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Preparation & Practice Can Get You a Winning Interview!

More colleges each year are requesting that students
admission interviewinterview with either an alumnus or an admissions’ counselor.
According to a counselor at Tufts University, “Interviewing with a college is a signal of the applicant’s interest in actually attending the college.  This process should be looked at as a student’s time to ask questions about the college as well as for the interviewer to learn about the student.” 
Although several college admissions counselors have told me recently that the interview doesn’t ‘make or break’ their admission decision, I have certainly noted more and more of my students being asked to sit in on this process.
On a cold, windy November day last month, I received a frantic phone call from one of my students.  “Mrs. Keilholtz, Babson wants me to interview with someone next Wednesday.  They sent me an email and told me it was optional. But is it really??  How do I prepare for this?  Can you help me?” 
My first response to her questions was to tell her to breathe and that everything would be fine. But for most 17-year-old seniors, being asked to interview for anything doesn’t feel very fine.
“Palms sweating, heart racing, mind cloudy,” is how one senior described himself when he was first asked to interview at Notre Dame 10 years ago.  He got into that school and told me that part of the reason he believes he did is because of the practice and preparation we did before the interview took place.
Practice and preparation are key to a successful interview.  If you decide to attend an interview, take it seriously.  This is your opportunity to shine and show off the unique personality traits that you bring to the campus.  It is also a chance for you to develop a personal relationship with someone who knows the school well.
How do I prep?
Some of the questions you may be asked are listed below, along with some useful suggestions:
1. Tell me about yourself? 
Prepare a two- three-minute answer that highlights some of your strengths and academic accomplishments.  Practice answering in front of a mirror several times so you feel comfortable.  Finally, ask someone you trust to listen to your answer and offer you feedback.
2. Why do you want to come to this university?
Is there a specific program, honors college or professor you hope to learn from?  Are there sports or extra-curricularCollege admissions interviews activities you hope to participate in?  Discuss all of this with the interviewer.  Again, prepare a two- three-minute answer, practice and get feedback about your answer.
3. What book have you read in the last year that has meaning to you and why?
If possible, don’t pick a book that you were assigned in class.  Don’t just know about the title of the book and the author’s name.  The interviewer wants you to tell him something about the book and why it is important to you.  Use this opportunity to share something about yourself.  Talk about why this book was meaningful for you, and reveal your interests and character in the process.
4.  How will you contribute to the campus?
A lot of interviewers use this question or one similar to it.  When preparing for this answer, think about what you haCollege admissions interviewsve done to contribute to your high school.  Maybe you took a leadership role in a club or played your heart out in a sport.
Why were these actions important to you?  Pick a few positive adjectives that describe you and explain to the interviewer why those are important to you and how you envision shaping the campus experience for yourself and others.
5.  What are your academic interests?
You don’t need to have picked a major to answer this question.  What academic subjects in school do you most enjoy? Talk about why you enjoy those subjects.  Colleges are interested in admitting students who are excited and inquisitive about learning.  As always, prepare, practice, get feedback and practice some more.
6.  What questions do you have for me?
This will definitely be one of the questions you are asked.  The worst thing you can say is, “No, I think you’ve answered all of my questions.”  
Prepare a list of questions beforehand.  It’s OK to write out your questions and have them handy.  Be sure not to ask questions that can be learned from the school’s website.  Instead, ask questions that relate to your specific interests and major.
Remember, it’s a Conversation!
No matter what questions you’re asked, think of the interview as a conversation. Relax and act like yourself.  It’s important to prepare, but don’t recite your answers. Pause, and reply in a conversational tone.  And, above all, breathe.  If you have prepared your answers and practiced several times, I’m sure you will do just fine!  Dianne
College admissions interviewsIf you’re interested in designing a plan so that paying for college is reasonable for your budget, I encourage you to sign up for my first white paper on college affordability here.
As always, I welcome your comments and questions.
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