By Amanda Mull
Staff Writer ’04
One day, the phone call comes. It’s some guy you don’t know on the other end. He’s older, maybe. The name on the caller ID doesn’t look familiar. What could this possibly be about? You’ve told the Army recruiter on the phone time and again that camo just doesn’t flatter your complexion – he couldn’t still be after you to join up. You pick up the phone, greet the person in your best my-mother-told-me-not-to-talk-to-strangers tone of voice, and once you hear ‘Hi, this is *insert name here* from *insert school here*…’ on the other end, you know what’s up:
It’s time for a college admissions interview. They want to meet you at Starbucks on Johnson Ferry and Route 120 on Tuesday afternoon to discuss your application.
So, what does that mean? How should you act? What should you talk about? More importantly, what should you wear? Is your dream school actually rich enough to send someone to reject you in person? Did you make yourself look like an idiot by asking if Roswell Road and Route 120 are the same thing (don’t worry, I did that too)? Wonder no more, my fellow seniors, the Laureate has your back.
First, let’s start with dress, because a first impression is everything. Let’s try some do’s and don’t’s first. Don’t forget to shave that morning and then try and delude yourself into thinking it gives you an artistic, ruggedly-handsome appeal. Do appear neat, clean and freshly bathed, even if that isn’t your usual state of being. Don’t wear your Corona Spring Break t-shirt and a pair of old jeans. Do wear something you might wear to a nice restaurant – a button-down shirt and khakis or black pants are perfect for both genders. Don’t overdo it – being overdressed makes you look silly. Do make sure that you alter your dress relative to the location – if the interviewer wants to meet you in Roswell Park and walk around while you talk, and it’s February, bring a jacket and wear flat shoes. This may all seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at what you don’t think of once you start to realize that your interview could decide if you get into your dream school or not.
Next, what do you talk about? What issues should you stay away from? You’re going to get a lot of questions thrown your way, and they’re all going to be sort of mundane. Do your best to make them interesting and liven them up, because first and foremost, you have to keep your interviewer awake and entertained for an hour. If your test scores and grades are the most interesting things about you, don’t let on that that’s the case. You joined all those service clubs for a reason, and it wasn’t because picking up trash in the front parking lot was your idea of a fun Saturday. The college interview is the forum in which all the trash collecting and peer mentoring pay off (besides the warm fuzzies you may or may not get from the actual experience, of course).
Talk about how collecting clothes for needy families changed your perspective on wealth or about how your biggest regret is that there are only 24 hours in the day and you couldn’t fit the endless things in that you wanted to accomplish. Colleges want students that are hungry, passionate, and self-motivated, but they don’t want to teach you these qualities once you get there. You have to exhibit them yourself, and stuff like that doesn’t always come through in an application. Sure, your SAT score is on there, and it might be good, but there are literally millions of other kids out there that got a 1400 or an A in AP US history. Try and express to your interviewer the intangibles – what makes you an asset to the school that they represent?
Be prepared. In many ways, a college interview is just like a job interview – they ask you nearly exactly the same questions. The following are some that you can be almost sure to come across:
What is your biggest accomplishment?
What is your biggest failure?
What is your worst quality?
What has been your biggest obstacle?
Do you have any regrets?
What experience has meant the most to you?
What makes you different?
What are you most proud of?
What actions or experiences have best shown your leadership abilities?
Why should we let you in?
While it’s not necessary (and probably not even a good idea) to write down answers to these questions, you might want to spend a good half an hour before the interview going over possible answers. Nothing is worse than getting asked a question you hadn’t anticipated and sitting there, in stupefied silence, trying to think of a decent answer. Get to Starbucks early, get yourself a venti carmel apple cider, sit down, and go over what you want to communicate to the interviewer. Make sure that you’ve preplanned at least a few interesting things about yourself that you can fall back on if you’re caught off guard, especially if you’re the sort of person that gets nervous quickly or easily.
That pretty much takes care of the bulk of the interview, but there are a few quick suggestions that I need to make. Eye contact is great, and you should make a lot of it, but unbroken eye contact gets just a tad creepy. The same thing goes for smiling. Happiness is great, it makes you look well-adjusted, but don’t grin like a fool the entire time; that’s creepy too. Psychosis isn’t something most schools look for in their admissions criteria. Last of all, though, just remember that the schools aren’t looking for reasons to reject you, they’re looking for reasons to let you in.
Put your best you forward, and problems most likely won’t appear. If all else fails, take heart – some schools just use interviews to gauge your interest in the school and the content of the interview is not considered. It’s like a completion grade – show up, get a 100. It shows that you’re willing to take an hour out of your schedule in order to sit down and tell someone how much you want to go to school at wherever you’re applying, and that’s a big plus right there. The more competitive the school, the more likely it is that they’ll take the content of your interview into consideration, so make sure that you know your college’s policy before you breath a sigh of relief and just fire off any random answer. You shouldn’t have a problem, though, the preparation is minimal and you know the material. Besides, who doesn’t like talking about themselves for an hour?
Just remember, no creepy eye contact.