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How To Ace The College Interview

By: Bill McCumber

Students are often intimidated by the college interview process because they don't know what they're getting into, nor do they know how best to prepare. College interviews are a great way to demonstrate a student's interest to a college admissions office. The more a student demonstrates his interest in the college the more the college will be interested in a student. Students who demonstrate interest often have a leg up on the competition in the admission pool resulting in a higher probability of acceptance.

College interviews fall into two broad categories, the alumni interview and the admissions interview. Let's walk through the process with our fictitious student, Mark Sullivan, who has applied to Great College.

Whether sitting for an alumni or admissions interview, the best thing Mark can do is relax. Alumni representatives and admissions officers are not interviewing so that they can reject students or speak poorly of them. Interviews are a chance for college representatives to sell their school to the applicant and are not used to weed out undesirables. There is some evaluation going on, of course, but Mark should be confident that as much as they are reviewing him, he is also reviewing them. It's a two-way conversation as to why Mark is a great fit for the school, and why the school would be a perfect fit for Mark. So now that Mark knows the interview can give him a leg up on the competition and will not be used as a reason to reject him, perhaps he can be more confident. Confidence shows, and in addition to preparing for the interview, he should simply do the things our mothers tell us to do. Get a good night's sleep the night before. Dress comfortably but look good. He does not need a suit and tie, especially since he will likely be walking all over the campus that day, but he should also not show up in a ragged sweatshirt and jeans. He should take a deep breath, wipe his sweaty palms before shaking the representative's hand, make eye contact, sit up properly in his chair, and have a mature, productive conversation.

Mark may have the opportunity to interview with an admission officer from Great College either in his hometown or on the college campus. If Mark and his family are visiting colleges he will have contacted Great College Admissions to schedule an information session, a student-led tour, and, hopefully, an interview with the admission officer responsible for Mark's region. He might also have an opportunity to interview with his admission officer in his hometown as Great College visits his community or school. It is likely that the person interviewing Mark will have primary responsibility for Mark's application. It will be up to Mark to 'flesh out' his application; admissions officers like to admit students, not GPA and SAT numbers, and by telling the admissions staff what makes him tick, Mark is personalizing his application process. Since the admission officer will also be very well versed as to all the offerings of the college Mark will have the opportunity to ask good questions and get meaningful answers.

The alumni interview would likely happen after Mark has already submitted his application to Great College, who notifies a local alumnus that Mark has applied so that he can be interviewed. The alumni interviewer is a volunteer whose job it is to share his own wonderful experiences at Great College to Mark. The alumni interviewer will jot some notes and be able to tell Great College that Mark is an interested, and interesting, student, but will not have any authority over the admission decision.

So other than being calm, cool, poised, well dressed, and punctual, how should Mark prepare? Mark's job during the interview is to ask good questions and explain his strengths and interests. He will have prepared a resume or brag sheet of things to highlight, such as his involvement in the school play, that he is on the varsity soccer team, that he is active in community service, and recently got an "A" on his research paper called "Political Activism In China", and that he intends to choose international relations as his Great College major. He will also have a short list of good questions to ask that he really wants answered, as these will help him make his decision as to which college to attend. As these questions are answered Mark will take some notes, showing his sincere interest to the interviewer. One simple caveat is that Mark should avoid easy questions, the answers to which can be found by a quick look at the college website or brochures. He will want to ask questions such as, "How many international relations majors are able to study abroad, and where do they study most often?" as opposed to asking the Dean of Admission, "How many kids go here?"

The college interview process is an opportunity to make the application come alive, impress the admissions staff, and get some questions answered. Interviews can almost never hurt you, and they sure can help. Be confident, mature, and prepared, and the interview process will be a snap.

Author Resource: Bill McCumber is the founder of the iCollegeCoach program, a leading provider of college search, admission, financial aid, and college funding programs. For more information please call 1-877-Coach-13 or visit iCollegeCoach

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