How to Nail a College Interview

Here's how you can nail a college interview

Flickr user Flazingo Photos

There are many elements to impressing a college during the application process—your GPA, ACT/SAT scores, essays, extracurricular activities, honors, the application itself. But there’s another way you can boost your chances—nail a college interview. If you’re very interested in a specific college, you can meet with an admissions officer during your visit and have a sit-down interview with them. After all, the best way to get to know a person is by having a real conversation with them, not just glancing over a summary on some paper.

So if you’re gearing up for a college interview of your own, or are at the very least considering doing one, here are some tips to keep in mind before you walk through the doors!

Dress for Success

As with any interview, make an effort with your appearance. We all know the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” but you’ll definitely leave the impression of not taking things seriously if you show up wearing sweatpants and a novelty t-shirt. We’re not saying you have to go full-out suit and tie, but putting a little forethought into your outfit is a good idea.

Master the Handshake

You can tell a lot about a person by how they shake hands. A firm, assertive shake is best—it shows you mean business and are confident. Beware going in too strong though, you don’t want to hurt your interviewer! And please, whatever you do, don’t have a limp dead-fish handshake. Nobody likes those.

Prepare Your Answers

Again, as with all interviews, it’s best not to rely on improv skills. Preparation is key, and one great way you can prepare for a college interview is by reviewing popular questions. We’ve got you partially covered, here’s our list of questions college admissions officers are likely to ask in an interview!

Grab a friend or a parent and go through the questions together, with them playing the interviewer and you the interviewee. Even just a few run-throughs can help you gain a sense of what you want your answer to be. By reviewing a large number of questions, you may not be blindsided by what might be asked in the real interview. Prepare for questions like “Why do you want to attend our school?” and the like.

Remember: Conversation Does Not Equal Memorization

While it’s great to prepare with those mock interviews, don’t go so far as to memorize your answer. You want to have a natural, flowing conversation with your college interviewer, not spout memorized answers at them. Avoid writing down your responses, otherwise it may just seem like you’re answering verbatim. You can craft an answer through practice without it being the exact same wording every single time.

Come with Questions of Your Own

Towards the end of the interview, you’ll likely be asked “Do you have any questions?” The best answer here is YES! By having two or three questions at the ready, you’re demonstrating a real interest in their school—not to mention you’ll get your questions answered.

Eye Contact and Posture

It may seem like an obvious tip to give, but eye contact is very important. It shows that you are engaged, present, and interested in the interview. Glancing around the room or looking down implies you’re either distracted or very nervous, both of which can get in the way of the conversation.

Additionally, it’s best to sit up straight and avoid fidgeting. Like with eye contact, be present in the moment and the conversation. Do your best to suppress any nervous ticks like jiggling your leg or picking at the hem of your sleeve.

Be Yourself to Nail a College Interview

Yes, yes, I know, this is about the most cliche advice one can give—but it holds a real merit in this case. The point of a college interview is for the college to get to know you as a person. They’ve seen your transcripts, your scores, your accolades, but they’ve yet to meet the real you—that’s the point of the meeting. So be yourself. Don’t just give phoned-in answers because you think that’s what they want to hear—personalize it! Be honest and—as groan-inducing as it sounds—be yourself.

Use College Raptor to discover personalized college matches, cost estimates, acceptance odds, and potential financial aid from schools around the US—for FREE!