Advice from our Director of College Counseling, Mr. Jon Piliser:

Interviews can play an important role in the admissions process. Not every college conducts interviews, and those that do often lack the resources to interview all of their applicants. Additionally, some colleges will reach out to you after you’ve applied while other colleges require that you sign up for an interview slot.

Once you’ve received your confirmation, you’ll want to do a quick search on your interviewer. Don’t spend a lot of time researching them, but if you can ascertain basic information like their major, career, or whether they went to this college for undergrad or grad school that can help in tailoring the questions you’ll ask. LinkedIn can be a very helpful resource!

Most schools will now give you some indication of the attire you should wear. If there’s any ambiguity, however, it’s always safer to err on the dressier side. Your interview location can also be a helpful clue: an interview at a coffee shop is likely to be more informal, while interviewing at an office or the Harvard alumni club will be much more formal.

Spend some time practicing for common interview questions. Some questions you should expect include:

  1. Why do you want to come to our school?
  2. Tell us about your school/classes this year.
  3. What’s the last book you enjoyed reading and why?
  4. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

When practicing, focus more on the points you intend to make as well as your general delivery and comfort level. Memorizing specific answers, on the other hand, can often be counterproductive; you don’t want to come across as robotic or overly rehearsed.

During the interview, bring a resume that includes all of your major accomplishments and commitments. Many interviewers find this helpful, and you should anticipate questions on your more significant activities.

Finally, remember to relax and have a good time. The best interviews often feel more like conversations than an interrogation. Remember that the alumni who interview you are excited to meet prospective students. They want to see you at your best, so go into your interview with confidence.

The next day, shoot your interviewer a (very) brief email thanking them for taking the time to meet with you. Fortunately, many questions tend to come up frequently, so treat each interview as a learning opportunity where you can practice and refine your responses for future interviews. Treat the experience as an opportunity to emphasize anything that you especially want your college to know about you, as well as anything that you haven’t had the chance to express elsewhere on your application.