By Kathy Laberge, College Admissions Coach
We are now in the last month of 2020 and the year continues to toss twists in our path. Between the challenge of sitting for standardized tests, completing course study remotely, essentially being denied most extracurriculars, and experiencing difficulty conducting campus visits in person, the college search and selection process for the Class of 2021 continues to be challenging.
Campus admission offices are thinking on their feet and recalibrating their evaluation protocols. It has always been a truism that admissions staff evaluate potential candidates during every interaction. An informal conversation while on a tour, an email requesting information or expressing interest, and the number of times a candidate interacts with a college are both evaluative for Admissions and fairly low pressure for students.
Formal College Interview has almost disappeared
But then, the calendar turned to 2020. The days of the formal college interview had almost disappeared. Now, many colleges require or recommend an interview, or are offering virtual interviews. Some schools are requesting applicants submit a two-minute “video portfolio” in lieu of an interview.
It’s always a good idea to seize an opportunity to demonstrate your interest in a school so we at The College Advisor of New York are embracing the silver lining. Our students are being offered more alumni interviews than they have in past years. These conversations have always been used, but they didn’t carry much weight; if a candidate was a clear, poor match for a college then a closer look would ensue. In most cases, the interviewer would merely report their impressions of a student’s personality and goals., This year, even if conducted over Zoom, college interviews could be one of the very few interactions available to candidates.
So, what makes a good college interview?
How can the process benefit both the applicant and the institution?
The answer is in the conversation. The college interview process can be nerve-racking. Students should remember they are interviewing the schools just as the colleges are interviewing them.
The discussion gives the college another opportunity to evaluate students and help determine whether or not to offer admission and merit aid. It provides the college with an opportunity to give more information about the school and answer questions. Furthermore, the interview gives the college a chance to learn more about the student, their interests, and how they will be able to contribute to the school.
As long as the candidate is polite, attentive, and prepared, it should only help chances of acceptance. Also, the interview is an opportunity to learn more about the school and help students decide whether or not it would be a good fit.
There are some questions candidates should prepare responses to in advance. Additionally, students should prepare questions for the interviewer in advance. Feel free to carry a notebook or laptop for recording pertinent points and to consult so the information you want to share is covered. This is not the place to use a notes app on a phone – it just doesn’t look good.
Once both parties are comfortable and have introduced themselves (no handshaking, it’s 2020!) be ready for a conversation.
“Tell me about yourself” is quite common as an opening question and you should have an answer ready. Colleges truly want to know more about you, so paint a portrait of yourself that will separate you from other candidates. Be specific, honest and personal. There will be plenty of time to discuss academics so use this as a chance to reveal what inspires you or talk about one of your passions.
“Why are you interested in this college?” is also a very important question asked in college admissions interviews. In part, it is designed to determine your level of interest a particular school. Your response here should be well researched, specific, and convincing.
You may be asked who you admire, why you want to concentrate in a certain field of study, what you are looking forward to in campus life, where you see yourself in ten years, what you perceive to be your strengths and weaknesses, or any number of other topics. All these are designed to nurture conversation and the exchange of ideas.
The coaching staff at The College Advisor of New York is well versed in interview prep. We conduct mock interviews, but more importantly, we teach you how to compose your responses, how to conduct yourself, and how you – the student – can walk away from an interview feeling better than you did before the conversation began. In short, we help to inspire a sense of confidence in yourself.
The report from an interviewer almost always helps your candidacy because it helps flesh you out as a multidimensional person. Students should view the opportunity as a tool to enhance candidacy and make the best college admissions decision. There really is no downside!