Students who interview with admission officers or alumni from American colleges are often surprised to find that the interviewer made the process much less intimidating than they had anticipated. Interviewers are not trying to trip you up; they simply want to know and will try to determine if you are a good match with their college. Part of the interviewer’s job is to get you excited about the school. After a good interview, a well-intentioned alumni interviewer may tell a student that the school would be lucky to have her, and it’s natural to believe that means good news is coming. Whether the interviewer is just saying that to reassure an anxious student or genuinely thinks she should be admitted, the student may be in for a major disappointment if she puts too much stock in the interviewer’s words.
It is expensive to have admission officers interview all or most applicants, so few colleges actually require interviews. But colleges encourage interviews as a way to help distinguish among all the students who have similarly impressive grades, test scores and extracurricular activities. While a face-to-face interview on campus is ideal, it’s not always possible. Expecting students to interview on campus would be especially burdensome to lower-income students, which is why many schools have alumni around the country conduct interviews with local applicants. In addition, some colleges offer applicants the option of a Zoom or other web-based interview, or possibly a phone interview.
The interviewer may write a glowing report, but interviews are rarely a major factor in admission decisions. Smaller colleges, which can interview more of their applicants, are likely to give interviews more weight than large public universities. But even if an interview won’t be a major factor in your admission prospects, it’s good practice. You will be interviewing in the future for internships, jobs, and possibly graduate school programs, so developing strong interview skills is important. Never turn down the offer of an interview!
Before you go to an interview, research the school so that you can clearly articulate why you and this college are a perfect match. Also have several questions ready, as interviewers always ask if there is anything you want to know. Engage the interviewer in conversation, and the meeting will be a more pleasant experience for both of you. If it’s an alumni interview, remember that alumni interviewers love their school, so asking about the interviewer’s experiences at the college can help get the conversation going. Show your enthusiasm for the college and you’ll both enjoy the experience. And don’t forget to write a thank you letter to the interviewer as soon as you return home.