The college admissions process is stressful for some students – and I’m not really sure why that’s the case. With 3900 colleges– there is no doubt every student will find a perfect fit– if you have any questions about the process– you will undoubtedly find my earlier blogs both informative and reassuring:
I’ve written several blogs about the factors that are considered in the college admissions process– including your GPA, your extracurriculars, test scores, leadership roles and essays – notice I didn’t mention “Interviews” — and that’s because on balance they don’t really assume a very significant role in evaluating your ability to succeed. That said, they seem to assume a very significant role in creating unnecessary stress – so let’s talk about how to be prepared and what you can expect. I offer my insights about the process – as a former faculty undergraduate and admissions representatives at four university campuses and now as a South Florida Cornell Alumni Interviewer– I can not only guide you on the process but prepare you through a MOCK INTERVIEW. Please reach out to schedule: Contact College Advisor Bonnie Rabin, PhD –
COLLEGE APPLICATIONS: Alumni Interviews and College Admissions Interviews
Some tips for a successful interview!
Alumni Interview invites:
Timely response is required-24 hours! Some alumni interviewers can email you with very short notice. It’s acceptable to ask to reschedule if you simply cannot make the suggested appointment. Please contact me for suggested language on accepting, rescheduling and thanking your interviewer. For example: “Thank you for the opportunity to introduce myself. I apologize, but I am unable to meet tomorrow as I have an important theater rehearsal and my absence would impact other members of the company”
First and foremost- be yourself because everyone else is taken! That’s not cliché-it is truly the most important piece of advice I can provide. One of the most authentic and impressive students I’ve interviewed in recent years apologized when she appeared red-faced and unshowered- but her high school volleyball game ran long and she came straight to our interview. Team captain – admitted Cornell University Engineering.
BACKGROUND RESEARCH: Please contact me to schedule your mock interview. To prepare for a successful interview, make sure you have done your homework! First and foremost, know your interviewer. Check their LinkedIn profile and do a Google search- looking for common bonds to share. Some of the most successful interview experiences are those where we learn that you and your interviewer have only one-degree of separation! Do your homework! One of my clients was interviewed by the mother of a special-needs child she had been coaching at an after-school gymnastics program. Another- too close for comfort– the neighbor two doors down- but the parents had a “dispute” over a decade ago that left that relationship chilly. Student was accepted Early Decision to Northwestern == class of 2020!
Some of your alumni interviewers will have received your Common Application — but most will not. You have more “control” over the flow of the conversation when you bring your interviewer your “Activities Resume”. Please contact me to review recent accomplishments and to ensure you are using a format that will showcase your strengths and capture the interviewer’s attention. A one-page resume is sufficient! (A second page can include an abstract of any noteworthy research projects.)
Be prepared to ask questions about campus life, academics and research opportunities in your chosen field. There should not be a single surprised look on your face when the interviewer speaks of a club (related to your expressed interest), or anything about the curriculum in your intended major. You should very clearly show the same level of “informed interest” as you demonstrated in your application essays. The more you know about the college, the interviewer will understand that you are very very very interested in attending the institution.
Be a good listener-alumni LOVE to talk about their alma mater.
MAKE YOUR POINT!
As a Cornell University local representative, I can tell you I’ve seen it all! I’ve interviewed hundreds of high school, undergraduate and graduate students in mock and actual academic and employment settings. I often observe the same mistake: students spew out long lists of accomplishments without taking a breath! Each sentence you speak should make a unique point. (Seniors – we had the same issues in essays!)
For example, if you want to talk about your experiences in Science Olympiad, expand that thought by connecting to scientific research opportunities on campus. Use the opportunity to mention a particular faculty research lab that you might like to join. Don’t list all your accomplishments in one sentence: “I enjoyed my time in high school participating in Science Olympiad, organizing the Girl Scout Cookie drive, volunteering at the Hospital, Teaching Sunday School and Playing Clarinet in the Concert Band.” Each accomplishment is worthy of its own sentence! Each accomplishment can be connected to a similar initiative at the undergraduate community you would like to join.
Exude heartfelt passion about the university, demonstrating you have done your homework and that you bring something special to the freshman class! Your alumni interviewer should look forward to welcoming you into the Alumni Association in the not too distant future!
FASHIONISTA – ABSOLUTELY NOT! (Unless you are an art or performance major!) I’m often asked what to wear for the interview. I can more easily tell you what NOT to wear. (This is the part where I probably sound pretty much like your parents). Do not wear ripped jeans however fashionable. Do not wear sneakers. Do not wear excessive cologne/perfume. Unless you are an aspiring Business student, in general, a pair of slacks and a clean button-down shirt/blouse are sufficient. If you are a finalist for a competitive scholarship, men should arrive in a tie at minimum. Modest, tasteful and business casual are the general guidelines for interview dress.
Side note: If you know you tend to sniffle, have tissues on hand should something in the environment cause a flare-up.
If a challenge for you-practice practice practice your eye contact and sitting up straight.
WHERE ELSE DID YOU APPLY?
If your interviewer is rude enough to ask this question directly or hint indirectly (you must have applied to some very competitive schools!), the best way to handle this question is the way you would handle any intrusion. You don’t have to respond but you do have to be polite. One possibility: “I’m thrilled to be meeting today and learning about X University. I am very interested in attending and while I have applied to other equally competitive colleges, for all the reasons we have discussed today, I would be honored to be accepted to the class of 2024.”
Please send a thank you note to your interviewer (or panel) within 24 hours. Include something in your note that you appreciated learning from your interviewer.
Above all, be prepared, confident and be yourself. You may not necessarily impress the interviewer, but please relax knowing that it’s virtually impossible to say anything so outrageous to adversely impact your chance of admission.
Bonnie R. Rabin, PhD
Educational & College Admissions Consultant
Professor Emeritus & Cornell University South Florida Alumni Representative
Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D. is the founder and principal educational consultant of College Career Consulting, LLC. She has over 30 years of experience as a university faculty member and shares her knowledge, professional resources and support with students who are ready to advance their lifelong educational and career journeys.