What You Need to Know About College Interviews

Here are some pointers about the college interview process.

Of all the steps within the college application and admissions processes, none are as nerve racking as the interview.

What should I wear? What should I say? What will I be asked? These are all questions that go through the mind of a student once they are informed that they must go through a college interview.

If you are facing a college interview, let me let you in on a little secret that will allow you to rest a bit easier before and after the interview: Except in a few specific instances, the college interview matters very little.

There are three types of college interviews: the admissions interview, the alumnus interview and, the program interview.

The Admissions Interview

Although only a small percentage of colleges and universities require an admissions interview, it is by far the most common of all college interviews. If you must go through an admissions interview, then you are most likely attending a for-profit college or a non-for-profit college that is not meeting its enrollment goals. Ironically, most colleges that require these interviews are open enrollment colleges or accept upwards of 90 percent of all applicants.

This type of interview is actually a sales presentation and in fact, the person conducting the interview oftentimes is required to hold a state issued sales license. In general, the interview begins with the sales representative, (often with the title of Admissions Representative) asking the student a bunch of questions about themselves, their goals, values, etc. This is called the information gathering session/portion.

Next, the Admissions Representative will tell the student about the school and all it has to offer them. They will utilize the data gathered in the information gathering session to tailor the presentation to the student’s perceived needs. After this portion, the student is often taken on a tour of the campus. Using the data obtained during the information gathering session, they will reinforce points during the tour that will make the campus seem even more appealing to the student.

After the tour, the Admissions Representative will tell the student they are a great match for the college and will offer them the opportunity to submit an application for admissions. By not allowing them the opportunity to apply until then, it gives the student the impression that they are one of the fortunate few who are being allowed to apply.

Nothing could be further from the truth though. Admission Representatives at these schools often have high enrollment goals for each academic term and so the pressure is on for them to get as many students as possible to apply.

Tip: Do as much research about the college as you can on your own. When you arrive to the interview, tell the Admissions Representative to skip the presentation, ask whatever questions you may have and ask to go straight to the tour. If you like what you see, submit an application. You’ll save yourself and the Admissions Representative about two hours.

The Alumnus Interview

The alumnus interview is most common for students attempting to attend highly prestigious institutions. The interviewer is a graduate of the specific college and after the interview they submit a report on it to the institution. The interviewer often does this work on a volunteer basis and is not a member of the admissions team. This type of interview is more for networking than anything else. Applicants are not required to undergo this type of interview and in fact, often less than 5 percent ever do. Because it is not required, these interviews carry very little, if any weight on an institution’s admissions decision.

Tip: If the opportunity for an alumnus interview presents itself, note that you can usually reject it without any negative consequence to your admissions application.

The Program Interview

The program interview is for students who have been accepted into an institution and are seeking a highly selective major offered there. For instance, the student may have been accepted to College X but in order to go through its architecture program, they must interview for it.

These interviews are usually conducted by high level faculty within the given program. In some cases, the interview is conducted by a panel while in others, it is conducted in several levels. If the student does not pass muster during these interviews, they have the option of enrolling at the institution but they won’t be allowed to enroll in the program they interviewed for.

Tip: Find juniors and seniors in the program you are seeking to get into. They had to go through the same interview you’ll be going through and likely know the interviewers as well. They’ll be able to offer you insight on the interview process and the personalities of the interviewers.

Regardless of what type of college interview you’re facing though, the general rules of interviewing apply. Arrive on time, dress appropriately, speak intelligently and conduct yourself in a respectful manner. Even if you don’t get accepted in the institution or program you wanted, you’ll still make a good first impression and may be considered if future opportunities arise.


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