Do College Interviews Matter? How Important Is It?

As high school students embark on the daunting college admissions journey, one question looms large in their minds: Do college interviews matter? How Important Is a college interview?

With many factors impacting admission decisions, the weight given to interviews has been a subject of much speculation and debate. While some view these in-person assessments as crucial opportunities to make a lasting impression, others argue that their impact is minimal or even negligible.

This article delves into the significance of college interviews, exploring their purpose, potential benefits, and limitations. By examining various perspectives, we aim to uncover the truth behind the relevance of these face-to-face encounters in the increasingly competitive landscape of higher education.

How Much Do College Interviews Matter?

College interviews can be a source of anxiety for many students during the college application process. There is a common belief among students that a mediocre or poor interview can significantly diminish their chances of being accepted.

However, it is important to recognize that college admissions committees assign less importance to the interview than is commonly perceived. The interview typically accounts for approximately 5% of the overall application, though it may carry more weight if conducted by an admissions officer on campus.

Nevertheless, every component of the application holds significance and should not be disregarded as inconsequential. This means that you should approach your interview with seriousness and thorough preparation.

While a successful interview cannot guarantee automatic acceptance, a poor one could hinder your chances.

To approach your interview confidently, it is crucial to understand the significance of the process. Therefore, the question to consider is not “Does my college interview matter?” but rather “Why does my college interview matter?”

What’s At Stake During College Interviews

A college interview’s limited duration, typically thirty minutes to an hour, imposes certain constraints on the depth of understanding an admissions officer can gain about an applicant.

It is important to recognize that the purpose of the interview is not to provide a comprehensive exploration of your family life, interests, or values. This information is better conveyed through your statement, Common App, and teacher’s recommendation letters.

Nonetheless, an interview still offers an opportunity for the interviewer to glean valuable insights about you within a short period. It allows them to assess your personality, conversational skills, ability to handle questions, and overall demeanor and presentation.

Unlike other components of the application process, the college interview provides a chance to bring your application to life by showcasing your face, personality, and voice.

The fact that universities invest time, resources, and organizational efforts into conducting student interviews signifies their importance. The core objective of the application process is to present the authentic version of yourself to the admissions committees.

Consider the value of an admissions officer receiving firsthand input from your interviewer, someone who has not only observed you in person but has also engaged in conversation with you.

Furthermore, the interview is an excellent opportunity to differentiate yourself as an applicant, particularly when competing for admission to highly selective schools. While achieving excellent grades and impressive standardized test scores requires diligent effort, countless students across the country possess these achievements.

To truly stand out, it is essential to convey your energy, enthusiasm for the school, and compatibility with its community—attributes that can be effectively demonstrated during the interview.

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Required, Optional, and Nonexistent: Availability of Interviews

As you navigate the college application process, you’ll encounter varying interview requirements at different schools. Each institution has its own unique set of application criteria, and interviews are no exception. The specifics of the interview experience can differ significantly depending on the school you’re applying to.

Regarding the individuals who will conduct your interview, you may be paired with various individuals, such as an admissions officer, an alumnus/alumna, or a current student. Likewise, the interview location will depend on the school’s resources and campuses.

Some schools exclusively offer on-campus interviews, while others provide options for interviews in your city or hometown, which might take place in school clubs, coffee shops, or restaurants. Researching these logistical details in advance by visiting the school’s website is important.

The most significant distinction lies in whether the interview is required or optional. Certain schools have a mandatory interview component, meaning you must make a strong impression within your allocated time.

When every student vying for a spot in the incoming class will be interviewed, it becomes even more crucial to distinguish yourself when you meet your interviewers face-to-face.

On the other hand, some schools offer optional interviews. In such cases, it is highly recommended that you take advantage of this opportunity and schedule an interview if possible.

As mentioned, an interview is a valuable chance to set yourself apart from other equally qualified candidates. Additionally, declining the opportunity to learn more about the school and showcase your interest could be misinterpreted as a lack of genuine enthusiasm.

You can explore options to arrange an interview independently if desired, but rest assured that you will not be penalized for not having one. This situation often arises because a college may lack the resources to interview every single applicant.

How College Interviews Work

If you’ve reached this point, it should be evident that your interview holds significance. Your performance, demeanor, and presentation during the interview will indicate your qualifications for admission to your desired school.

However, there is another crucial reason why your interview holds immense importance. It not only allows the school to assess if you are a suitable fit for their community, but it also allows you to evaluate if the school aligns with your college preferences.

