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    Interview! Interview! Interview!
    Barbara Sandler
  Personal Communications Consultant, Instructor, Communications Dept., Queens College & Dowling College

So you've sent out all of your applications, filled out all of the financial aid forms, and now you can sit back and relax. Wrong! Many schools still require an admissions interview. Even if it is not mandatory for the school to which you have applied, it is highly recommended that you set one up on your own initiative. The admissions interview is the time for you to "market" and "sell" yourself, the time for you to show how "special" you really are. After all, the admissions officer reads thousands of files each semester, but you want him to remember YOU!

During  the admissions  process, there are generally two ways for you to be able to present your "uniqueness"  to  the college through the essay and  through  the interview. Since many high school students today speak better than they write, the interview can therefore be the more effective vehicle of the two. The interview can serve to "set you apart" from the rest. It is especially important if you are applying to a school that will receive more superior "in school records" than there are spaces in the freshman class. Often the difference between two prospective students is very slight, and a good interview can weigh strongly in your favor. The interview should be considered a positive opportunity rather than a chore. It is your opportunity to present yourself in the best possible light.

Be Honest And Straightforward
Grades do not always speak for themselves, and it is during the interview that you can speak FOR them. The interview is also the time for you to explain any discrepancies that appear on your record. Perhaps you were ill, or injured, or there was a crisis at home. The stress caused by these situations might have been reflected in your grades or test scores. However, it is important that you be honest. The officer is a professional, and more than likely he would see through your bluffing.

Be Yourself
One important point to keep in mind is that a good admissions officer is looking for critical characteristics that will make for success on his campus. This is both to your advantage as well as to the school's advantage. You obviously do not want to attend a school that would be inappropriate for you. Trying to be someone you are not to impress the officer would only be fooling yourself. More often than not it would only lead to an unsuccessful interview. Remember that the officer is astute and will probably be able to see through your facade. Be yourself and be PROUD of it.

Be Prepared To Ask Questions
The interview is an opportunity for you to learn more about the school as well as for the school to learn more about you. Therefore, be prepared to ask intelligent questions. Take a tour of the college and read the bulletin thoroughly BEFORE the interview. This should prevent you from asking questions that could be answered simply by reading the catalog. Remember that you want to find out if the college meets your specific needs too so don't be afraid to ask questions. Since the time is short, "closed type" questions might be best. This type of question, ("How are the students at this college involved in the decision making process?"), usually requires an answer of only a few words and allows you to get the most information in the least amount of time. On the other hand, "open-ended" questions, ("What are your feelings about the undergraduates here?"), do not force the interviewer to provide you with specific information, but rather give him too much leeway as to what information he wants you to have. It is a good idea to make a list beforehand of the questions you intend to ask. They should be analytical, probing, and by all means should reflect a real desire on your part to KNOW rather than IMPRESS.

Dress Appropriately
This is a special occasion, so it is perfectly acceptable to dress "up" for it. However, as was mentioned before, it is important to be yourself. Don't dress like a "corporate executive" type or a "preppy" type if neither of these is natural for you. Jeans, a T - shirt, and sneakers are obviously inappropriate, even if that is "you". Your clothes should be neat, clean, and comfortable. Simplicity is the key word. You don't want your clothes to distract the interviewer.

Be Aware Of Your Non-Verbal Communication
The astute interviewer will be watching for the messages you are sending that go "beyond words." These are what we call your non-verbal messages. Sixty-five percent of the total impact of a message is carried non-verbally. Your appear-ance and physical movements interact in conveying a total bodily message. Therefore, you must place a great deal of importance on facial, gestural, and bodily movement during an interview. For example, NEVER look at your watch, even if you are bored to tears. Also, maintain good eye contact and SMILE! Your entrance into the room should exude self confidence, as well as your exit. Practice sitting down and getting up from a seat, preferably in front of a mirror. See yourself as the interviewer would see you. Chances are, if you are impressed, he will be too.

Be Prepared To Answer Questions
Listen carefully to the questions the interviewer asks you. His purpose is not to grill you but rather to match you and the school in the best interest of both. The kinds of questions he will ask depend to a considerable extent on the time of the year. An interview that takes place at the end of the summer will most assuredly include questions concerning how you spent your vacation. The following is a list of typical questions asked by interviewers. Practice answering these questions before you go for the interview.

  1. Why do you want to attend college?
  2. Which subjects interest you most?
  3. What could you do for this college if you were accepted?
  4. Is this college your first choice? Why/why not?
  5. Which extracurricular activity is most rewarding to you?
  6. Do you see yourself being happy here? Why?
  7. What are your career plans?
  8. How do you spend your spare time?
  9. What books have you read recently?
  10. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
  11. How would you describe the relationship you have with your family?
  12. What is the one most important impression of yourself that you want me to be aware of?

In Conclusion
Since the interview usually only lasts from 20 to 40 minutes make every minute count. Be sure to point out all the qualities and qualifications you want to emphasize. Try to be concise but expressive, proud but not flaunting, relaxed but not blasé. Make the most of your interview. It can be a rewarding experience.


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