The College Interview: Dos and Donts
When I think about the experience of reading a college application and what really sticks with me, it is always the parts of the application where the student's voice shines through that I remember most. In addition to the essay and supplements, the college interview is another space where students can add their own voice to the application. Through this conversation, you have the power to demonstrate your intellectual engagement, maturity, depth of your extracurricular involvement, and enthusiasm/knowledge of the institution you’re applying to. In other words, the interview allows you to bring yourself to life and jump off the pages of the application!
Depending upon the college/university, interviews can be informational (an opportunity for you to learn about the school), evaluative (an opportunity for the school to learn more about you), or a combination of the two. Either way, you should be prepared to answer questions about yourself and to ask meaningful questions about the institution. At Barnard, interviews are both informative and evaluative in nature and are conducted by an Admissions staff member, Senior Interviewer, or alumna of the college. Here are some interview “dos” and “donts” that will help you put your best foot forward:
College Interview Dos:
- Do review the interview policies of each institution you’re applying to. Some schools will ask you to interview after you submit the application, while others will ask you to interview before the application deadline. At Barnard, we ask students to interview before the deadline. If you’re applying ED, be prepared to interview before 11/1.
- Do schedule your interview as soon as possible. Most schools have more demand for interviews than space. The early bird gets the worm!
- Do leave extra time to get to your interview. Allot time to sit in traffic, find parking, navigate the subway, find the Office of Admissions, etc. Often when students are late to interviews, they’re incredibly flustered and anxious. Why bring that unnecessary stress upon yourself?
- Do dress appropriately. There’s no need to wear a suit, but make sure you are neat in your appearance.
- Do take some time to prepare for the interview. It’s easy to list the classes you’ve taken or the clubs/organizations that you’ve joined (and we’ll get all of that information in your application), but take some time to think about what you’ve enjoyed about these courses or clubs and how these experiences have transformed you.
- Do maintain eye contact and limit fidgeting. Speak clearly and articulately. Limit using “like” and “um.”
- Do take the time to email your interviewer and thank them for interviewing you.
- Do ask us questions! An interview is a wonderful opportunity to speak to someone who really knows the school. Come prepared with a list of questions, but remember to tailor your questions to your audience.
College Interview Donts:
- Don’t feel like you absolutely must interview (unless the school requires it). Take time to reflect on where you are in the college search process. Does the thought of having an interview make you feel panicked? Will you show your best self in an interview setting?
- Don’t answer questions with one word answers. The best interviews are the ones that flow like a conversation. Feel free to elaborate on your interests and passions. That’s what we want to hear about!
- Don’t ask general questions that can be answered with a brief glance at a brochure or a quick search on the school’s website.
- And most importantly, don’t be nervous! I know it’s easier said than done, but our goal is to create a warm and welcoming environment for students to show their best selves. Relax, take a deep breath, and try to enjoy it!
Interviews are one of my favorite aspects of this profession. I love meeting prospective students, and interviews provide us with a personal and holistic piece of the application. There’s nothing better than seeing a student’s eyes light up when they speak about how much they enjoyed reading The Color Purple, or how being in Model UN provided them with a sense of confidence and community. Interviews are truly a conversation, and we hope that you enjoy them as much as we do.