After years of building the perfect combinations of extracurriculars, academics and test scores, high school seniors around the country are now applying to universities where they hope to further their education. As application deadlines roll around, these students simply hit the submit button and twiddle their thumbs until decisions are released months later, right? Wrong.
From the time the application is submitted to the time decisions are delivered, there is one particular step students should consider taking to boost their chances of admission: the college interview.
College interviews are not available for many public and/or state colleges, and even for many selective schools, they are optional. So, given that so few of their peers are partaking in this additional step, why should applicants bother? While the lack of an interview may not drag down a student’s application, a successful interview, in combination with a favorable recommendation from the interviewer, has the power to take the student’s profile to the next level.
Once the application is submitted, the student will most likely receive an email from the school asking if her or she would like to have an interview. If the student obliges, interviews are typically done by alumni of the school at casual locations such as a coffee shop. There, the student meets alone with the interviewer, and the two have a conversation for 30-45 minutes. Afterward, they part ways, a review of the student is sent to the school and the admissions panel at the university will see it.
“If it’s at all possible, and you really want to go to that school, you need to make it (the interview) happen,” College and Career Counselor Julie Johnson said. A good interview can give an application the nudge it needs to be chosen over the rest of the applicant pool for admission or for a scholarship.
Note, however, that the point of the interview is to emphasize points about the student that the university should know. Unique topics of conversation will create a lasting effect on the interviewer and lead to a better recommendation.
“You just have to think about what you want the interviewer to know about you that you wouldn’t necessarily put on your application,” senior Jonathan Masuoka said. Masuoka recently completed two interviews, one for Harvard University, and one for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
More importantly, be yourself. The interviewer already knows that the candidate they’re speaking with has stellar test scores and is ranked well amongst their peers. They don’t know about service trips, life-altering moments and ambitious aspirations, so the interview is a chance to share that with the school.
“The best advice I can give is, when you’re doing it, just be honest and be truthful. Don’t try and say anything that you think will make you look good. Just say who you are,” Masuoka said.
For additional interview preparation help:
A video with tips by Katherine Waissbluth, a Stanford student.
Stories and tips from Yale student Josh Beasley.