Meeting with College Admissions Representatives
If your teen is a junior or senior in high school, they will likely be thinking about colleges. Starting in September, many college admissions representatives visit high schools and college fairs to meet with prospective students. Students may also have the opportunity for an admissions interview if they visit a college. Whether the meeting is a formal interview or an informal meeting at a high school, being prepared will help your student get through any interaction with distinction. Give your teen these tips to prepare:
Do research in advance.
Prior to meeting with an admissions representative, you should do a little research on the school by visiting the college’s website, googling the college name, and reviewing their most recent social media posts to see what’s trending. Use this research to obtain answers to your more basic questions, such as tuition prices, what classes/concentrations are offered, and the size of the student body. Try to get a sense of what the college’s values and strengths are, and use that information to make connections with your own interests, goals, and experiences.
Colleges want to know that students are interested in their school, so you should demonstrate your interest at every opportunity. Many times, colleges will have a sign-in sheet at college fairs, informational sessions, and other events. You should sign in every time, which lets a college know that you’re interested. Make sure you write legibly and provide the same information every time (same email address, same version of your name if you have a nickname, etc.).
Make a good impression.
College admissions officers are looking for students who will positively reflect their school, so you should dress appropriately, act professionally, show enthusiasm, and be confident. Here are some important tips when meeting with a representative:
- Dress appropriately. For men, a safe list of clothes includes khaki pants, a button-down shirt, and a jacket. For ladies, a nice blouse or top, a skirt that extends to the knees or pants, and possibly a jacket or professional sweater cardigan. Clothes need to be neat, not wrinkled, ripped or stained. No jeans, t-shirts, or sneakers.
- Smile often and make eye contact.
- Show up on time if you have a formal meeting.
- Turn cell phones off.
- Have a firm (but not crushing) handshake.
- Avoid giving simple yes or no answers.
- Be yourself and give honest answers.
- Speak slowly and thoughtfully. Everyone tends to talk faster when nervous! It’s ok to pause before answering a question to collect your thoughts.
- Try to avoid saying “umm,” “ah,” “like,” etc.
- Bring paper copies of your résumé, transcript, or test scores, if you have them.
- Don’t chew gum during the interview.
- Thank the representative for their time at the end of your meeting.
Reflect on key points to communicate.
An admissions representative wants to get to know you as a person and determine whether you’re a good fit for their school. They will expect you to be able to share your strengths and accomplishments. They may ask any number of questions, but all of them are trying to determine what kind of person you are. You will be most prepared if you take the time to decide ahead of time the 3-6 key points you want to get across about yourself. Are you particularly resilient, creative, analytical, or empathetic? List out your traits that you want to highlight and then come up with a couple of specific examples from your life that demonstrate those traits. An admissions representative wants to hear about your proudest moments or how you overcame a challenge.
Prepare for common interview questions.
If you are offered a formal interview with a college admissions representative, you should be prepared for some common interview questions. If you have taken the previous step of determining the key points you want to get across in the meeting, you will likely be able to use those to answer any question they give you. Most interviews run approximately 30 minutes, but every college does it differently, so don’t be worried if your interview is only 10 minutes or runs a full hour. Common questions include:
- Why do you want to go here?
- What are your academic interests? Or What do you want to study in college?
- What about you is unique? Or What are three interesting things about you that I wouldn’t know from your application?
- What is the most important thing you’ve learned in high school?
- What do you expect to be doing ten years from now?
- How do you define “success?”
- Tell me about an obstacle, failure, or mistake that you learned from.
- What have you liked or disliked about your school? What would you change?
- How would you describe yourself to someone who did not know you?
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- What has been your proudest achievement so far?
- What events have been crucial in your life?
- What mark do you feel you’ve left on your school? Or How have you contributed to your high school?
- What do you want to get out of your college experience?
- What could you contribute to our college community?
Note that some admissions representatives like to throw in an offbeat question, such as ‘if you could talk to someone famous, whom would it be and why?’ ‘how would you get a round peg through a square hole?’ or ‘if you could be any crayon, what color would you be?’. It’s a question meant to gauge your critical-thinking skills and creativity. There are no wrong answers! They are not looking for a specific response; they just want to hear what you come up with and why. Relax, take a minute to think about it, and do your best.
The more you practice, the easier your college interview will be. You can write down some answers to sample questions and read them aloud, practice talking in front of a mirror, or have a trusted adult practice an interview experience with you.
Ask thoughtful questions.
Every admissions officer will ask if you have any questions for them. Never say “no” to this question! You want to show that you are interested in their school. When you research the college before the interview, make sure you develop 3 to 5 meaningful questions for your interviewer. The representative wants to see that you put some energy into coming up with creative questions that cannot be easily found on their website. Don’t ask basic questions, such as how much the tuition is or whether or not they have a specific major – look that up before your meeting. Good questions include:
- How would you describe the personality (or culture) of this college?
- What do you believe sets (insert college name) apart from other colleges?
- What kind of student do you think is happiest here?
- What do you consider to be the best features of the school?
- What does student-faculty mentoring look like here?
- What resources are available to help students be successful?
- What are the best ways to get involved on campus?
- What can I do now to better prepare myself for college?
After the meeting, you should send a handwritten thank-you note to show that you are a professional person who values the admission representative’s time. If there was something specific about the interview that was helpful or if you connected over a common experience, you should mention it. Otherwise, simply express your continued interest in the college and thank your interviewer for taking the time to meet with you.
However, do not continually contact the admissions officer after the meeting. Admissions officers are very busy and have a constantly full inbox. One thank-you note is enough to demonstrate your professionalism and interest without becoming annoying.