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Help your students put their best foot forward

A college interview is an opportunity for your students to talk about their goals and experiences. Here are some ways you can help your students feel more confident about interviewing.

Interview facts

First, make sure your students know what the admission interview means to the college and what it is intended to accomplish. There are two basic kinds of college interview. If students plan to (or are required to) interview, they should find out which type of interview the college is offering them.

The evaluative interview is intended to help the institution assess the student as a candidate. The interviewer speaks with the student, takes notes and reports all impressions to the admission committee. This evaluation becomes part of the student's application file. Interviewers are often admission officers but may be faculty members or alumni.

The informational interview is intended to give the student information about the institution. This can be a one-on-one talk with a college representative or a group information session for applicants. Interviewers may be admission officers but might also be faculty members, alumni or even current students at the college.

Although the informational interview's main purpose is to answer student questions about the college, it is quite possible that the college representative will also evaluate the student and pass an opinion on to the admission committee. Students should therefore always be aware of the impression they are making.

Interviews of either kind can take place on or off campus (for example, the college may match up applicants with alumni interviewers who live in the same area).

Few colleges require an interview. Many offer evaluative or informational interviews as an option. Some institutions do not offer interviews at all. These include some public universities whose applicant pools are so large that offering interviews to all candidates is not feasible, and also some private colleges.

Benefits of the interview

Tell your students that it's usually to their benefit to interview if interviewing is an option. Interviewing is one more way for a student to display a strong interest in a college, and it lets the interviewer get to know the personality behind the grades and test scores.

An interview is also a chance for borderline students to present themselves as winning candidates by virtue of sincerity or their personality, and to explain any extenuating circumstances that affected academic performance and describe the ways they will contribute to the college.

How you can help

Help students practice interviewing; play the part of a college admission interviewer and ask them to talk about their high school experiences and college goals. Point out their interview strengths as well as what they need to work on. 

Many young people have had little experience in formal or businesslike situations. Acquaint students with interviewing basics such as making eye contact, smiling and shaking hands.