Jul 31, 2017 at 08:42

Admissions Interviews can often be awkward and nerve-wracking. This is usually because for the average seventeen year-old college applicant, this is your first interview ever. I’ve seen students range from excited to nervous and every year, I have at least one student ask …

“What is the point of the interview?”

The objective of the college interview is twofold, firstly to assess how well you fit into the college and secondly to give you an opportunity to find out more about what the college offers.

Through the interview, a student has the opportunity to make his application come to life. Think of it as reading a book and then seeing the trailer for the movie adaptation of the book. The trailer may reiterate certain themes, making them a reality, or show something new, adding color. But one thing is clear, the interview is meant to exhibit interest.

However, it’s also important to know that interviews aren’t created alike. Just like each college differs in what they prioritize from an applicant, different interviews also prioritize different things. The two big buckets of interviews are as follows:

  • Evaluative
  • Informative

1) Evaluative:

As the name suggests, the intent of the interview it to evaluate your readiness. If you’re interviewing in Singapore or the U.K., this could mean that the interviewer will take a deep-dive into your subject area, asking you to solve problems or discuss theorems even. So if you’re a Math, Economics or an Engineering / Physical / Natural Sciences applicant, you can be sure that you will be discussing specific pieces of knowledge you are required to have as someone interested in the major. Subject specific interviews in the U.K. for Oxford and Cambridge are selective in nature, which means that the applicants offered the chance to interview have been selected from the larger group. On the other hand, in Singapore they can be selective or provided to all.

It’s important to understand that it’s rare to have selective interviews at the undergraduate application level.

However, even without the subject specific knowledge, the interviewer could be evaluating you for fit. This means that the interviewer’s thoughts, notes and comments will play a part in the admissions process. They may ask you about “why our college” or ask for stories on “specific moments or failures.” Their notes will become an addition to your file as a recommendation. They won’t make or break your application but can definitely help the decision.

2) Informative:

The informative interview is different! The intent is to give the student information about the college as a whole and not necessarily evaluate the student. However, remember that the interviewers are often influential alumni or members of the admissions council and a very good or very bad interview can inspire them to drop a note about the student.

So here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Ask for the interview! This applies to non-selective interviews but recognize that requesting an interview shows interest. Even if the admissions committee can’t organize one, they will note your interest and appreciate it.
  • Show up on time. You will be surprised how many start the interview on a bad note by being late. Sometimes traffic is beyond your control, but in that case, email or call your interviewer letting them know you’re running late.
  • Be prepared. Prepare the answers to a few common questions but don’t be robotic and rehearsed. Definitely know the answer to “Why X College.”
  • Ask Questions. At the end, there will be an opportunity to ask questions so come in with a question that you can’t find the answer to on the student website. The best questions result in a story – “What was your favorite memory about the college?”
  • Thank them. Thank you notes are polite and a great way to remind the interviewer of some of the things you discussed.

More than anything, take each interview as an opportunity to convince your dream school you really want to be part of it and Be Yourself.

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In Defence of Mediocrity
Somebody has to start speaking up for us, and rather urgently at that!

Mansi Tikko