What is the one line you can count on hearing during virtually every college visit? We pride ourselves on our holistic college admissions process.
What, most people ask, does that mean?
Its jargon that means the college considers the whole student; not just grades and test scores. That means that the college looks at a students extracurricular activities, leadership roles, essays and letters of recommendation.
Unfortunately, colleges have all but eliminated the one component that would allow students to distinguish themselves: the interview. The dreaded college interview was par for the course for many high school students into the mid-1980s.
The death of interviews is mostly due to the surge in college applications everywhere. Heres an example: UNC-Chapel Hill received 11,445 applications in 1980, 16,569 in 2000 and 29,497 in 2012.
Colleges dont have the staff to handle the interviews. Additionally, interviews have been seen as providing an unfair advantage to the well-heeled applicant. So in the interest of fairness, interviews are either not an option or carry less weight.
This is not true at all colleges. Wake Forest University requires an interview in person or via Skype. In many cases the interview has been passed off to alumni interviewers across the country.
Types of interviews
• On-campus individual interview: This typically is with a member of the admissions staff, although some colleges use student interns or faculty. It generally lasts 30-45 minutes and is fairly formal. An evaluation is included in the students application folder.
• Off-campus individual interview: These are hometown interviews with an alumnus or alumna and can be both informational and evaluative.
Students need to come prepared, but unless their responses or behavior is way out of line, it is difficult to crash and burn in a college interview. Students have a lot to gain from meeting alums or admissions officials, and interview practice is always helpful.
Beyond the obvious academic and extracurricular information, colleges are trying to find out what is unique about the applicant and whether the applicant would be a good fit. They are looking for intellectual curiosity and an ability to deal with lifes challenges.
NEXT WEEK: Tips for preparing for an interview