I know I should write one more post about admissions before I actually can start talking about other things (after acceptance, personal experiences after moving in, why Stanford is awesome, etc.). So now is a good time to talk about my admissions interview.
I’m going to put this out there right away. DO ONE. Here’s why.
For me, doing an interview was the natural choice. As I briefly touched on in my last post, I’m a face-to-face sort of a person. I express myself much better orally and verbally than I do in writing. I decided I was going to go to whatever lenghths necessary to get interviews…which really meant driving. I went 77 miles (one way) to my Duke interview, 54 miles one way to my Harvard interview, and 60 miles one way to do my Yale and Princeton interviews (which were about an hour apart). For me, it seemed worth it.
By the time I got to my Stanford interview (my 5th and final interview), I was “practiced” and prepared. Plus, instead of driving all the way to the Twin Cities or some hoity toity private school, my Stanford interview was in the next town over (about a 15 minute drive from home), in the local Caribou Coffee that I frequent a couple times a week…I was in my element.
Before I continue my story, here’s my general overview of college interviews as a whole–what happens, and what to do.
- College interviews generally have two components: you tell the interviewer about yourself, and they answer any questions you have about the college. Your interviewer will likely state this upfront at the beginning of the interview.
- That being said, come with four sets of information mentally prepared:
- General information about your activites that highlights your passion and accomplishments (don’t feel as if you have to blurt out everything…spend the bulk of your time on what’s most important to you).
- Any big achievements that you’ve had in the time between when you submitted your application and your interview (for example, I mentioned my standing as a National Merit Scholar, which I didn’t know for sure at the time I applied).
- Any special academic passions or reasons you want to pursue a specific major.
- Specific questions for your interview about the college and their experiences there (Interviewers often volunteer because they love the school, and are eager to discuss their stories…they often have a great picture of what makes their school special and what makes it stand out from any other colleges). If you have any unanswered questions about the college’s culture, this is the time to ask them!
- Interviewers have a form to fill out and send in to the admissions office, so they typically will ask about test scores/GPA/class ranking, as well as what you do with your time and your goals.
- Your interviewer will likely take notes for their report.
- Interviews can be set up in a variety of locations…I had two at a school, one in an office at a college, and two at coffee shops. If you are at a coffee shop, the interviewer will probably offer to buy you something (take advantage of the free drink, and THANK THEM!).
- Dressing up is good, but obviously find a suitable outfit…it’s not school, but it’s not prom either. I believe I wore a pencil skirt, flats, and a nice shirt to all of my interviews. Looking professional pays off.
- An obvious sense of self-confidence goes a LONG way. Eye contact, a firm handshake, and body language say as much as any words coming out of your mouth. Also, don’t be afraid to be proud of your accomplishments. Don’t be cocky, but also graciously accept any compliments you receive.
- If your interviewer asks where else you’re applying, answer…but otherwise it probably isn’t a great idea to spend time talking about other schools.
- An interview is about the only time you’ll have to informally talk about exactly why you’re applying to Stanford (or whichever school you’re interviewing for). It’s the best time to show that you’ve done your research, and to directly communicate why you are attracted to Stanford (or wherever) and why it is a good fit for you. I talked about how I was keeping a very open mind about my college admissions, but that I knew that even if I didn’t go to Stanford for my undergrad, that I’d definitely apply for grad school because of the wonderful reputation of their graduate biology and genetics programs. That went a long way with my interviewer.
I’d never met my interviewer before that day. He was a graduate of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and is the CEO of Red Wing Shoes. He bought me a drink, and we sat down and talked for about an hour and a half. Honestly, it didn’t seem as long as it actually was. I intruduced him to chai tea lattes, and he introduced me to TED (honestly, how did I not know about that before??????). I shared with him my interests and outlook on life, and he smiled, took notes, and carried on a good conversation. He said that he thought I’d be a perfect fit for Stanford.
I knew my interview had gone well, but I didn’t know how well until much later. My interviewer called me about a week after I’d gotten my acceptance letter to congratulate me. At that point, he told me that out of the 5 students he’d interviewed, I was the only one that he recommended. In addition, he felt so strongly that I should be admitted to Stanford, that he wrote an additional letter to the dean of admissions on my behalf. Without that recommendation, I don’t know if I would have been accepted.
Moral of the story, say yes to college interviews! You never know how much impact a positive first impression can have. 🙂