Last year, I watched many seniors stress and struggle through the college application process. I have finally joined their ranks and now benefit from the perks, but have also inherited the additional burden of applying to colleges. As a senior, I must begin my personal quest for the perfect college, while balancing normal school work and a copious number of other extracurriculars. Who ever said that junior year was the most difficult, clearly wasn’t planning on higher education!
While most people have heard about writing essays for college applications, the interview process is a little less well known. Many schools require some sort of writing supplement, but the interview component is much less consistent with some schools requiring it, recommending it, offering it or not even offering it. I recently applied to a school early decision and they insisted on interviewing 100% of those applicants. Once my application was submitted, my contact information was sent to an alumni in the area and we coordinated a time and place that would work for both of us.
In preparation, its better to be excited about the interview rather than being overly stressed and worried about it. If you know anyone currently attending the school I would recommend asking them some questions to give you some background knowledge. The purpose of the interview is for the interviewer to get to know you in a casual setting, not to interrogate or intimidate you. They are usually thrilled that you want to go to their alma mater! Additionally, the conversation shouldn’t be one way because this also gives you the opportunity to ask the alumni questions about their first hand experiences at the school.
The location is important and should be a nice place where it is easy to talk. I ended up having my interview at a small coffee shop in the Central District that had a slight hipster vibe. Another saying to keep in mind is if you aren’t ten minutes early, you are late because the interviewer will likely have arrived early and by no means do you want to be late. The first impression is critical and you want to seem like a confident and collected individual instead of running in barely on time or a little late. Setting up for success is important but your responses to the questions themselves are obviously the most important.
I had anticipated many of the generic interview questions such as, “What activities do you do now?” and, “Why do you want to go to this school?”. My answers were genuine, well thought out, tied in my knowledge about the school and crafted my image as a dedicated student who would be an asset to the university. Then I hit a few road bumps in the form of some questions I didn’t expect. It was hard to think of my main weaknesses and even harder admitting them to the interviewer in a positive light. Another odd question I was asked was what I would do for a month if money wasn’t a factor. While some ideas popped into my head I had to think about my answer so it showed a certain side of me that I hadn’t already expressed. I settled on traveling Europe and Asia with a focus on France because I learned French for four years and China because I was adopted from there and had never been back since. I also emphasized that it would make me a worldly person because I knew that the school stressed that its alumni would have to learn skills to impact the world. Knowing what the school valued helped me shape my other answers in a similar way to show that I would fit perfectly at the school.
Throughout the interview you want to seem attentive and naturally enthusiastic. Don’t be afraid to talk about your goals at the school and what you have done in high school. If talking about yourself is difficult that is something you will need to practice because essentially you are selling yourself as the ideal student for whichever school is interviewing you. If all goes well, a strong interview can push your application above the other equally great applications thereby increasing your odds of acceptance.
-Rebecca, 17, Teen Center Advisor