I am a senior who is applying to college this fall. I was offered an optional interview and wonder if I should bother accepting.
I don’t think there are any optional choices when it comes to college admissions. This holds true for interviews as well as optional essays. This is one case where less is not better. Yes, you want to have an interview if for no other reason than to show them your interest in their school. I like to compare schools to suitors, both of which require some wooing and attention. Schools need to know that you are truly interested in attending their school if accepted, as their yield is one factor that influences ratings.
I always like to ask whether or not the interview is evaluative. An informative interview simply allows the student the chance to ask questions and learn more about the school, while an evaluative interview is considered part of the admission process. Though you should come prepared regardless, understanding the weight of the interview will at least help you put it all into perspective. I ask that students dress in nice, but casual, clothing and bring their resume along with a few well thought-out questions. I want students to have done their “homework” about a school before they interview so that they do not ask questions that could have been easily answered by studying the website. I also ask that students come prepared with a clear picture of why they want to attend that specific school and what it offers apart from other schools they are considering.
Interviewing is a real skill and one that students generally find awkward and uncomfortable. I have met many a student who falls mute when asked the question: “Tell me about yourself.” I find that if a student can enthusiastically share what he/she included on the resume, he/she will come across as genuine and engaging. Students should be themselves and should not try to answer the questions based on what they believe the interviewer wants to hear. If the students are clear on what they are looking for in a school and can speak articulately to that, they will make a favorable impression.
Joan Franklin is the owner of MI College Support (formerly The College Source), an independent college counseling practice (www.micollegesupport.org). She can be reached at (206) 232-5626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.