52 Weeks to College — Week 11: Interviews

Interviews are wildly different from every other part of your application. Whether you’re being interviewed by a student on campus, by an alum at a local Starbucks, or by an admissions officer via Skype, it is a direct exchange between you and another person, and that dynamic changes everything. There is information that gets shared in conversations that would never come out otherwise, and there are observations about behavior and demeanor that make lasting impressions. What happens in an interview is so distinctive that it always either helps or hurts; it is never neutral. Below are our top tips to get ready for your interviews.

Week 11 To-Dos

Every Week

  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary.
  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.  

This Week 

  • Finalize your 2nd application.
  • Revise your 3rd application.
  • Draft your 4th application.
  • Continue working on supplementary materials. (See Week 4.)
  • Check the websites of colleges on your list to see if and when admissions representatives will be coming to a place near you. Sign up, and add them to your calendar.
  • Finalize your 2nd scholarship application.
  • Prep for your upcoming standardized tests. (See Week 6.)
  • Prep for interviews.

Tips & Tricks

  1. Understand the difference between types of interviews. Is the interview evaluative or merely informational? An interview is "evaluative" if it will become part of your application file — those are the ones that really count. The school website or admissions office should be able to tell you whether it's evaluative or not. If evaluative interviews are optional at any of your schools, we recommend you do them, assuming you will do the necessary preparation.
  2. Prepare to answer four types of questions. You won't know the specific interview questions ahead of time, but make sure to prepare for questions around four topics: your academic/intellectual abilities and interests, your accomplishments in activities outside the classroom, your personal background and character, and your interest in the college. You have already worked out answers to those questions in your story, your resume, and your “Why College X” essays in previous weeks, so you do not have to reinvent the wheel. Here's a chance to work smarter, not harder!
  3. Do your homework and have your questions ready. At some point, your interviewer will likely ask you, "Do you have any questions for me?" (Often that happens towards the end of the interview.) Figuring out the right questions to ask your interviewer takes some thought, so think about them in advance. The interview is not the time to ask questions about the admissions process or to ask the most basic questions about the college. Instead, you want to ask questions that actually get to the deeper, more interesting information about the college.
  4. Practice. It is easy to practice interviewing. Recruit a parent or a teacher or some other adult to serve as your interviewer. Give them sample interview questions and a sample evaluation form (found at the end of chapter 20 in our book) and go for it! For the best kind of practice, conduct the interview in a setting as close to the actual setting for the interview as you can manage. 
  5. Do the follow-up. Immediately after your interview, write down your impressions and add them to your personal research notes about schools. Send a thank-you letter to your interviewer, and notify the college admissions office that you have had your interview.


About the Authors:

Alison Cooper Chisolm heads the college admissions consulting practice at Ivey Consulting. She came to private consulting after working in admissions for more than 10 years at three selective universities (Southern Methodist University, University of Chicago, and Dartmouth College).

Anna Ivey is the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process and make smart choices about higher education.

You can find more college admissions tips in their book How to Prepare a Standout College Application (Wiley, August 2013), and follow them on Twitter and Facebook

About the 52 Weeks to College Series:

52 Weeks to College is a week-by-week plan for applying to college. It breaks this complex and difficult project down into weekly to-do lists with supporting tips and tricks for getting it all done. Based on the Master Plan for applying to college found in our book, How to Prepare a Standout College Application, 52 Weeks to College is designed for any applicant who intends to apply to top U.S. colleges. For those of you who are just discovering the 52 Weeks series and want to catch up, click here.