Stephen Madden 4 min read 12th Grade, College Interview

7 Ways to Not to Sound Like Everyone Else During Your College Interview

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The first rule of communication is to know your audience. And in the case of a high school student interviewing for a spot in a college class, that audience is either a college admissions officer or an alumnus, making sure that you’re their kind of person. And in most cases, those admissions officers and alumni have interviewed a lot of prospective students.

 

A lot.

 

Which means they’ve heard it all before. It’s pretty safe to say that there are very few answers to the standard interview questions—So, can you tell me about about yourself? Why do you want to come to Faber College?—that will stand out.

 

And the whole point of the interview is for you to stand out. Think about it. Up until now, you’ve been a blip, a data point on an admissions spreadsheet. You’ve started to stand out with a few email inquiries and signing up for newsletters. But here’s your chance to meet face-to-face with an actual human and make an impression that helps you stand out from the crowd.

 

So how can you be memorable? Here are our seven best tips for standing out from the crowd during the college interview process.

 

1. Know Yourself

Are you a funny guy? Then don’t be afraid to tell a joke. Are you known for being serious? Then now isn’t the time to try to crack jokes. Are you earnest? Then don’t be afraid to offer earnest answers. And above all: Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” Nobody expects you to have all the answers; after all, you’re going to college to learn. And admissions officers will find your candor and self-awareness refreshing.

 

2. Know Who You’re Talking With

Check out the LinkedIn profiles or bios on the college website of the people you’re talking with, and don’t be afraid to look at their social media feeds, or even to Google them. Knowing who you’re talking to will help you remember that they’re people, just like you, and will forearm you with some deets so you can establish a rapport.

 

3. Be on Time, and Dress Appropriately

Nothing bugs busy people—and the people interviewing you are all busy—more than someone who throws them off their schedules. And while you may be dying to stand out by showing your deep belief in nonconformity, now’s not the time to wear your Lil Peep tee shirt and torn jeans. Show respect to the person you’re meeting by dressing like you’re going to a business meeting: button shirts for the guys, a tasteful dress or slacks for the girls.

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4. Have a Plan

Know what you want to say, and what you want the person to think of you before you go in. If you’re applying to the business school, research the faculty, latest trends and a few of the courses you’re interested in beforehand, and be sure to work your insights about them into the conversation.

 

5. Turn it Around

An interview is a two-way street. True, you want to make a great impression, but you should also use the interview as a way to judge if this particular institution is right for you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions based on the research you’ve done about the school and the person you’re talking with.

 

If you know that the woman you’re talking with was an English major and has two kids, don’t be afraid to ask how the study of literature has helped her strike a work-life balance. It shows that you know your stuff, and that you’re able to synthesize and reconstruct information in a cool way, and that you have a wide-ranging intellect. And that’s a pretty memorable experience for them to have.

 

6. Don’t Give Canned Answers

You probably don’t eat much canned food, so don’t give canned answers. If they ask why you want to go to State U, don’t say “It has always been my passion to attend such a great school.” No, it hasn’t. It’s always been your passion to get invited to see Kanye play in Wyoming.

 

Instead, offer a response that is honest, heartfelt and informed: “I really want to study business because I want to start my own coffee company using fair trade beans, and I need to know the fundamentals of operating a company. Your freshman classes in capital procurement, operations and macroeconomics—especially the one taught by professor Hudgins—can help me get there. It’s so cool that a Nobel laureate teaches introductory markets.”

 

7. Be Yourself

It’s easy to lose sight during this process of the fact that you’re an individual, not a product to be marketed. Relax. Take a deep breath. Don’t be afraid to laugh and smile. And remember: no matter what, you’re a good kid.

 

For more information on preparing to apply to college, check out these stories on CollegeVine.com’s blog:

 

10 Priorities that Can Ease College Admissions Stress

How Can I Make My College Admission Applications Stand Out?

How a Mentor Can Help You Get into College

 

Find out more about how CollegeVine’s College Applications Guidance Program can help you or your child navigate the college applications process. We’ve spent the last five years working with over 6,000 students on their college admissions journeys. Our College Application Program helps students navigate the complex college admissions process from creating a school list to producing stand-out college application essays to prepping for college interviews.

 

Students and families have access to our easy-to-use online platform that allows them to track important admissions milestones, generate a school list based on their real chances and preferences, and work 1 on 1 with their Admissions Consultant.

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Stephen Madden

Stephen Madden

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Stephen Madden has been a reporter, editor and writer for more than 30 years. He and his wife have three teenagers, all of whom are involved in the college decision process.
Stephen Madden
Stephen Madden
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Stephen Madden has been a reporter, editor and writer for more than 30 years. He and his wife have three teenagers, all of whom are involved in the college decision process.