According to the latest data, college enrollment rates are down. Spring rates fell around 3.5% from the previous year, and it’s expected that this trend will continue through the fall.
If you’re a senior in high school, then you can help lead the movement back toward colleges and universities. Do you have your eye on a dream school? If so, then it helps to prepare as much as possible before you apply.
This includes knowing which schools require a college interview, and what you can expect. Today, we’re sharing nine tips that can help you stand out, ace your meeting, and get one step closer to the education of your dreams.
1. Know the School
This may go without saying, but it’s important to know as much as possible about the school before you sit down for your interview. While you don’t have to be able to spout out facts at random, you should know the basics, such as:
- Details about the college’s history and founding
- Major academic programs available
- Extracurricular activities offered
College admissions officers will be able to tell if you’ve put in the work and done your research. To learn this information, spend some time on the college’s website. Here, you should be able to read all about the history of the school, as well as the programs and services available.
2. Meet With Your Guidance Counselor or College Representative
Some universities are so large-scale in nature that they will hire a specific individual to serve as a regional representative. This person may visit your high school and talk about the programs that the college offers, or they may be available to connect online.
If you can identify the right person for your school, then it’s a great idea to go ahead and reach out to them. These are people who know the freshman program forward and backward. They can be incredible helpful with your college interview prep, and are a good connection to make before you even arrive to campus.
If a representative isn’t available, then reach out to your high school guidance counselor! Your counselor is skilled in helping students transition from high school to college and they’ll have a bevy of college interview tips to share.
3. Dress the Part
As the old saying goes, you should dress for the part that you want. In this case, you want to be a student at your dream school! That means showing up for your interview in an ensemble that is polished and professional.
Skip the jeans and t-shirt in favor of slacks and a button-down shirt, or a long skirt and blouse. If you feel confident in a suit, then you’re certainly permitted to rock one, though a tie and a blazer are usually sharp enough to do the trick.
As you choose your college interview outfit, keep in mind that while you want to look your best, you also want to be comfortable. Steer clear of any fabric that’s too scratchy or restrictive, as it could distract you. Stick to business casual attire, and you can’t go wrong.
4. Schedule It Early
Admissions officers are busy, and their schedules fill up quickly. That’s why it pays to get on their radar as soon as possible. If you hope to attend their school in the fall, then a late-summer interview may wind up being on Zoom, as they’re busy preparing for the upcoming school year.
To snag a coveted in-person spot, reach out as early as possible during your senior year. Most colleges and universities will post timelines with information on when you can begin contacting their office. Set a reminder and check frequently to make sure you don’t miss your opportunity.
Want to optimize your visit? If possible, plan to visit and tour the campus after your interview. Especially if it’s not a local school, this is one way to make the most of your time there.
5. Prepare Before You Go
You don’t want to wing your college interview. Before the big day, spend plenty of time preparing. This includes steps such as:
- Printing out directions to the interview facility
- Choosing your outfit
- Practicing common interview questions
- Reviewing your application for key details
The morning of the interview, be sure to eat a healthy and filling breakfast, and spend a little time in quiet reflection. You don’t want to arrive to the room nervous and uptight, and you certainly don’t want to be hangry!
6. Don’t Forget Your Manners
During your interview, the admissions officer isn’t just taking note of your direct answers. They’re also looking for other signs that you’re a solid student who would make a great fit on their campus.
You can project some of that with your clothing choice and your non-verbal body language. However, there’s another important element to remember: college interview etiquette!
In short, use your manners. Arrive on time or a few minutes early. Shake hands, make eye contact, and say “please” and “thank you” as necessary. If you can demonstrate to everyone in the room that you are taking this process seriously, then they’re much more likely to take you seriously.
7. Attend a Mock Interview
Practice might not make you a perfect interviewee, but it can make you a much better one. Whether you have butterflies already or not, spend some time answering practice questions to prepare for the real thing. You can even schedule a mock interview that mimics the tone, setup, and question list that you might find later.
Again, your guidance counselor may be able to help with this. See if you can set up a mock interview after school, or come a little early to review. You can also enlist the help of your friends or family members, but remember to treat the interview professionally.
These days, there are some online platforms that allow you to take a glimpse into common interview questions. Some will even connect you with someone who can conduct a mock interview over the internet! You can read more here on college interview questions to help you prepare.
As you browse these resources, keep in mind that you should also come prepared with questions of your own. This shows admissions officers that you’re interested in learning more about the school, and you don’t presume to know all of the answers. Ask about an academic program that piques your interest, or an extracurricular you’d like to pursue.
8. Send a Thank-You Note Afterward
This is one small step that can make a major difference. Regardless of how you think the interview went, don’t forget to send a thank-you note as a follow-up once you get home.
You can keep the note brief, but thank each person by name and tell them you appreciated their time. Restate how much you admire the college, and how excited you are at the prospect of attending. If you connected with an interviewer over a shared interest (such as the same hometown or admiration for a particular sports team), then you’re free to add those details in your note, too.
While nothing beats a mailed, handwritten letter, we do live in the Digital Era. An email will also work if you’re short on time!
9. Be Confident in Yourself
At the end of the day, you want an admissions officer to enjoy your company and respect you for who you are. If you’re putting on airs or trying to be someone you’re not, then that inauthenticity will eventually show through. Moreover, this could mean winding up at a college that simply isn’t a good fit for your goals or your personality.
Before you walk in, take a deep breath. Smile in the mirror at home and repeat a few motivational mantras to yourself. You’ve got this, and your confidence can be one of your greatest attributes!
From the moment you sit down, maintain a spirit of enthusiasm and positivity. You’re vying for the chance to attend a school you love, and it’s important to convey how much the opportunity means to you. If you commit to being yourself, then you’re already headed in the right direction.
Ace Your College Interview, One Question at a Time
A college interview might sound daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. With a little hard work and a lot of preparation, you can be as self-assured as possible when you walk through those doors.
Do your research, practice beforehand, and utilize all of the resources available to you, including the help of your school’s guidance counselor. Then, you can be confident that your interview will go as well as possible.
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