You realize there’s a coffee stain on your resume. You can’t sit comfortably in those pants. You anxiously wonder who you’ll talk to. There are 1 million and one things that could stress you out during a college interview, but we have 10 pointers that might help relieve some anxiety you may have.
10. Take the initiative. If you get the interviewer’s information and it’s up to you to make contact, do it right away. Keep in mind that interviewing high school kids is done out of the alum’s love for their alma mater — not out of an obligation to cater to you. Be flexible when scheduling the meeting and always be prompt in answering emails or phone calls.
9. Don’t eat. In many cases, you’ll be in a Starbucks or a café of some sort. An awkward situation could arise if your interviewer generously offers to get you something. There is no right or wrong (of course, assuming you have the decency to not order everything on the menu), but logistically, here’s the breakdown: You’re going to try to give this stranger a glimpse of your life and personality in a very limited period of time. Do you really want awkward pauses as you finish chewing your pastry and crumbs fall down the front of your blouse? All it takes is a sweet smile and a “No, thank you” to jump that obstacle.
8. Think about yourself. What makes you stand out? Why do your friends like you? Colleges can see you were the captain of the swim team, but what did you do as captain? Why were you sel.ected as captain? This isn’t the time to re-list your activities — it’s the time where you emphasize the person behind the SAT scores. Make a list of characteristics that you want your interviewer to notice, such as your sense of humor or your strong work ethic, so even if you’re asked which donut you are, you have an idea of what to say and what kind of message to convey.
7. The clock is not your friend. In an interview setting, longer doesn’t necessarily mean better. It’s great if the conversation seems to be flowing, but more often than not, the interviewer has somewhere else to be or another student to interview. Interviews have been known to run from as short as 10 minutes to as long as over an hour.
6. Use Google. Type in your interviewer’s name and you will often be able to find anything from his or her occupation and political affiliation to college major. Doing research could give you a head start on figuring out what you want to talk about during your interview. It’s not wise to rant and rave about the health care policy if your interviewer donated large sums of money to the GOP. If you share passions with your interviewer, then you have a huge opportunity for a great conversation.
5. Bring your resume. Ask your interviewer if he or she wants to see it as soon as possible after you sit down. This step isn’t crucial, but using a resume usually makes it easier for both parties.
4. Name drop. Don’t overdo this, but your alum obviously had a great time at the school if he or she takes the time to interview applicants. Show genuine interest by talking about specific buildings on campus, specific professors and specific traditions. Not only will this prove the school is special to you, but it will also probably spark some stories from the alum. Remember, an interview isn’t just an opportunity for the school to get to know you; it is also an opportunity for you to get an inside scoop.
3. Strategize. Interviewers aren’t supposed to ask which other universities you applied to, but inevitably, you might end up being asked that very question. You can’t refuse to respond, but a general tactic is not to reveal every single school you actually applied to. Pick schools that are similar to the school you’re interviewing for, so it reiterates that this university really does embody what you’re looking for.
2. Show gratitude. Send a thank you card ASAP — right when you return home from the interview is not too soon.
1. Relax! Make jokes, smile and don’t sit like a mannequin. This is a stressful and exciting time of your life and the alums understand that. Take the time to really listen to their experiences and make sure to share anecdotes from your own life. There’s no need to use every SAT word you learned during junior year, nor any reason to be anyone but who you really are. That’s a cliché for a reason.
Last modified: April 5, 2010