Virtual College Interviews: Everything You Need to Know
- Are Schools Still Having Virtual Interviews?
- What to Expect in a Virtual Interview
- How to Prepare for a Virtual Interview
- The Interview’s Impact on Your Chances of Acceptance
The college interview is an excellent opportunity for students to show off attributes that are not easily conveyed through the more black-and-white sections of an application—this provides applicants a chance to inject their personality, demonstrate maturity, and talk about their passions and interests. In recent years, many of the colleges that require or recommend an interview as part of the application process have begun to allow virtual interviews. Here’s everything you need to know about online interviews.
Are Schools Still Having Virtual Interviews?
Virtual interviews rose to prominence during the pandemic when meeting face-to-face was a challenge, however, the practice of virtually interviewing applicants has remained popular. Virtual interviews are easier to schedule, more affordable, lower pressure, and increase equability. Today, it’s common for colleges to offer both in-person and virtual interviews, allowing interviewees and interviewers to select the option that works best for them.
What to Expect in a Virtual Interview
Besides the obvious difference of not meeting face-to-face, virtual interviews are not all that different from in-person ones. Applicants should have a resume, transcript, and test scores available in a shareable format in the event they’re asked for them. Similarly, applicants should be prepared to answer a wide variety of questions about themselves—topics can include everything from questions about high school classes and extracurricular activities to future aspirations.
Much like an in-person interview, expect to sit in a quiet space and have a focused conversation for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. The conversation is in-between formal and informal, where applicants will have a place to let their personalities shine and display their maturity. As always, stay professional and avoid talking about controversial topics, speaking in slang, and using harsh language.
How to Prepare for a Virtual Interview
While there are numerous similarities between an in-person and virtual interview, there are some factors unique to taking an interview over Zoom, Skype, Facetime, and other digital services. Below are a few tips for preparing for a virtual interview.
What to Wear
What should you wear to your college interview? Business casual is a good guideline, whether face-to-face or through a computer. While the interviewer is likely only to see an applicant from the waist up during a virtual interview, completing your interview ensemble by wearing appropriate pants (or skirt) and shoes is recommended, in the event that you need to stand up. Also, keep in mind that computer screens present some unique challenges: bright whites, reds, and solid black outfits, as well as small patterns, generally don’t present well on camera. Instead, consider dressing in solid, simple jewel tones, such as purples, greens, and blues.
As for grooming, men should brush their hair, be clean-shaven or have well-groomed facial hair, and present a well-kept appearance. Women should have their hair neatly arranged and wear office-appropriate makeup (no glitter or loud/distracting colors), if any.
Check the Tech
A long-time complaint of virtual meetings is technology, or, more specifically, the shortcomings of technology. Before your meeting, go through this checklist to ensure it isn’t sabotaged by something silly:
- If taking the meeting on a laptop, make sure the laptop is fully charged (better yet, arrange it so that the laptop is plugged into a power source for the meeting)
- Check your internet connection and ensure it’s stable
- Make sure your computer is capable of handling a video meeting
- Make sure the login and password to the meeting work (also make sure usernames are simple and professional looking)
- Check the computer’s audio and video settings to avoid distracting muffled audio and/or grainy video
Set the Stage
Since a virtual interview doesn’t take place in a quiet office, the need to create a distraction-free environment is another difference between physical and virtual interviews. Here are some ideas for creating a winning virtual meeting place:
- Get good lighting—lighting should face the applicant (sitting in front of a window is a popular option), not be behind them, as that will make your face shadowy
- A plain background is best—it keeps the attention on the applicant—so look for an empty or uncluttered wall
- Eliminate external noises—find a quiet place, close the windows, silence cell phones, and turn off televisions
- Get everyone on board—let family members know about the interview so they don’t create any interruptions or distractions, and close the door to keep pets out
Prepare to Wow
One similarity between in-person and virtual college interviews is preparation. Interviewees should be prepared to answer questions about themselves along with being armed with questions for the interviewer that demonstrate their interest in the school. Asking meaningful questions during your interview shows that you’re engaged and curious about the college you’re interviewing with.
Common questions asked during a college interview include:
- Why do you want to study at this college/university?
- How will you contribute to this college/university?
- Where do you see yourself in x number of years?
- What are your academic strengths?
- Who do you admire?
Common questions to ask a college interviewer include:
- What made you choose this college?
- What is your favorite thing about this college?
- What makes this college unique?
- What is a typical weekend or weeknight like on campus?
- What was their hidden gem on campus? (Ask for insider tip)
Practice Makes Perfect
Before sitting down for the real thing(s), applicants should sit down for at least one practice interview. Simulate interview day as closely as possible and have a friend or family member play the role of interviewer. Have them critique everything from the audio and video quality to comfort in front of the camera and how questions were answered.
After the Interview
Although not interview-specific, don’t forget to get the interviewer’s contact information to follow up with a thank-you email after the virtual interview. Make sure that thank-you notes are written and sent shortly after the interview (ideally within 24 hours), and are specific to the interviewer.
The Interview’s Impact on Your Chances of Acceptance
CollegeVine’s free chancing engine can’t account for how you fared on your virtual college interview, but it does factor in key metrics like your GPA, test scores, and extracurriculars to predict your chances of acceptance at over 1,600 colleges across the U.S. While your interview can give you a small boost, usually it isn’t a determining factor for admissions officers, so the chancing engine can give you a strong sense of where you stand as you wait for those acceptance letters to start rolling in!