When it comes to getting into your dream school, preparation is key. Whether it’s prepping for your SAT® or ACT® exams, planning that college visit, choosing a topic for your admissions essay, or filling out scholarship applications – it all requires some prep time.
Well, the same is true for your admissions interview. You don’t want to stroll into your interview without prep or a plan. Good ol’ Ben Franklin said it best: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” (Pretty sure he was talking about interview prep here.)
The good news is you don’t have to spend a ton of time prepping for your admissions interview. A little bit goes a long way. As a matter of fact, if you’ll consider these five things, you’re going to crush your interview.
1. Know the Questions in Advance
Okay, relax. This is not a cheating situation. I don’t have – and neither does anyone else – a list of the exact questions you’ll be asked. However, the questions are pretty standard fare. Here are a few of the hits (in no particular order) . . .
- Tell me a little bit about yourself?
- Why are you interested in this college?
- How would you contribute to our institution?
- What are you hoping to get out of your college years?
- What are your academic strengths?
- What are your academic weaknesses?
- What is your favorite book? (or) Who is your favorite author?
- What makes you stand out from your peers?
Sometimes, interviewers, be they faculty or alumni, like to throw in a few curve balls. They probably won’t ask you how to get out of a blender, but you might get something like . . .
- What are five adjectives that describe you?
- What would you do if you won the lottery tomorrow?
- How do you feel about [insert current story in the news]?
2. When You Answer a Question, Think “X + Y”
X = your answer and Y = WHY that’s your answer. (See what I did there?) In other words, give more than just an answer to the question; tell your interviewer why that’s your answer. Take a look at these two examples and see if you can guess which one is the better answer:
Interviewer: So, what’s your favorite book?
You: The Old Man and the Sea.
Interviewer: . . . [waits for more information] . . .
You: . . . [thinks about lunch] . . .
Interviewer: Okaaay?? Why is that?
You: I dunno know. Cus it’s kinda short?
Interviewer: So, what’s your favorite book?
You: Well, there are lots of books that I love, but I think Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea is probably my favorite. I love how Santiago struggles against defeat, even if that means fighting against his own mortality. I find it kind of inspirational.
Interviewer: [whispers] You.Are.So.Wise.
3. Let’s Just Talk, Man
An essential key to a strong admissions interview is to keep it conversational. Instead of nervously giving scripted answers, take the opportunity to have a back-and-forth conversation. Interviewers are people too – they want to enjoy the experience. If you have a good sense of humor, put it on blast. If you have an outgoing personality, own it. If you’re a deep thinker, share that wisdom. But whatever you do, enjoy the interaction. Think of it more as a conversation than an interview.
4. And I Have a Few Questions for YOU
One thing many students don’t realize is that the interview is their chance to ask questions too. In fact, interviewers expect you to have a few questions of your own. Showing up with questions about the school shows you’re interested, excited, and engaged in the process. And (bonus) this is another way to keep the interview conversational.
Here are some sample questions you might want to have ready:
- I’m considering [insert course of study] as my major. Can you tell me more about that program here?
- You mentioned [insert event or activity here] earlier. That sounds really interesting. How would I go about getting involved in that?
- What advice would you give to an incoming freshman?
- What was your favorite part of attending this school?
And here are some questions to avoid:
- Can you tell me my chances of getting in?
- What’s the party life like on campus?
- How tall are you?
5. Ride that Confidence Train
An admissions interview is nothing to be nervous about. Your acceptance to a college doesn’t depend solely on your interview. This is simply an opportunity for a school to get a more complete picture of you. So be confident and let them see the real you.
If you’re stumped by an unexpected question, don’t get nervous. Simply say, “That’s a great question. Let me think about that for a moment.”
Sit up straight. Make eye contact. Speak up.
Remember your natural strengths and the knowledge and skills you’ve acquired throughout your high school years. You’ve got a lot to offer this institution – don’t forget that.
If confidence doesn’t come naturally for you, set up a few practice interviews with family members or trusted friends before your actual interview. These mock interviews will be fun, and your practice will certainly pay off. Whether you’re practicing for exams, an essay, or your admissions interview, the prep you put in ahead of time will help you ride that confidence train all the way to your dream school.
If you’re preparing to take the SAT or ACT exams in 2019 or 2020, visit UWorld and see why they are the test prep resource you need. Their challenging practice questions, detailed explanations, and easy-to-understand performance tracking will have you prepped and ready to hit your target score on test day.