Q: Why do colleges do interviews?
Sherri Geller: The truth may surprise you! Yes, admissions officers want you to “come off the paper” of your application. But they also hope that if you’re accepted, you’ll remember a positive interviewing experience and want to go to their school.
Q: Who will be interviewing me?
SG: On campus, a member of the admissions committee, a professor, or another university official will meet with you. Off-campus, you’ll see either a graduate of the college or a university representative in your area.
Q: When should I arrange my interview?
SG: Appointment slots fill up, so contact schools you’re interested in as soon as possible after the spring of your junior year. You can usually interview before you send in your application—or even while you are deciding to apply.
Q: What should I wear?
SG: Dress as you do for school, but avoid ripped jeans, old t-shirts, and sweatshirts with other colleges’ names!
Q: Is it okay to wear my Star of David necklace?
SG: Sure! If you get a lot of funny looks or questions about wearing it, would you really want to enroll at that school? On the positive side, seeing a Star of David may prompt a tour guide to ask if you’d like to learn more about Jewish life on campus, or a current student to play “Jewish geography” with you.
Q: What questions will I be asked?
SG: Most questions fall into five categories: your personal background (Where did you grow up?); your academic life (What classes do you like? What’s your favorite book?); your life outside of school (How did you become the swim team captain? What do you think makes a good leader?); your outlook on college (What’s important to you in a school? Why are you interested in this university?); and general topics (How are you spending the summer?). The interviewer’s goal is not to stump you—it’s to get to know you! So talk about your interests and accomplishments. Did you spend last summer as a CIT at a Jewish camp? Describe the difference you made in a camper’s life. Do you lead services at synagogue? Talk about what religious leadership means to you.
Q: Will I get to ask questions?
SG: Yes. Come prepared to ask questions that demonstrate your interest in and knowledge of the school: “Can freshmen work in the memory and cognition lab?” “Can you tell me about the Israeli dance troupe?” “Can freshmen write for the school newspaper?” You’ll not only get the answers; you’ll be giving the interviewer insight into what activities you might want to participate in on campus. You’ll be helping him/her picture you at the school!
Q: What should I do at the end?
SG: Shake the interviewer’s hand, thank him/her for meeting with you, and ask for a business card with his/her contact information. It’s a nice courtesy to send a thank you note. While email notes are acceptable, consider sending a personal handwritten note on nice stationery. This gesture will help keep your name on the interviewer’s mind, and give you one more chance to make a positive, lasting impression.
—Sherri Geller, associate director of College Counseling
at the Dana Hall School in Wellesley, Massachusetts
and a member of the Board of Directors of the
National Association for College Admission Counseling