Students being interviewed either by alumni representatives, scholarship committees or an admissions office need to walk a very fine line between being prepared and being rehearsed.
Good news: While acing your interview can sometimes seal the deal, flubbing the interview is rarely the reason for a rejection.
Here are some basic Interview Don’ts:
Don’t arrive late. Don’t arrive too early either; you won’t have anything to do except get more nervous.
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Don’t dress inappropriately. No need for a jacket and tie but pretend you’re going out for a nice dinner; that means no sneakers, shorts, T-shirts or jeans and no plunging necklines or ultra short dresses or skirts. Pick out your outfit two days ahead of the interview.
Don’t be too cocky and assume you’ll be accepted. Whatever you do, don’t refer to the college as your “safety school.”
Be honest and don’t make excuses. If you have a bad grade in a class, don’t blame the teacher. Take responsibility and discuss the lessons learned from being in a challenging class.
Don’t make it a party. Ask your family or friends to wait outside the admissions office or somewhere else and regroup when it’s over.
Don’t assume you already know enough about the college. Make sure you do your homework on specific majors, interdisciplinary programs, their study abroad opportunities, etc. Not being well-informed about the college comes across as being disrespectful, i.e., you didn’t allocate the appropriate time to be able to articulate why the college is a good fit for you.
Don’t forget to demonstrate maturity. Don’t allow yourself to get rattled if you don’t have a great answer to a single question, move on. Your interviewer will respect your adaptability.
Don’t be rude, arrogant, blasé or boring. Ditch the cellphone, you don’t want to be interrupted or be caught checking the time. Differentiate yourself by what you choose to talk about, such as your summer experiences, your volunteer and community service involvement, your club activities, your sports commitments as well as your internships or work experience. Share your interests and passions and let the interviewer feel like they have a sense of who you are when it’s over.
Don’t rehearse so much that you sound scripted. Interviewers know that this is stressful for students, they are more compassionate than you might guess. Being robotic and sounding like you’ve been prepping with a professional for three months will work against you.
Don’t forget to come prepared with your own questions. These questions are often where a student has the best opportunity to set themselves apart from other applicants. Your questions should demonstrate critical thinking, i.e., what are the particulars that make a college a good academic fit and a good social fit for you? Create a list of questions you can ask that will help you evaluate if this could be the right college for you.
Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to: email@example.com; www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com