Nine Things Not to Do in a College Interview
Your college interview is crucial to the process of introducing yourself to each school with a spotlight on your strengths. Though you may be a superior student, you don’t want to be remembered for making mistakes. So here are some things to remember NOT to do during the college interview.
1. Don’t let your confidence translate into nonchalance by way of your body language. Being too casual may be interpreted as a lack of interest—the kiss of death in many competitive institutions that have plenty of strong applicants from which to choose.
2. Don’t start your question about the school’s programs by saying “I don’t know much about your school, so I was wondering if you could tell me…”. It may be polite, but it also proves that you haven’t done your homework. Read thoroughly about the school beforehand so that your conversation can focus on the specifics of the pre-med program instead of whether or not the school has a pre-med program.
3. Don’t pass the blame when explaining a weakness in your transcript. Your trip to France for a semester exchange is of interest to your interviewer, but not as an explanation for a dip in your grades. Likewise, few interviewers want to know that your B+ in AP calculus would have been an A if you had had the “good” teacher instead of the boring one. Save the excuses for the circumstances that may have seriously impeded your performance (i.e., hospitalization, death in the family, etc.).
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4. Don’t bad-mouth other schools, even unintentionally, when explaining why you like the school where you are interviewing. If it’s necessary to note particular differences between schools to make your point, then make a point of diplomacy. Stick with the details that relate to your interests and stick with an objective outlook.
5. Don’t force a one-way conversation by delivering a brief (albeit accurate) answer to a question. Your interviewer is going to be looking for your ability to hold a conversation and to think critically. Take advantage of your opportunity to talk and expand your answers enough for the interviewer to understand your reasoning.
6. Don’t babble! You may be a great conversationalist with an impressive vocabulary, but if you let your nerves get ahead of you, you may get ahead of your interviewer. Answer completely, but stay with the general topic. Speak naturally, not fancifully.
7. Don’t forget where you are! True story: A qualified (but over-traveled) student sat in his interviewer’s office and kept referring to how much he loved one of the competitor schools—where he was scheduled to visit next thinking that that was where he was already interviewing. The magnitude of the error is obvious.
8. Don’t be afraid of silence. In other words, allow yourself the time to think before answering. Thirty seconds of quiet can feel like forever when the spotlight is on you, but you’ll be glad you took your time when you deliver a well-articulated answer.
9. Don’t sell yourself short. You are, after all, selling yourself. So be proud of your accomplishments and describe your triumphs with enthusiasm. Your interviewer sees lots of students, so magnify what sets you apart. And enjoy yourself.