Do they really nail the windows shut?…What to expect in a college interview

In anticipating college interviews, many students work up the level of dread that I did in my junior year of high school when somebody spread a rumor that admissions officers at a highly selective school – to see how students would react under pressure – asked them to open a window that had been nailed shut.  Years later, as I conducted admissions interviews at Yale, I asked one of my more experienced colleagues about that story.  He burst out laughing:  “Of course they didn’t do that!”  Knowing what to expect can eliminate needless anxiety for your child.

Babson College gives applicants a general description of what the on-campus interview looks like.  I love what they write and see it as a generic template for what to expect at any school:

  1. Be prepared to talk about yourself and about your interest in the school.
  2. Bring questions you would like to discuss.
  3. Wear what you want, but remember that you will be making a first and possibly only impression on someone in the admissions office.
  4. A written summary of the interview (an interview report) “will become part of your admission file and can be influential in the decision we make.”

As for who will represent the school in the on-campus interview, sometimes admissions officers themselves conduct the discussions.  Other times, applicants may find themselves talking with a senior or with somebody hired on an hourly basis to help out during peak interview season (graduate students, faculty spouses, et al.).  Schools generally tell you on their Web site who conducts the interviews.

It may encourage your child to know that most students do well in the campus interview, according to deans of admission at colleges and universities around the country that I interviewed for my book, The Thinking Parent’s Guide to College Admissions.  Former Clark University Dean of Admission Harold Wingood could “think of only one instance in roughly 20 years in which an interview ruled out a student who was  otherwise qualified.  He was so obnoxious, so rude, that we could not imagine his being part of our community.”  Rice’s Julie Browning has observed over the years that students who do not fare well in the college interview frequently entered into it unprepared or under duress from their parents.  Let your child know that, unless a school requires it, they should only interview if they want to.  With a little preparation, they will do just fine.

Next up:  Preparing for the college interview