College Interview Tips for Success

By: Alexandra Rimoldi 

Campus Sherpa Staff Writer, Georgetown University 

Perhaps one of the most dreaded parts of the already emotionally draining and time consuming college application process is the interview. With an increasingly competitive pool of applicants, more and more colleges are wanting interviews to further distinguish one from the many in order to create the most perfect, dynamic, and diverse freshman class yet. Still there is no magic piece of information that anyone can give to ensure a student’s admission. However, going to Georgetown (a school where people seem to be obsessed with interviews) and trudging through the college application process has let me into a few tips that cannot hurt to know when going into the interview.

Dress smart, but don’t overdo it

A college interview isn’t the same as a job interview. It’s a little more casual, but still extremely important. First impressions and the way a person looks (for better or for worse) play a big part in how an interviewer may see you. Stay away from jeans, but a full suit isn’t necessary – you’re still a student. Guys: any nice looking pair of pants that is not jeans should be fine. Wear a button up as well or a nice looking sweater on top. You don’t have to be over-the-top, but try and be fashionable. Maybe where a wristwatch. It’s all in the details. Ladies: business casual is a nice starting point. Think button-ups, pencil skirts, slacks, or a nice casual dress. Make sure nothing is too revealing and that the clothes you wear are comfortable so you won’t have to be fidgeting with your outfit during the interview. I think my biggest tip is: be fashionable. For example, instead of a normal pencil skirt, wear a below-the-knee pencil skirt. Or you can opt for some nice pants, riding boots, and a pretty button-up. Looking a little bit interesting (while still being conservative) without going crazy is a great way to make a good first impression.

Bring your resume, and something else that’s tangible

Perhaps one of my biggest tips aside from bringing your resume is to bring something else that’s tangible that you can explain during the interview. And I mean anything. One thing that I was really proud of was my AP Biology notebook. It looked very impressive: there were tons of graphs, nice handwriting, and it just looked pretty darn good. Even though I am not a Biology major, I was able to show and discuss how I love to be organized and pay attention to detail. My interviewer loved that I brought something else that showed an aspect of my personality aside from a boring resume. Do you like photography? Bring some of your photos. Great at gymnastics? Bring a quick clip of you nailing an element in a killer routine. Basically, bring anything you’re proud of.

Have questions!

This is a big one, and one you should think of in advance. Make sure you don’t ask a question that could be easily found on the university’s website. One of my favorite questions to ask the interviewer is: “What was your least favorite part of X University?” It can give you a lot of insight especially if you’re still not sold on a particular college, and give you more talking points. Also, don’t just save your questions for the end. The interview should flow like a normal conversation. You can ask questions all throughout.

You may get a question that catches you off guard, but practice before and learn how to play it off.

Every so often the interviewer asks something out of left field, or just something you might have not prepared for. For me, it was: “What is one word that would describe you?” I said “outgoing” because it was true. Although my answer wasn’t particularly deep or innovative, I went into more detail. You should never just say a sentence to the interviewer and be done with the question. Tell a story about a time when you were outgoing, or why you closely associate yourself with it. No matter what question they throw at you, make sure you go into detail, even if the story you tell doesn’t seem profound to you. Anything the gives the interviewer insight into your values and character is useful to them.

Practice, but don’t overdo it.

You should always have a mock interview just to get used to being in an interview and answering potentially difficult questions fully and completely, however, you don’t need to practice fifty times before going in. Every interview is different, and you don’t want your answers to seem contrived. The more natural you seem, the better.

Be confident and smile!

Interviews are really supposed to supplement your application, and you have to remember that it isn’t the only part the college is looking at. Think about it as a conversation so they can get to know you better, but also so you can get to know the university better. Now good luck and kill that interview!


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