It’s not unusual to get nervous before an interview with a college admissions officer or alumni representative. Students are afraid that if they are not brilliant, witty and charming, their chances of getting into the college are next to nothing. But the truth is that interviews have little impact on admissions decisions. Admissions directors understand that well-qualified students can be extremely anxious and may not come across well in an interview, and sometimes the chemistry just isn’t right between a student and interviewer. Recommendations from teachers who know you well and well-written essays can have a much bigger impact on admission decisions.
Knowing that it won’t make or break your application should help students feel more relaxed. Schools that do offer evaluative interviews generally use them to confirm the information in other parts of the application. Sure, there are Acing the Interview things you can do in an interview that will tank your application, such as spouting racist views. Admissions officers think about how you’ll interact with dorm-mates, so likeability certainly is a plus, but you aren’t likely to ruin a strong application if you’re nervous and not at your best.
Of course, the fact that interviews aren’t a major factor in admissions decisions means that having a great interview won’t get you into a school. But it’s possible that if it came down to two similarly well-qualified students, and one had formed a bond with an admissions officer during an interview, that admissions officer might be more inclined to advocate for that student. So you do want to make the most of the opportunity.
Being prepared will lower your anxiety level and help you create a better interview experience. Have some clear ideas about your strengths, interests and goals that you can communicate during the meeting.Interviews are usually optional, and only worth having if you’ve done your research. Have several questions prepared so that when the interviewer asks if you have any questions, you’re ready to communicate a real interest in the school. You should be seeking information that isn’t obvious from the website. It’s fine to ask what students do on weekends, but it’s also a good idea to ask about specific academic programs, especially those that are unique to that school.
If you approach the interview as a conversation, where you and the interviewer are exchanging information, it can actually be fun. The more you initiate conversation, the less time the interviewer will have to ask you questions. So relax and enjoy!