Each year more and more small to medium-sized colleges are integrating an interview into the college application process. In some cases, colleges are replacing their supplement essays with an interview. That’s a big YES! for many students for whom the admissions essays present a bottleneck to self-expression.
Interviewing is an art. It is an art in staying focused and sharing. It is an art in learning about how you can best act yourself. Interviewing builds self-esteem and provides experience in the life-long art of being interesting. But it takes time to learn how to interview naturally. So as you enter the world of interviews, have patience with yourself. This is a first step. Ready for some tips? Let’s go!
1. PREPARE. Absolutely! Always go into an interview well informed. Research the background of the person who will interview you. Go in well versed in your interest in the college. Know the mission and the values of the college and how they align with your own. Come up with good questions that will allow you to create a connection with the interviewer. Do a mock interview to practice your skills. Find something dressy to wear that feels comfortable: think brunch with your aunt and uncle.
2. USE A 3 x 3. When I applied for my first tenure track academic job, I had 25 interviews. For each job I created a worksheet which allowed me to field any type of question. I answer almost every question that came up by connecting it to my own strengths. I could then back up my response with an anecdote or story about that particular strength. And finally, I could say how this strength or interest had led me to the college. This is an abbreviated version of what my 3 X 3 looked like:
3. BE A GREAT LISTENER. Listening is key to good communication. Good listeners make excellent collaborators and teammates. Being a good listener requires focus. The key to great listening is to hear everything that is being said without getting caught up in your own thoughts. Try to put all of your attention on the person speaking. Don’t interrupt. Wait until the interviewer has finished asking a question before trying to jump in with an answer.
4. SHOW YOU HAVE A TEACHABLE NATURE. It’s important to always want to learn and never become complacent with or arrogant about the knowledge you have. It shows people that you’re open to their ideas, okay with constructive feedback, willing to do things differently or ask for help.
5. BE TRUE TO YOURSELF. Confident interviewees know and express their values and interests. Don’t hold back—be yourself and share who you really are. Steer the conversation toward your strengths: about how well you worked with your teammates, how close you were with your teacher, or what values you prioritize on the high school campus. This is where your 3 x 3 comes in handy.
6. SHARE YOUR INSPIRATION. Also, if you’ve taken any classes, read any great books or had a meaningful conversation lately, mention what you learned and its application to who you are and what you enjoy doing, or what you imagine for yourself in the future.
Learn something new this week that is related to your academic interests. Watch an educational video or read an article. Practice sharing what you learned with others. This is also a great way to cement the learning.
7. WRITE A THANK YOU NOTE. This couldn’t be more important. Within 24 hours, send your interviewer an email or send a handwritten note. Thank your interviewer for the time and effort it took to meet you. Comment on some aspect of the interview that you enjoyed. Express renewed interest about attending the college. Keep it short and to the point.
And now for the Thanksgiving part. All of these tips will help you to connect better with your loved ones and with people you are meeting for the first time. Try out a tip or to at your family gathering and see what difference it makes.
Felicia Fahey PhD
Felicia is a comprehensive educational consultant. She works with college bound students of all ages close to home, across the country and around the globe.