Even though the college application process is probably wearing you down at this point, it’s no time to slack off! There’s still lots to do, including showing potential schools your personality through interviews.
The college interview is a way for schools to get to know the real you. This is your chance to put a friendly face with your outstanding grades. While most college interviews are simple and straightforward, there are always opportunities to play yourself up and stand out. Lucky for you, we got the lowdown from real college admissions officers on how to stand out in your college interview!
1. Demonstrate growth
It's one thing to get good grades and play important roles in extracurricular groups, but college interviewers want to know that you're not just outstanding on paper. "When I interview a student, I'm really looking to better understand their personal background, experience and growth," says Emily Anding, assistant director of admission at Colorado College.
Your interview is an opportunity to explain your application in better detail. Sure, an admissions officer might be able to gather that you participated in student government for a few years, but you might not have had the chance to explain how you moved from a regular member to treasurer, then president. The Common App lets you list your classes, but it won't offer any background as to why you chose the classes that you took or how you improved as the year went on.
Make sure to use the interview as an opportunity to demonstrate your personal growth throughout your high school career. Admissions officers don't just want to see that you've passed your classes, but that you've also overcome obstacles and applied your personal experiences to your work.
2. Talk about your passions
While a college interview is definitely something to be taken seriously, don't let your nerves hold you back from being yourself! A lot of students look similar on paper, so an in-person interview is a chance for college admissions officers to get to know you on a personal level.
"[In an interview], I am trying to understand what [the student] is passionate about in and out of the classroom, and I think it's really important to listen to what they're saying and build from there,” Anding says. So while it's good to mention your academic achievements and outstanding GPA, don't be afraid to take it down a notch and talk about what really interests you.
If you don't know how to tie in your passions, look back at what you've participated in over the last few years. If you're a member of a sports team, student government or any other extracurricular, explain why you participate and what you enjoy about your role. Expressing what you're truly passionate about - both in and out of the classroom - will show your deeper involvement and help make you (and your application) more memorable.
3. Demonstrate your knowledge of the college
Do your research! Chances are if you're interviewing at a school, you've gone through a long application process to get there. Don't risk your chances by walking into the interview without knowing anything about the college!
"You should not come to an interview asking basic questions," says Michael Perron, dean of admissions at Becker College. You should be doing your basic research on the size of the school, what majors are offered, etc. before you step into the interview, and instead ask questions that aren’t so easily answered.
"Students should highlight what they have learned about the college, how enrolling will help prepare them for their career field and what both they and the college will gain from their enrollment," Perron says. Demonstrating your knowledge of the school shows the interviewer that you have a genuine interest in that specific institution, not just in attending college in general. It shows that not only do you want to learn, but you want to learn from them!
4. Show initiative
Colleges receive tons of applications from A+ students, but not all of them are self-starters! Depending on the high school, it's easier for some students to simply coast by with good grades and roles in extracurricular programs than for others. In order to stand out, make sure you demonstrate how hard you work and how motivated you are.
"If applicable, give an example of your initiative," Perron says. For example, talk about a club you started, how you took on an extra summer class or when you saw a need in the community and addressed it through volunteer service. Colleges like when you show that you initiative, whether it's in or out of the classroom.
We all dread the "tell me about yourself" prompt in an interview, but it’s actually an opportunity to highlight the most important things about yourself. It's easy to hold back and answer an interviewer’s questions with just a sentence or two, but do your best to elaborate when possible.
In order to play yourself up, talk about what's important to you and the college you're interviewing with. No matter how many interviews you do throughout the application process, no interview will be the same, because each college looks for something different in its candidates. Focus on the aspects of your background that will make you successful at this specific school and play up those factors.
To stand out, take any opportunity you get to elaborate on your answer to the question at hand. Turn yes or no questions into broader explanations – but make sure you’re answering the question! For example, if the interviewer asks if you’re involved in extracurriculars, don’t just say a simple “yes.” Go into detail about your favorite club or one that you hold an important position in. While college interviews may be a little nerve-racking and you may be itching to get it over with, it’s important to elaborate and play yourself up when you can!
6. Ask good questions
Interviews aren't just a one-way conversation! While the interviewer is going to be asking a lot of questions, don't be afraid to shoot some back - as long as they’re not the basic ones Perron mentioned. Colleges want to know that you're invested in your education, so demonstrate your interest by asking genuine questions.
To dig deeper, ask your interviewer about other students who chose to go into the field you plan to study. "Admissions folks may not be able to give all the details that students want to hear, but more than likely we can put you in touch with those fellow students and with your future faculty members, who can talk more in depth about their area of focus," Perron says.
Asking about what you'll gain from the college demonstrates that you have a real investment in your education. The interview is meant to be a conversation about the school and your future, so don’t be afraid to participate in the conversation by asking questions!
College interviews might seem like no-brainers (we can all talk about ourselves for a half hour, can’t we?), there are certain ways to make sure that your time with a school's admission office pays off! Interviews require more than dressing nicely and shutting off your cell phone - they demand good research of the school, knowledge of what you want out of an education and an understanding of yourself as a student. Make sure you take advantage of the opportunity and really play yourself up!