Tell Me Your StoryFeb 28, 2000 Write an essay on this topic.
The implicit title of every college interview should be "tell me your story," because that is what the interviewers want. My personal experience with college interviewing was five years ago, but I recently went to a few meetings of the Harvard DC alumni interviewing committee (Harvard does all of its interviewing with local alumni). The things they said were quite useful. Since then, although I haven't conducted any interviews myself, I have had a chance to talk to a few who have. Based on these and my own experiences, I have a few words of advice on college interviews.
First of all, relax, in most cases, an interview will not make or break your case unless you are on the borderline. This may vary from school to school, but a bad interview from an otherwise good candidate will often produce a closer look (often at both the interviewer and the interviewee) not a rejection.
Secondly, I have to disagree with the thrust of profilewriter's suggestion to mimic the interviewer, or try to give them what they want. While mimicing body language may unconsciously help, if the interviewing gets the impression that you are a sycophant that just wants to do what anyone tells you to do, that will reflect very poorly. The interviewer knows that not everyone is like him or her, and wants to hear what makes you different. The hardest questions like:
What has formed your character?
How have you grown and matured? and
What makes you tick?
may seem a bit broad and loosey-goosey, and probably will not get asked directly. However, this is what they want to know. They want to look in the window of your soul and see the essence of you. Granted, this is a bit much to ask, but you just have to give them a peek.
Thirdly, be humble, let your resume speak for itself. For me, and I think many college-grads, humility bespeaks age and maturity. You are going to have to eat many slices of humble pie in college, the more prepared your stomach is, the better. So don't downplay your accomplishments, but acknowledge that there are many challenges in college, and some may prove too much for you. Nothing leaves a bad taste in an interviewers mouth like an applicant who thinks he is Superman, even if he seems so on paper.
Finally, do some homework and some ask good questions. While an interviewer may be impressed with some of your answers, nothing impresses like a few good questions. You can demonstrate your preparedness for the interview, and thus your seriousness about attending the school, as well as insight and ambition. For instance, if you had done community service work in high school, you could ask "What sort of community service opportunities are there at X University?" but you could also ask "I have seen the community service opportunities available for XU in the catalog and the website, and I noted that there seems to be little in the area of peer mentoring for area elementary schools, which I have experience in from high school, what sort of opportunities are there for setting up one's own community service project, and how does the administration support this?" You are not bound to follow through on this idea, but it shows that you have initiative, ambition, and that the line on your resume "elementary school peer mentor" wasn't just a bit of padding, but something you cared about.
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