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College Interview Tips

College Interview Tips

Most students will not be required to complete an interview as part of their college application process. However, many schools offer interviews, some going so far as to “strongly encourage” applicants to complete one – online, on campus, or in person with an alumni representative. Some scholarships applications also require interviews, even if the college or university itself does not. Here are some college interview tips for navigating the process.

  • Do your research. What is the interview policy for the schools on your list?

Some schools offer only informational interviews, which are a great opportunity to ask questions about a college, but don’t become part of your application. Preparing for an informational interview will quite different than preparing for an evaluative interview, which is the kind that does impact your application. Some schools offer interviews to all students, while some have a limited number. Some colleges and universities require interviews from only specific applicants, and some will invite a number of students to interview. Knowing how the colleges on your list approach interviewing will ensure that you’re prepared!

  • Practice, but don’t rehearse.

Get help with this part. Practice with a friend or family member. Give your helper a variety of questions, and let them choose the order, so that you’re not simply memorizing a script. Similarly, don’t try to prepare verbatim answers. It will be helpful, for example, to choose a book to discuss, but you’re better off being familiar with the book than memorizing paragraphs of analysis. Select some stories to tell about your life, your academic career, and your goals for the future. Feel comfortable with those stories, the way you might feel if you were telling a new friend about the time your dad tried to drive you to school and help you review for a calculus exam – at the same time. (Bye-bye, hubcap.)

  • Be friendly but professional.

The interview is a great opportunity for the school to get to know you – even more than the essay, this is your opportunity to bring life to the numbers and lists of activities that make up the rest of your application. Actually being a real person is an important part of that process. Be yourself. Try to enjoy the conversation and engage with your interviewer(s). At the same time, be professional. Dress neatly, give the interviewer your full attention, and keep your language appropriate to the setting.

  • Do your research.  Be knowledgeable about the school and city.

Presumably, you’re going to an interview because you actually want to go to this college or university. Think about why you want to go, and if your answers don’t sound like interview material, come up with something a little deeper. Spend some time connecting with the school and its current students, if possible, and figure out how to explain what makes this particular place special. When the interviewer gives you an opportunity to ask a question of your own, be ready. Showing your interest and curiosity about the college is important, but it’s also a good chance for you to learn more about the school!

 

Social Media in Admissions

Will that post come back to haunt you? According to The Daily Pennsylvanian, “Certain violations on social media have the potential to completely end an applicant’s case for admission.” Depending on where you apply, the chances that your online presence will be scrutinized vary significantly. Some schools just don’t have the time, and some actually prohibit the practice.

The NY Times reports that, at Oberlin, “admissions officers may review only the material submitted by students as part of their application.” That means they’re prohibited from considering other information in making their decision. Washington College in Chestertown, Md., takes a more moderate approach. “Admissions officials do not proactively seek out candidates on social media. But while monitoring the college’s brand online, admissions officers often happen upon applicants who have publicly commented on the college, and they immediately forward those posts to Satyajit Dattagupta, the vice president for enrollment management.”

Do those posts affect admission chances? You bet. Dattagupta “looked favorably” on applicants who kept things positive, but was “troubled” by students who spoke negatively about any college online.

What Colleges Are Looking For

According to Kaplan, 35% of admissions officers look for information about students on social media, and 16% report that they have found things that negatively affected a student’s chances. Protecting online reputations has become big business – Forbes reports that companies may charge as little as $100/year for a simple service to alert them to problematic material, or as much as $1300/month to bury troublesome information on the third page of Google search results.

OK, you’re thinking, I know all of this. None of this is new. You’ve changed your privacy settings or even deleted your accounts. You’ve gone underground, and you’d challenge an admissions officer to even find any trace of you online, at all. You’re all set, right?

Maybe. Maybe not. You might be missing an opportunity. US News suggests using social media in your favor to support your application, demonstrate interest, and create a positive presence. Monitoring your privacy settings and removing photos of you holding a red Solo cup? That’s 101-level stuff. Let’s talk about the advanced version.

How To Use Social Media to Your Advantage

Is your application an ode to your service work? Post pictures of that work on Facebook. Passionate about sports or music? Upload videos of your performances. Are you proud of your writing or design skills? There are plenty of ways to create an online presence that reflects those things and will support your application, should your admissions rep go digging.

Social media can also facilitate networking with schools and demonstrating your interest and interacting with them in ways beyond the traditional campus visit. Consider seeking out programs that catch your interest, and even specific professors you’d like to work with, on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. It won’t take much time, but it can make a difference to your admission chances.

Summer College Prep

Spring is in the air!  Prom is just around the corner, and finals are getting closer.  After finals, comes summer.  For many students, this means swimming pools, barbecues, camping trips, and general relaxation.  For the class of 2014, however, summer is the ideal time to write essays and complete college applications.

Imagine, if you will, going back to high school in August.  It’s your senior year.  You’re the top dog on campus.  It’s your last chance to participate in pep rallies, school plays, and high school sports teams.  Your friends start to ask you where you’re going to school next year.  Your teachers start to ask you where you’re going to school next year.  You still don’t know where you want to apply.  Your friends start to get acceptance letters.  You start to freak out.  Now, in addition to homework, tests, and all your extracurricular activities, you need to find time to complete your college applications.

Now imagine going back to school in August.  It’s your senior year.  You spent part of the summer deciding which schools would be a good fit for you next year.  You honed your essay writing skills.  When college applications were available on August 1st, you were ready to go.  By the time school started, you were well on your way to completing your applications.  Now with pep rallies, school plays, sports and volunteer work vying for your attention, you’re so glad that you have your college applications done.  By the time winter break rolls around, you already know where you’re going to school next year.  You no longer dread the question “where are you going to college?” because you know the answer.

Which student would you rather be?

Get Smarter Prep can help you navigate the college application process with ease.  Learn what majors and careers are a good fit for you.  Get help narrowing down your college list to the top schools that fit your personality.  Learn to write a college essay that admissions officers won’t easily forget.

By starting early on your applications, you not only reduce your potential stress levels, but you also have a better shot at getting the money you need for the school you want.  All financial aid has a deadline, and some aid is given on a first come, first served basis.  Plus, a lot of scholarships require an essay submission, so it is beneficial for you to have an essay you can be proud of.

You can still hit the pool this summer, but don’t forget to take a break for your college applications!

Gina Claypool is a Tutor at Get Smarter Prep.