Many juniors have recently started to visit colleges. Some of the colleges that were recently visited may have been “reach schools,” which means the average scores of students at those colleges are slightly above the junior’s current SAT score and GPA. If the student hopes to be accepted, then one of the best opportunities to help themselves is with the college interview. If the student is well prepared, then the interview can be a powerful tool to help them gain acceptance.
First, the student should know the college’s acceptance rate. At the College Navigator website (nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator) under the Admissions tab for a specific school, one can find the percent admitted statistic. This percentage will give you the odds of gaining acceptance. Bentley’s rate is 46 percent. That means just 46 out of 100 highly qualified applicants are accepted. Most of the students have the Grade Point Average and SAT scores that Bentley desires. So how does a student differentiate themselves? Some people can achieve differentiation with an essay or a fantastic recommendation. Some students can separate themselves with an interview.
Whenever there is a chance to have a college interview, a student should welcome the opportunity and then get themselves prepared. I recommend calling admissions offices to find out when they schedule interviews as some schools will not have them after October simply because they are too busy.
For the student, the main purpose of the interview is to provide a forum to emphasize their strengths and explain any weaknesses in their background. The interview is often not required but it is highly recommended. An interview can be done with admission representatives, department heads, coaches or even college geographic field representatives. Recently, many colleges are having their juniors and seniors conduct the interviews.
In order to prepare for the interview, the student must first realize that they will be nervous. One way to calm those nerves is by writing out their answers and then practicing the response with their parents or friends. This preparation will help them overcome the natural anxiety associated with an interview and give them more confidence.
As with any interview, one should dress neatly and conservatively. Students should use proper grammar and refrain from using slang words such as “like” or “you know.” They should appear poised, confident and gracious. While not absolutely necessary, I recommend having someone videotape the practice session in order for the student to easily visualize areas which can be improved upon.
On the day of the interview, students should arrive early on campus and attempt to relax. They should use that time to gather their thoughts and remember their key points. For both women and men, they should have a firm, confident handshake and make good eye contact for at least two seconds. Two seconds of eye contact is harder than it sounds and should also be practiced. The general mood that the student should be creating is one of enthusiasm.
While there are hundreds of potential interview questions, they can be divided into two general categories—informational and evaluative. In the first category, the interviewer will attempt to see how well thought-out is the decision to consider their college. “Why did you select Zorski University?” They also want to know how well thought-out is their choice of a major and what experience or research they have done to establish that choice.
College admission representatives are also looking to see how well the student can think on their feet and how well they can organize their thoughts. The interviewer will often ask thought-provoking questions in order to gain insight into a student’s educational preparation. This questioning is called the evaluative aspect of the interview.
A thought-provoking question can be as simple as “Tell me about yourself.” The simplicity of the question belies the underlying complexity of the response. This is one question that is basic and necessitates at least 20 minutes of reflection, as the student needs to assess what aspects of their life they choose to highlight. Before the interview, the student should take the time to craft two or three precise paragraphs that amplify and exemplify their strengths. These paragraphs should also indirectly point out why the student would be a good fit for the college.
Another evaluative question that can be prepared for is “We have a number of applicants similar to you. Why should we select you over them?” It will take a similar amount of time and practice to prepare for this basic question.
The student must remember that their answers are being mentally compared to many other applicants’ answers. Many competitive schools only select 30 percent of the applicants, so the answers should be honest and logical. The students should make sure that they convey their decision that this school is very high on their list.
When the interview is finished, the student should thank the person with the same firm handshake and eye contact as they did at the start of the interview. If they have not done so already, they should ask for the person’s business card and send them a written thank-you note. If appropriate, sending the person an e-mail may accomplish the same goal while opening up an avenue for further communication.
Tip of the Day: There is an SAT test date of August 25. Falmouth High School is a test center but make sure that you sign up early, as it will close out.