November 8, 2011
I've been interviewing high school kids for college for almost 15 years and am about to start interviewing for next year. Here are a few general notes that might help interviewees. If you've googled your way here, you're on the right track, you're preparing.
Before beginning, be prompt and courteous when setting up a meeting time. Your interviewer is probably a busy person who is making time for you. Be respectful. Set up the interview yourself (i.e. don't rely on your mom). Don't be late.
1. If you're applying to a top school, odds are you're qualified to go there. Most of you, on paper, look pretty similar. You all have good grades and high SATs; you are all active in extracurriculars; many of you do important community work; in short you're all pretty extraordinary. But too many of you are applying for too few spots. Your college interview, like your college application, is a chance to differentiate yourself. What are you passionate about? What moves you? What gets you up in the morning?
2. You're probably better off applying to 3 schools than you are 10. Make each application count. It is much easier to focus on 3 schools than 10. I've had lots of kids start interviews by talking about other interviews and how tired they are of the application process. This is not a good way to start.
3. Learn about your interviewer. We google you. You should google us too. When we know things about each other, it's easier to have a real conversation.
4. I could care less about your grades, that's for the people in admissions to sort through. I want to hear your story. Think about your story. What made you the person you are? How do you edit your life into an hour? What stories define you? Practice telling your story. Practice telling it out loud (you might just learn something about yourself in the process). Record yourself w/ friends interviewing each other. Like anything, the more you practice, the easier the real interview will be.
5. People who are giving college interviews, tend to be people who love their schools and are protective of them. Learn something about the school. Every school has its own culture. How would you fit into that school culture (or disrupt it!). Read the school newspaper. Visit the school if you can. Be prepared for the question, "Why [school name]?"
6. A good interviewer will ask open ended questions that defy easy answers. It's ok to pause and think about your response. Don't be scared of silence.
7. Be honest. Don't try to be something you're not.
8. Ask questions.
9. Slow down. Breath.
10. Follow up.