Firstly, the interview provides a platform for you to ask your interviewer any questions about the school. While certain questions are more favorable than others, the purpose of this interview segment is to provide insights about the school, enabling you to make an informed decision when the time comes in May.

How To Prepare For College Interview

Consider your college interview a chance to enhance your application rather than a setback. To ensure a successful interview, it is important to be confident and well-prepared. The key to preparation is practice.

Before the interview, thoroughly research the university and compile a list of aspects that excite, confuse, worry, or interest you. Identify specific departments, clubs, or classes that catch your attention. Create a list of thoughtful questions you could ask during the interview, but remember not to rely on notes except for your inquiries.

To alleviate any fears or nervousness, conducting a practice session with a teacher, an older sibling who has gone through the college application process, or a family member is advisable. Practice responding to questions intelligently and concisely. The more you practice engaging in formal conversations beyond your everyday discussions, the better prepared you will feel when the interview day arrives.

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Reasons to Do an Optional College Interview

There are several reasons why you should take advantage of the opportunity to interview with the colleges you’re interested in attending:

Opting for an interview displays your genuine interest. Unlike a student who applies to numerous colleges indiscriminately, you choose to interview because you genuinely want to learn more about the school. By meeting with a representative, you convey that your interest is sincere and that you are invested in the institution.

Additionally, colleges prefer to admit students who are likely to accept their offer, and by deciding to interview, you become a more reliable candidate. In essence, the interview allows you to demonstrate your genuine interest, which is a factor many colleges consider during the admissions process.

The interview provides an opportunity for you to gather more information. The key to a successful college search isn’t solely about gaining admission to the most prestigious institution but rather finding the school that aligns best with your personality and interests.

The interview is an excellent chance to delve deeper into the college’s offerings and determine if it fits you well. Interviewers almost always allow you to ask questions, so take full advantage of this opportunity.

The interview enables the college to see the person behind the numbers. Put yourself in the shoes of the admissions staff. They have a plethora of transcripts and test scores to evaluate for admission decisions. However, when they meet you in person, you transcend being just numbers on a page.

Most highly selective colleges employ a holistic admissions approach, so utilize your interview to create a vibrant portrait of your personality and passions. It is often easier to convey your enthusiasm, curiosity, idiosyncrasies, and sense of humor during an interview than a written application.

A Few Reasons to Not Do an Optional Interview

  • Cost. If a college doesn’t have regional representatives and the school is far away, an on-campus interview can be a $1,000 (or more) investment with plane tickets, hotels, and other expenses. In such cases, it is perfectly reasonable to pass on the interview. In such a case, however, you could try to set up a phone conversation or Zoom interview.
  • You definitely won’t present yourself well. If you truly are an awful verbal communicator, you may want to keep that fact hidden from the college. Being nervous about interviewing isn’t a justification for skipping the interview—many students are nervous, and colleges understand this. But if people tend to like you less after they’ve met you, you may want to let your written work speak for you. This situation tends to be much more real in students’ minds than in reality.
  • You haven’t done your homework. Before interviewing, you should practice common interview questions and research the school. If you show up knowing nothing about the college and are unprepared for even the most basic questions, you’d be better off staying home.

FAQs

When might the interview matter?

The second part of the John Birney quote above goes, “But for a kid who is on the bubble, where the decision could go either way, a fantastic interview with an alumnus could make the difference.” (Translation: there might be some cases, perhaps few and far between, when the interview matters a lot.)

What if I refuse an interview?

That’s another time an interview (or lack thereof) could matter. If you’re offered an interview and refuse, it could look bad or at least raise questions about you. So if you do get offered one, I’d say accept it.

Is it bad not to interview at all?

It depends on how important it is to the school.

How do I request an interview?

In some cases, the college will contact you. But if you want to ensure you get one, Google “Request alumni interview for [school name here],” you’re likely to turn up something like this page for Sarah Lawrence, which directs you to an Alumni Interview Request form.

Okay, so I’m going to interview. What do I do next?

Step 1: Don’t freak out.
Step 2: Read Part 2 of this post tomorrow to learn how to prepare.

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Conclusion

Do college interviews matter? Yes, they do. College interviews hold significant value in the admissions process. They give you a unique opportunity to surpass the numbers and showcase your true self to admissions officers. By choosing to interview, you demonstrate genuine interest and increase your chances of acceptance.

Moreover, interviews allow you to learn more about the college, ensuring a better fit for your personal and academic goals. So, embrace the interview as a chance to shine, share your passions, and make a lasting impression.

With thorough preparation and a confident demeanor, you can leverage this important step in your college application journey to stand out among applicants and secure your spot at the perfect institution.

References

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