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College Interview Tips That Always Work

how to prepare for a college interview
A college interview is not much different from a job interview, except in this case, if you’re successful, you won’t be getting paid. If you haven’t had the experience of being interviewed, and you want to know how to prepare for a college interview, this is the guide for you. We’ll be covering what to do, what not to do, common college interview questions, and how to answer them. Let’s jump right in.

Dress to impress

This might not seem very important to you, or at least not important enough to be put in first place, but let me reassure you: the way you’re dressed will make all the difference. This is how you make a first impression, and if you come into the room dressed like a slob, that’s what the interviewer is going to remember you as. They might not literally take note of your clothing, but it will definitely color their impression of you and be reflected in the notes they take. Treat clothing as a show of respect to your surroundings: you wouldn’t show up to a job interview in flip-flops and jeans, would you?

Know the school

This part is about doing your homework. During the interview, you will be asked why you want to attend that college in particular, and you have to be ready to fire from the hip. That means reading up on what makes that school special from the others. You might want to say you want to choose a specific program that they’re known for, or study with a specific professor that the college employs. Whipping out a fact about the school when unprompted is sure to get you brownie points. This question is so common because the college wants to choose students who are interested in going there, and not applying using the ‘spray and pray’ method.

Answer questions about yourself

No doubt, the interviewer will ask you to talk about yourself. The prompt will be some version of the common and inevitable ‘what are your strengths and weaknesses’ question. The question is mostly perfunctory, and no one serious puts much weight into it, since almost everyone answers them the same way – by lying. The ‘secret’ formula is this: three strengths and two weaknesses, accompanied by an explanation of what you’re doing to overcome them. Don’t reinvent the wheel, you won’t do better than what exists already, so learn it and use it.

Get ready to talk about your interests

You are likely to be asked about what your interests are: be prepared to talk about your favorite movie, musician and book – but do try and pick out something that isn’t a huge cliché. No books that were turned into movies, no movies that have more than one sequel (better if it doesn’t have sequels at all) and no musicians that are currently in the top 40. This isn’t snobbery – everyone likes blockbusters and has enjoyed reading Harry Potter, and that’s exactly the problem. You will not stand out at all if your favorite book is something you were assigned at school and your favorite movie is the one that won an Academy Award for best picture few years ago.

Have some questions of your own

Every interview like this one has that portion at the end where the interviewee is asked whether they have a question to ask the interviewer. It’s very bad form to answer ‘no’, so have two or three questions of your own prepared, even if this college is the backup to your backup’s backup. Treat this as your chance to find out something about the college and its culture, so don’t ask a question that can be answered by a quick Google search. Ask about student life at the college and something about the program that you’re interested in. Don’t try to be funny and ask something stupid like “can I skip classes” or “what’s the policy on drug use at this school”.

Remember, the interview is your one chance to show the admissions officers what makes you a good fit for the school. Before it, you are a number on a spreadsheet, and after you’re done, the admissions officers should know why you’re good for the college beyond your grades and applications essay. Before you enter the room, resolve to give them at least three reasons why you see yourself at that college and why they’re one of your top choices. What you definitely shouldn’t do is swagger in and expect to be accepted right away. Anything about you that they like is at stake here, and you can reverse any of their good will towards you at the drop of a hat if you don’t, as they say, come correct.