By Andy Lee

The mere mention of the word ‘interview’ sends shivers down the spines of many students. This is an unfortunate reaction because interviews actually offer a wonderful opportunity for college applicants to showcase their personal brand and their soft skills, which are highly valued by many leading universities.

Before we delve into this topic further, it is important to find out who the typical interviewer is and how students will be evaluated during the interview. Generally speaking, the interviewer is either an admissions officer or an alumnus who has volunteered to serve in this position. The interview is often conducted in the manner of a casual dialogue. The interviewer will ask questions to learn more about the applicant’s academic and extracurricular background and also to gauge the student’s interest in the university.

Interviewers are expected to write a report that assesses the student’s performance on the interview. The weight that is accorded to this report varies from school to school. In most cases, the interview is one of the many factors that universities consider when they make an admissions decision.

By excelling on your interview, you are moving one step closer to your dream school. Here we will explore the specific ways you can stand out on your upcoming interview.

Before the Interview

  1. Review your personal statement, supplementary essays and other application materials (eg. Art portfolio, writing samples, etc.) you have submitted.
  2. Research the university, college and department you applied to and identify specific academic (courses, professors, laboratories, study abroad programs, etc.) and extracurricular resources (clubs, teams, etc.) you would hope to utilize if you were to be admitted.
  3. Prepare answers to the following common interview questions:
    1. Please tell me about yourself.
    2. Why are you interested in attending our university?
    3. What are your favorite classes? Why?
    4. What is your favorite extracurricular activity? Why?
    5. What can you contribute to our community?
    6. What are your goals and aspirations? How will attending our university help you achieve them?
  4. Integrate relevant personal anecdotes into your responses to make them come alive
  5. Come up with at least three questions to ask the interviewer. These questions should not be ones that you can easily find answers to on the university’s official website.

During the Interview

  1. Arrive at the interview site at least 10 minutes early.
  2. Greet the interviewer with a firm handshake and a warm smile.
  3. Listen to each question carefully before you start answering them. Do not hesitate to ask the interviewer to repeat the question if needed.
  4. Maintain eye contact with the interviewer as much as possible.
  5. Ask for your interviewer’s contact information.

After the Interview

  1. Send a ‘thank you’ email to express your gratitude to the interviewer.
  2. As appropriate, update your interviewer with your latest progress.

Final Tips

  1. Take down notes for each of your responses and practice in front of a mirror.
  2. Dress for success by wearing neat business/casual attire.
  3. Turn off your cellphone and other electronic devices before the interview.
  4. Send out the ‘thank you’ note within 24 hours of the interview.

By following the suggestions outlined above, students should no longer fear when they are invited to an admissions interview. Instead, students should wholeheartedly embrace this coveted opportunity to display their personal qualities that are not readily cap