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What Not to Do at Your College Interview: 4 “Don’t’s”

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Virtually every rising senior applying to competitive private colleges will soon find themselves preparing for a college interview. But when school ramps up in September and the college application process switches into full gear, it will likely be much more difficult to carve out some time to sit down and think about what the interviewing process demands of you.


Since it is never too early to begin prepping for different aspects of the college applications process, we thought the lazy days of summer would be a good time to shed some wisdom on the interviews so that you can think about them before you’re juggling school and applications simultaneously. Here, we outline four common interview prep mistakes so that you won’t make them!


1. Do not skimp on preparation.

One of the biggest mistakes students make in the days leading up to their interview is to assume that it will be easy to talk about themselves, and thus shirk on preparation. In actuality, talking about anything—even something you know well, like your own interests and accomplishments—is difficult to do with poise and thus requires practice.


Before you go into your interview, think about the accomplishments of which you are the most proud, and make sure that you can speak eloquently and genuinely about how these experiences make you feel and what they taught you. You should go into your interview with an idea of a few main points you would like to get across to your interviewer; while in your interview, make sure you hit on all of these points.


In addition, it can’t help to think of answers to a few common interview questions (e.g. What is your favorite book and why?, What have you read recently in the news that shocked you?). In the event that your interviewer asks you a question to which you have prepared an answer, you will be glad to be equipped with a response. But even if that does not happen, practicing how to answer questions like this succinctly will improve your performance anyway.


2. Do not assume that you will be able to get by without having researched the college that is hosting you.

After even just two interviews, researching colleges, drafting questions to ask your interviewer, and prepping for the day of your interview will likely start to feel repetitive. This is normal, and actually indicative of the college process on the whole to an extent. Rarely in your life will you find yourself preparing as many applications at the same time all for admission to the same type of opportunity (in this case, a college education).


And yet, you must not give in to the temptation to skip the vital step of researching the college whose interview you will be attending next. Challenge yourself to find the niche programs and specific details unique to each university that make you love it. Being able to name drop a program, professor, class, or club in your response to an interviewer’s question demonstrates that you truly care about the school in question.


3. Do not arrive late to your interview

Not only is it rude to keep your interviewer waiting, but arriving late to your interview sends the awful message that you do not care about the interview or the college that is conducting it. You want to approach every interview as if it is for your dream school. Put your best foot forward and plan to arrive at least 20 minutes early if possible.


Additionally, arriving late for an interview looks bad because it reflects poorly on you, your time management skills, and your level of responsibility and maturity. You must remember that, on the day of your interview, everything you do and say will be noted as a reflection of your character as a whole. This is the only time anyone will get to meet you in person as they consider you as a candidate for admission at their school; don’t squander this opportunity!


4. Do not psych yourself out.

The worst thing you can do in preparation for your college interview is to overthink it and make yourself nervous. Students who approach their interview calmly and with confidence are the ones who ultimately carry out the best conversations.


So enter your interview assured that you are your best advocate. Speak from the heart about why you love the school and would be honored to attend, and your genuity will work in your favor.


Have another college interview-related question? Maybe we’ve answered it in one of our other articles in the interview series. For more guidance on some other aspect of an upcoming interview, check out these blog posts:


Pre-Interview Advice

A Guide to the Interview Itself

Post-Interview Advice

Lily Calcagnini
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Lily is a History and Literature concentrator at Harvard University who is doing her darnedest to write a thesis about all of her favorite things at once: fashion, contemporary culture, art journalism, and Europe. A passionate learner, she cares deeply about helping high school students navigate the process of college admissions, whether it be through private essay tutoring or sharing advice on the CollegeVine blog.