Between turning in early applications and preparing to turn in Regular Decision applications, you seniors may think that the only thing you have to worry about is perfecting your last few supplements. Unfortunately, you’re wrong. College alumni interviews are another obligation that must be added to the end of your very balanced and manageable to-do lists. While a few colleges require interviews, many institutions will offer them as an optional way for you to show your interest in the school. But is anything really optional?
How to prepare
After fumbling through about ten back-and-forth emails with an alum of whichever school you have decided is your top choice, you will finally settle on a time and location that works for the two of you. Make sure to mark this date on your calendar and circle it so that you do not have any conflicts – rescheduling makes you appear to be bad at time management. Before you go to an interview, make sure to pull together a complete portfolio of all your work to show your interviewer. Your interviewer knows nothing about you prior to your interview, so you should be sure to bring an extensive, preferably laminated, resumé for them to look at as well as your high school transcript. Additionally, you should bring along the self portrait you did in your required 6th grade art class or a full-length video of a play that you spoke one line in to show off your creative side.
What to wear
What you wear to an interview is critical because, let’s be honest, we all judge a book by its cover. Dig in the back of your closet to find that one semi-fancy shirt that your mom bought for you to wear to one of your parents’ work events. If you happen to own a coat, tie or heels, wear all of these items (regardless of gender). You may stand out from all the hipsters working on their laptops in the coffee shop, but as we have all heard at numerous college talks, “standing out is what gets you accepted.”
Almost all of your alumni interviews will be held in coffee shops, as these are casual common grounds between you and the interviewer. If your interview is in a coffee shop, it is important to order a drink and order the right drink. Your drink order tells a lot about you and can show your interviewer whether or not you are prepared for college. If you order something like a “lightly iced grande soy caramel macchiato,” your interviewer will automatically be put off by you. Try to order the simplest drink you can; either black coffee or iced tea. Extra points for you if you order it decaf, showing your interviewer that you manage your time well enough to still get an adequate amount of sleep.
What to say
It is always good to research a school before you go into an interview, but if you haven’t had the time to do so, don’t sweat it! Just come prepared with a few general statements that you could apply to almost any school. When they ask why you want to go to their college you can just bring up the “close student community” and the “ideal size” as well as location. Feel free to draw inspiration from the “Why ___ college?” supplements that you had to BS.
And if in the end your interview still goes terribly, take comfort in the fact that you probably weren’t getting into Harvard anyway. Good luck!