College Admission Interview Do’s and Don’ts

  In the previous post, I outlined college interview basics— the things every student should do before scheduling a college admissions interview.  Today I’m adding a list of college admission interview do’s and don’ts.  These are intended for students preparing for an admissions interview, but many apply for job or scholarship interviews as well. Parents, some of these tips may seem so obvious that you question why I’ve included them.  Most students have had limited opportunities to speak about their strengths in an interview situation.  I coached high school speech and debate for seven years and have been helping students with admission interviews for years; I’ve seen otherwise confident and articulate students do incredibly stupid things in interviews.  Don’t discount the basic and obvious guidelines for interviewing.  Don’t assume all bright students will have or use common sense when under pressure. DO dress nicely.  Khaki pants, skirts, or slacks are appropriate for an interview. DON’T be afraid to show your personal sense of style.  Your friends and teachers should be able to recognize you! DO arrive ten minutes early.  Nothing starts an interview off worse than running late and having to apologize. DON’T chew gum, swear, or use slang. DO leave your parents behind.  The school wants to hear from you not mom or dad.  Parents can visit the financial aid office while you interview. DO accept a glass of water if offered one.  You can take a sip if you need a moment to collect your thoughts. DON’T bring your cell phone in to the interview.  Leave it in the car. DO your research ahead of time.  Check some of specifics you should know as you prepare for an interview here. DON’T act as if you are bored, in a hurry to leave, or disinterested in the university or interview. DO sit up straight, look the interviewer directly in the eye, offer a firm handshake, and speak with confidence. DO know the two or three main qualities, achievements, or talents you want the interviewer to know about you.  Look for opportunities to work those stories into your responses. DON’T go to an important interview without practicing first.  Be ready to answer standard questions about your academic strengths and plans for the future. DO bring your list of questions and extra copies of your resume.  Try to have your questions memorized, so you can speak casually to the person interviewing you. DON’T ignore your interviewer.  Make sure you get his or her name; write it down if you might forget it.  Ask what he or does for a living and what he or she studied in college. DO take turns asking and answering questions.  You should find out as much about the school as they learn about you. DO remain calm and confident.  It is ok to feel nervous, but be yourself. DON’T talk too fast.  Many people speak quickly when they feel nervous. DO offer honest answers.  You can take a moment to think about a question before you respond. DO have substantive reasons why THAT university is the best choice for YOU.  Location, attractiveness of the campus, and prestigious reputation are the WRONG answer to this essential question. DON’T ramble.  Explain your answers, but know when to stop. DO convey clearly why YOU are right for this particular university. DON’T forget eye contact.  It was already mentioned, but too many applicants look at the table or around the room and never look the interviewer in the eye. DO ask for a business card at the end of your interview and see if it would be ok if you contact them with any further questions.  Thank your interviewer for their time. DO write a thank you note – a hand written card you mail.  ]]>

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  • Great tips, Megan! My favorite was, “DO have substantive reasons why THAT university is the best choice for YOU. Location, attractiveness of the campus, and prestigious reputation are the WRONG answer to this essential question.”
    This applies to interviewing for a job, too. “Well, I want to work at XYZ company because it’s close to where I live and it’s a good company with good benefits.” Ugh! This is probably the worst answer ever, but you’d be surprised how common these are when interviewing.

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