Originally posted at https://www.hillsdale.edu/hillsdale-blog/after-hillsdale/seventipsforyourbestcollegeinterview/.
Written by Kelly Kane.
Distinguishing yourself from other applicants is an important consideration when preparing your college applications. How best can you position yourself for admission and even scholarship? Meeting deadlines and submitting strong application materials are a part of the answer, but optional items like the college interview can be equally important.
Interviews are not required for admission to Hillsdale College, but they are strongly recommended. An interview can help to strengthen your application—and your competitive edge for admission and scholarship. Its purpose is evaluative and informative, allowing both parties to learn more about one another.
Whether you’re intimidated or excited by the prospect of an interview, here are Hillsdale College admissions rep Kelly Kane’s seven tips to help you succeed, informed by more than six years of admissions experience (and lots of interviews):
- Make a good first impression. Arriving a few minutes early will allow you the time to find where you need to be and have a moment’s rest to put your mind at ease before beginning. If for any reason you will be tardy or need to miss your appointment, be sure to call ahead.
- Remember the interview is a conversation, not a test. You should plan to talk about things like your college search, academic work, extracurricular activities, goals for the future, and how Hillsdale might be a good fit. You are the expert on the subject of yourself, so feel confident you are well prepared to answer questions about your background, interests, experiences, and aspirations. We will not be asking you to solve a calculus equation or translate any epic poetry from the Greek during your interview, so no need to worry too much.
- Be ready to provide the “hows” and “whys” behind your answers—remember, we are looking to understand the you that is not already presented on paper. Why is Hillsdale part of your college search? How do you hope to grow during your years at Hillsdale? What is it you love about your favorite class? Be authentic and truthful. If your answers are only an effort to impress, you will struggle to explain yourself when pressed.
- Consider the length of your responses. Find the happy medium between something too brief and minutes-long monologues. Focus on the most relevant information you are looking to convey, and do so clearly.
- Avoid making assumptions. Try not to assume the interviewer necessarily agrees with your perspective. Be prepared to present an argument for your assertions, or to define your terms.
- Take the time you need to consider your answers. It is not impolite to take a short pause to organize your ideas before responding to a question: “I don’t know, I’ve never thought about that before. May I have a moment?” Taking the time to be thoughtful can be to your advantage, and help you avoid saying something you may later wish was said differently.
- Ask questions in return. In fact, prepare a list in advance of any questions you may have about Hillsdale. Demonstrate the sincerity of your interest in specific aspects of Hillsdale’s curriculum or community, or ask the interviewer for their experiences or advice.
Kelly shares, “I am often asked by prospective students how to best position themselves for earning admission or scholarship to Hillsdale, and the interview is always first on my list of recommendations. With campus, regional, and even virtual interview options available, I encourage you to not only take advantage of the opportunity, but with the benefit of these seven tips, to make the most of it.”
When choosing which colleges you’ll apply to, remember that Michigan’s top 14 independent colleges and universities set themselves apart from bigger public institutions by encouraging students to forge success by following their own path. The colleges are smaller and emphasize community over crowds. Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates and smaller class sizes for a truly unique and affordable experience.
Be bold. Be different. Go independent.