Countdown to College: Tips so you don’t tank on your interview

The college interview. It was once an important staple of the college admissions process. Young men dressed up in jackets and ties, young women wore short heels and pearls and they sat down for a formal interview inside the college admissions office.

Today local, volunteer alumni interviews are much more common. They are not required and students generally need to initiate a request to have one. They typically carry less weight than the old fashioned face-to-face with the Director of Admissions, but they do help students demonstrate interest in a college.

So, if you have the opportunity, here are some tips to ace that interview:

Educate yourself about the school. The biggest downfall for most students is that they haven’t done their homework and prepared for the interview. Students can count on an interviewer asking them what they think they’d like to major in and why they think the college is a good fit for them. Students need to make sure responses aren’t generic, i.e., “I’m looking forward to attending the football games and being a part of greek life on campus.”

Every question is an opportunity to share some slice of your life with your interviewer. Take a look at your resume or brag sheet and identify the two or three things that you know you want to share. Spend time on the college website and make sure you’re comfortable being able to articulate the “fit” question.

Resist the temptation to overshare. Some students are so eager to have their interviewer get to know them that they share inappropriate anecdotes which were better left unmentioned.

Identify questions you’ll ask the interviewer ahead of time. Don’t try to wing it. All interviewers will end the session with a final, “Is there anything you’d like to ask me or anything I didn’t ask you that you’d like me to know about you?” The only unacceptable response to this question is “No.”

Send a hand-written thank you note afterwards. Yes, parents you are right about that one! Students may balk, but there is no question it is the right thing to do.

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