Unpopular opinion: admission interviews are one of the most important factors in admissions to many colleges. Let’s explore why.
Admission interviews aren’t a required part of the application for most colleges but are encouraged. In such an interview, you get to talk and show yourself in person to the admission gatekeepers. They’ll ask you about yourself and some questions they might or mightn’t prepare for and you’ll get to voice your personality through the answers to those questions. If you can make a good impression through your responses, good things can happen regardless of what other parts of your application look like. Here are top reasons why interviews are so important:
- You get to show the personality sides that aren’t showcase(able) through texts.
- When you’re talking directly with an Admission Officer, you can make a direct impression on someone who’ll likely be reading your application. Voicing your perspective to an AO, face to face adds more authenticity to your application than anything.
- It’s easy to make impression on someone through not verbal communication.
- Interviews are a place where you can negotiate your idea. If you communicate a thought through texts (essays), you’ll no option to edit or get feedback after you submit that. But through verbal communication, you can quickly capture whether they’re catching on to your thoughts or they need more explanations.
- Taking an interview with a particular college show demonstrated interest.
- If you’re a good talker, have a charming sense of humor, interviews can show a side of you that’s totally doesn’t get expressed through other parts of the application.
So now that you get the gravity of taking admission interviews, let’s learn more about interviews through answers to some most frequently asked questions.
Are interviews a required part of the application? Should I take the interviews if it’s optional?
While interviews are optional for most colleges, some colleges require them. You’ll find that information on the prospective college’s website.
Even if the interviews are optional, nothing is really optional when it comes to US admissions. If you can improve your chances by 0.0001% through a task, you should go for it for the reasons mentioned above. Despite what your application looks like, interviews can really make you rememberable to the person who’ll be reading your application. I highly recommend you take the interviews.
When should I take the interviews?
Interviews are usually available through the month of September to April next year. Note one thing that you can take interviews in many colleges before you submit your application. I recommend doing that for one reason: if the interview doesn’t go well, then you can choose not to apply to that college and save a spot on the commonapp. Start taking interviews in October, near the application deadline so that the AO’s memory is still fresh when they read your app.
Can I schedule interviews for all my colleges in Commonapp?
No. Most top and competitive colleges don’t offer interviews to all applicants. For colleges like Harvard, Columbia, MIT, Tufts, Duke, etc. you get invited for an interview you’re a likely (shortlisted kinda) admit.
But most midtier colleges offer interviews as an optional part, sometimes a required part of the process. For those colleges, you have to go to their website and schedule an interview based on their & your availability.
Some colleges even don’t take interviews of any applicant. So keep that in mind when you prepare your college list.
What medium do they use to take interviews?
Interviews for international students are usually conducted over Zoom or Skype or Google Meet.
How long does an interview last?
Interviews can last anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours. Depends on how you vibe and connect with your interviewer. On average an interview lasts about 45 minutes. But if you converse with your interviewer, informally, which happens often, then interviews can get longer, which is a good thing.
What should I wear for interviews?
Anything casual is fine. You don’t have to suit up, wear formals for these virtual interviews. I used to wear shirts or T-shirts depending on what I’m comfortable with. And those are perfectly fine with the AOs.
Should I submit my resume to my interviewer?
While many interviewers and colleges ask not to submit any resume to the interviewer, some might ask for it. Showing a resume to your interviewer can help them find a common ground to talk about because they don’t come with a list of questions often. And finding common ground is what your goal should be when you attend the interview; that’s how you connect with someone. So if you’re communicating with your interviewer over email, ask them whether you should submit your resume. If they permit, do it. How to create a stellar resume for admissions? Here’s your guide: Why and How to Create a Resume for College Admissions? https://tinyurl.com/jw8ppkd8
- Before you attend an interview, you should research that college’s website thoroughly even if you have done that before. The reason is to refresh your memory with relevant information because college research can be too messy. But if you’re smart, you’ll use TAB College Application Organizer System which will make your life 100x easier to visualize essential information just before the interview within a click. The tutorial can be found here:
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- Have a well-lit background and noise-free room. Test your mics & sound beforehand. Ask your families not to disturb you for that duration.
- Prepare answers to a list of commonly asked questions for a confident interview experience.
Here is a list of commonly asked questions by interviewers. (Note that most interviewers wouldn’t come with a list. So the interviews would mostly go on over follow up to answers of one or two template questions)
- Why do you want to attend our college?
- What can you contribute to our college campus?
- What classes do you enjoy and why?
- What do you want to major in and why?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What makes you unique?
- What is your greatest accomplishment?
- What do you do for fun?
- What activities do you mind most rewarding?
- What is one recent project you’ve done?
- What is your favorite book?
- What do you want to do after graduating from college?
- What do you dislike and wish to change about your school?
- Who’s your role model?
- Who in your life has influenced you the most?
- If you could live in any historical moment or period, what would you choose?
- Describe your one weakness.
List of Non-generic questions you can ask your interviewer. Interviewers usually reserve 10-15 minutes to answer any questions you might have about the college and everything. If given the opportunity to ask, you should always do because that shows you’re genuinely interested to know about the college. Not asking any questions or asking generic questions for the sake of asking questions might give a bad impression of you. So, when you research the college, make a list of questions you’re curious to know. Examples might include (insert college name in place x)
- What was your experience at x like?
- What did you love most about x college that other colleges did not offer?
- If you could go through college again, what would you have done differently?
- How did going to x helped you in your career?
- What makes you excited about your work at this college?
- What makes students at x different?
- What sort of career placement opportunities does x offer?
- Questions about study abroad opportunities.
- Questions you might have stumbled upon when researching.
At the end of the interview, thank your interviewer for their time. Let them know you had a great time knowing the college and yourself, too through this interview.
When the interview ends, send a thank you email 1-2 days later letting them know what you loved about hearing from them. This reminds them of you and helps them remembering details when they write a review of your interview and send it to the admissions committee.
What’s your advice?
- Confidence is the key.
- The first interview matters.
I would advise scheduling your first interview with a college that you don’t care about. The reason is that, when you don’t care about something, you can be yourself. And for the admission interviews, the best advice anything can give you is to be yourself. Schedule an interview with a college that you don’t need to get in. Then enter the interview with full confidence because nothing can go wrong. If your first interview goes well, you’ll see confidence will grow like magic and the rest of the interviews will go smoother. If it doesn’t go well, repeat the interviewing with a college you don’t care about part again until you get it right.
DO NOT fear interviews. In life, you’ll need to attend interviews for many different things. If you start good, you’ll see how magically you become comfortable with it.
That’s it. Ace your interviews by keeping in mind these key insights. Let me know the feedbacks once you win the thing.
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