By Yilin Liang:
Graphic by George Hwang:
College interviews. The very mention of this process provokes fear and apprehension in the best and most confident of college candidates. The thought of presenting oneself to an alumnus and being evaluated in return seems ominous, but still, the interview process does not merit the stress that applicants often place on it.
It is, of course, important to prepare for interviews. It is vital that students research the college they are interviewing for. Every student should research to the point where they are able to answer questions such as, “why does this college appeal to you?” and “why did you apply under this major?” They should also be able to talk about the extracurricular activities they are involved in and have a handy list of questions they could ask their interviewer.
Many schools emphasize that the alumni interview process is more for the benefit of the applicant to learn about the school. Most interviews are optional and not always available to every single applicant. Interviewers also do not receive much information about the applicant prior to the meeting and can often be out of touch with the current admissions process. Due to the variable nature of alumni interviews, many colleges do not place a high emphasis on these interviews in admissions decisions.
According to a New York Times article, “a strong student basically cannot be hurt if the interview does not go well. Similarly, weak candidates cannot improve their chances if it does.” Therefore, due to the relatively low importance of alumni college interviews, there is really no need for applicants to lose sleep over their impending interviews. Beyond the basic interview preparation, however, students should not overthink this process.
It is unnecessary for applicants to scrutinize the school website, admissions books, Wikipedia, College Prowler and College Confidential for hours to memorize every single detail of the college, hoping to be able to answer every question perfectly. It is important to remember that the interviewers are human too. They want to hear about an applicant’s accomplishments, but they will also try to gauge the applicant’s personality. An intelligent and accomplished applicant is impressive, but it is difficult to judge whether a student is the right fit for a school merely through their activities. Memorizing answers to pre-chosen questions can also make the applicant come off as insincere. Furthermore, preparing for numerous interview questions can often be futile as many interviewers like to ask uncommon questions that are virtually impossible for students to guess and prepare for. Sometimes, impromptu responses to these questions are actually better than carefully prepared responses. The applicant’s answers can reveal a lot more about his or her personality and these unique answers can help to facilitate the flow of the conversation.
Everyone is fully equipped to conduct a successful interview. At its core, a college interview is really no different than talking with a teacher. Applicants should maintain a sense of decorum and professionalism that is fitting when addressing someone older. Beyond showing respect for interviewers and doing basic research for each college, applicants should not place too much emphasis on being extremely prepared for interviews. Students should not think of college interviews as evaluations of themselves as people; instead they should think of interviews as many colleges do: opportunities for students to learn more about a certain school. And most of all, remember that a firm handshake and a smile can go a along way.