A college interview is a short face-to-face meeting, usually between a college admissions officer and a high school student applying for admission. It is one of several ways for a college to assess an applicant along with grade transcripts and standardized scores and essays. Interviews can take place on the college campus, at the high school (if the college sends representatives), and elsewhere such as at a local coffee shop if there is an interview between a student and an alumnus. In addition, several colleges have been experimenting with online interviews. If offered by a college, interviews are sometimes described as optional, but one report suggested that not doing an interview when one was offered could hinder chances for admission. Further, doing an interview signals an interest in attending.
Likely interview questions include:
- Can you tell me a little about yourself?
- Why are you interested in our college?
- What are you interested in studying?
- How will you contribute to our campus community?
- What do you see yourself doing ten years from now?
Counselors and teachers and professional consultants offer differing guidelines about interviews. Most suggest that an interviewee should "dress to impress", avoid wearing provocative or inappropriate clothes, although a report in 2009 suggested that hiring a fashion consultant and shopping for expensive clothes before an interview was unnecessary and could backfire. There is strong consensus that rehearsing for interviews is important. Former Andover theater instructor and professional interview coach Mark Efinger believes that preparation is vital for a successful interview. Sometimes assistants help students prepare for the interview. Private secondary schools such as St. Paul's in New Hampshire have a two week "boot camp" in the summer before senior year to help students prepare which includes simulated practice interviews. Efinger advises students to write up their major achievements, organize them into themes, and have a three to five minute theme-oriented "success story" ready (but not memorized) before an interview, and suggests that interviewees should try to steer the conversation to show how their skills and experience meet criteria valued by the interviewer. For example, if trying to demonstrate an aptitude for "planning and organization", he or she might show how they plan their schedule using their mobile scheduling app.
Advisers agree that a usual open-ended question to begin the interview will be along the lines of "tell me about yourself", and that a student should be ready with a response. Several emphasize the importance of being able to back up adjectives such as "hardworking" and "motivated" with a brief and memorable anecdote to explain further what is meant. Efinger describes such anecdotes as "arrows" designed to "hit the bull’s-eye" to make a point which sticks in the interviewer's mind; in addition, interview preparation can include a private soul-searching exercise called a "failure resume" to get students to think about their past mistakes in order to help them outline what they learned from their experience. It helps for students to understand what they want and to show how a particular college can help them achieve their long range goals. While interviews can be stressful, one report suggested that the main purpose of the interview was to "show that you are a good person" who is "polite and interesting" with a "sense of humor". Another report suggested the most important thing, when an applicant has strong grades and test scores and activities, is simply not "blowing the interview", although this varies by college.