up an alumni interview, I was calm and even a little excited. I met the alum at a meeting spot in my hometown where we had a great chat about my extracurriculars, the particular college and the questions I had. But not all interviews go so smoothly.
My first bumpy interview started off normally – he asked me to tell him about myself, my interests, and my extracurriculars – but it quickly took a turn for the worse. He asked where my parents had graduated from college, and after telling him their undergrad alma maters, I added where my mom had gone for grad school. The mood changed immediately. I smiled, trying not to look as confused as I felt, and ignored his seemingly sour reaction to the name of the school. It simply got worse from there. When I explained to him that I was a complete humanities person – I want to major in English and maybe minor in Middle Eastern Studies – his face drooped even more. After a few minutes of explaining why I was interested in the Middle East, he paused, looked at me, and flat out asked, “Why would you ever want to major in English?” I was astounded and extremely caught off-guard. I squeaked out something about liking to read and smiled. Soon after, we moved on to my questions for him, where the his hostility continued and I began to feel as though I had to defend myself against my mother’s educational choices. The mood never sweetened.
While this particular interviewer found offense with my mother’s education and my areas of interest, that wasn't my only off-beat interview. I’ve had other interviewers who have made fun of my favorite hobby, made inappropriate and rude comments about my father’s profession and income, and stopped paying attention after I told them what my SAT scores were.
The most important thing I’ve found is not to show them that you’re sweating. Even when worried, a smile is the most important part of playing it cool. Despite an interviewer's occasionally antagonistic remarks, it’s important not to be provoked or to antagonize back. If an interviewer is a little strange, just remember that not everyone at that school is like that. Despite your disagreements, you still want to show your best self to the school. So, clench your fists – or even or teeth – and remember to at least fake a smile. If nothing else, it'll make a great story for your friends later on.