“Why fit in, when you were born to stand out!” - Dr. Seuss

Sometimes even the best essay writing tips can’t help you fully express yourself on paper.  In those instances, college interviews are a real blessing. They’re not a part of every application, but when they are, these one-on-ones are a great opportunity to represent yourself. Follow these seven tips and you’ll be ready to impress any interviewer!

1. Dress for Success

You might think this a no brainer but during my time interviewing students in support of their admissions candidacy, I was always surprised by how many didn’t dress the part. If it means asking mom or dad for support, doing a quick fashion show for grandma, or Googling “what to wear to an interview”, you will want to make a good first impression when you walk in the door.

2. To Be Early is to Be On Time

No need to camp out the night before, but arriving 15 minutes early will show you are punctual and respectful of the interviewers time; however don’t show up too early either. If you have time to spare, hang out in your car, get some fresh air, or send a tweet about how excited you are about this opportunity!

If you are running late, make sure you call the office and let them know. Often the office will be able to accommodate you and the courtesy will be appreciated.

3. Practice, But Don’t Memorize

Although one might think an interview needs to be a constant back and forth of questions and answers, a good interview will feel more like a conversation. Of course you will want to be ready for the tough questions that may touch on your academic weaknesses, a time you struggled, or where you see yourself in the next ten years but you don’t want to sound robotic in your answers. Have a few anecdotes prepared to support your experiences and use examples when you can, but if you think you sound like a recording, you probably do.

4.  Research

When I used to read applications, a lot of great essays ended with “I can’t wait to go to XYZ University”, which is great if I was working for XYZ University. Just like you would edit your personal statements to match your school, you will want to do the same prior to your interview. Make sure you know the campus, the available resources, and the academic majors before meeting with an admissions representative. More than likely she’s looking to see if you’ll be a best fit for their school, so proving that you cared enough to do your homework will pay off in the long run.

5. Be Yourself

“So tell me a little bit about yourself.” This question, at first glance, seems easy - afterall, you are yourself; however don’t use this time to reiterate your academic transcript - that’s what the paper part of your application is for! It’s okay to turn up the schmooze (really, schmooze can be a good thing!) Show them who you are! Do you have a passion for Shakespeare and that’s why you want to major in English? Did the telescope you got for your 10th birthday begin your love affair with space?

Use this as a time to talk about how your academic and social pursuits will make you an excellent addition to this campus community, and as a way to show off your unique personality.

6. Prepare Questions

Even if you think you know everything about the campus, you will want to have questions prepared for after the interview. This shows that you have done your research and that you’re interested in learning more. Questions can be as general as “can you tell me more about the soccer program?” to more specific - “I hear you plan to grow your science department by 2017, what does that entail?” Often the answers to these questions will lead to others and this part of the interview also becomes a conversation.

7. Follow Up

The interview doesn’t end when you walk out the door. It’s never a bad idea to send them a thank you email, or even a handwritten card, the next day to show your interviewer you appreciate the time they took to meet with you. Just make sure to send it very promptly, and personalize it so they know you wrote it for them.

If you’ve scored a college application interview, you’re in a good place! Try practicing these tips with a mock interview. You can ask teachers or parents to try it with you, or even the person who wrote your letter of recommendation in the first place. Good luck!

Authored by Elizabeth Coccia

Elizabeth earned her Masters in Higher Education to help student achieve their own dreams. She writes about what students need to do to be successful once they arrive at college.