FAQs about the college interview

FAQSometimes families have individual questions that may interest others.  This blog post – largely from the chapter on college interviews in my book, The Thinking Parent’s Guide to College Admissions – addresses a few of those.

My son’s admissions office interview at his first-choice college lasted 30 minutes, but his classmate’s lasted an hour.  Why would one applicant get more time than another?

On-campus interviews generally last about 30 minutes because of the high demand for them, especially at peak times when schools sometimes have to hire additional part-time staff to conduct them.  They sometimes run longer than that for any number of reasons, such as last-minute cancellations that leave a hole in an interviewer’s schedule.  I know of at least one instance, albeit a rare one, in which an on-campus interview at a highly selective school lasted two hours!  The student’s college guidance counselor recommended that he schedule a summer appointment with the admissions officer whose territory included that high school.  The counselor knew that admissions officer loved to chat and correctly predicted that, schedule permitting, he might talk with the young man beyond the allotted 30 minutes.  Circumstances like this occur by chance.  Take advantage of them when they come your way, but do not worry when they don’t.

Our daughter, a talented musician, returned frustrated from her first college interview.  The interviewer knew nothing about music and did not understand any of our daughter’s technical references.  How should she handle a similar situation moving forward?

Interviewers will find your daughter’s passion for music and her motivation for studying it much more interesting than any technical details she can recount.  Encourage her to skip the technicalities and focus on why she loves music.  She will engage her interviewer and leave feeling positive about the experience herself.  The information that you say the interviewer did not understand sounds appropriate for the materials that accompany the performance tape that your daughter sends to the music department, which she should look into doing if she has not already.

Our twins insist on going to their on-campus interviews without us.  They say they feel comfortable traveling together and we agree that they have enough travel experience and have demonstrated enough personal responsibility to do so.  At the same time, all the other parents we know are accompanying their children.  What should we do?

Kudos to your twins for starting to show some of the independence and self-reliance that they will need to succeed in college.  Perhaps you could all agree to a compromise.  First, let them know that you would not accompany them to the admissions office building when they go over for their interviews.  You could also go on separate tours and attend different information sessions.  At the end of the day, you want to respect their independence and moxie, without erasing your own needs and concerns as parents.  Explain to them that you, too, want to be able to visualize where they might be a year from now.  You may also consider allowing them to make a few trips alone and let them know that accompanying them on some of the others matters to you.  Take this experience with the interview as an indicator that your twins may not want you to get involved with other parts of the college application process either, such as providing feedback on the essays – and don’t take it personally.