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10 tips for preparing for the college interview

By Lee Bierer
Lee Bierer
Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte.

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The college interview: The anxiety-producing rite of passage for high school seniors has, for the most part, gone the way of the floppy disk. Due to multiple factors, including the personnel required to schedule and conduct the interviews, the infamous sweaty-palms interview is no longer de rigeur.

Whether it is an on-campus interview with an admissions officer or an off-campus interview with an alumni representative, the interview doesn’t carry as much weight as it once did. The demise of the college interview can also be attributed to the fact that college admissions officials don’t feel that they learn enough new information about their applicants through the interview process. Today’s college applications allow for students to demonstrate their academic interests, their wide range of extracurricular activities and, through the application essays, even some insight into who they are.

That said, there still are a number of colleges that either offer or require interviews.

Here are some basic do’s and don’ts to make the most of this opportunity:

1. Be polite, be yourself and be early.

2. Anticipate the questions you might be asked and prepare yourself with a mock interview with a parent or friend.

3. Do your part to make this a conversation instead of formulaic question-and-answer session. Don’t make the interviewer do all the work.

4. Do your homework on the college; be aware of special academic programs of interest, study abroad options, available clubs and student organizations, etc. Come prepared to talk about how you will take advantage of different opportunities presented at the college.

5. Dress appropriately. Pretend you are going out to dinner with your grandparents. When in doubt, go the more conservative route with perfume, cologne, makeup and clothing. By the way, parents should dress appropriately as well – no workout clothes. Remember not to wear T-shirts and sweatshirts from other colleges you’ve recently visited.

6. Come prepared to ask specific questions about the college. Make sure these questions aren’t too basic and that they demonstrate some level of sophisticated thinking.

7. Don’t waste the admissions officer’s time by asking easily obtainable information. Don’t ask if you’ll be accepted and then rattle off your SAT scores.

8. Bring your resume or brag sheet. The admissions officer may or may not ask for it, but you should have it with you.

9. Use the interview to find out more about the college or university. Certainly you know you’re being evaluated, but simultaneously, you should be evaluating the college and whether it is a good fit for you.

10. Send a thank-you note. Email is fine, but I still recommend sending a hard copy note that makes reference to something discussed in the interview.

The truth is that it is very difficult to blow an interview. Unless your behavior or wardrobe selection is wildly inappropriate, it is unlikely that you can do much damage. Alternatively, depending on the college, a solid interview can sometimes be a tipping factor in your favor.

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to:;
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