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The Dos and Don'ts of College Interviews

August 13, 2010 at 2:00 pm
By Charlie Fick

Hey lovely admission blog readers,

 It's Friday, which once again means it's time for to impart my wisdom upon you in the form of this blog.  This time, I'm going to let you in on a few tips on doing a prospective student interview here at Carleton (or anywhere else for that matter), and also a few things that might be best to avoid during an interview.  Keep in mind that these are solely tips from my experience, and while this is a Carleton blog, none of these tips are necessarily what every Admissions person would say, but just things I find to be generally good ideas.


Right, with that in mind, here are some friendly dos and don'ts of the college interview. 


Come prepared with a few questions of your own.  While most of the college interview will be the interviewer asking you questions, there will always be a time at the end when you will be asked if you have any questions.  It's always a good idea to have a few questions prepared to show that you've done your Carleton (or ___ College/University) homework.  Asking your interviewer what their experience has been like or how they personally view the school are always good ones. 


Be too nervous.  This is an obvious and perhaps annoying tip, but it's nonetheless true.  The reason why I stress that students shouldn't be nervous (especially at Carleton) is because interviews are in no way shape or form a make or break type experience.  We always tell students that our interviews are non-evaluative, which usually seems to relax students. 


Try and think about what we might ask you, and think about what you want to say. Most interviewers are going to ask you what your favorite subject is in school, and try and have an answer that might dig a little deeper than just that you like science.  For instance, as a political science major, I would say that my favorite subject is political science.  I could say "I like political science because i'm pretty good at it and it's like, interesting and stuff". OR, I could say "Well, I've always liked political science because I think at it's core, political science explains to a great degree human interaction and how societies develop, and I love how a political scientist can be anyone from a political philosopher to a quantitative analyist of political trends".  The second answer shows a greater level of thought, and reveals more of a reflective thinker than the first one does. 


Shy away from telling us what you have accomplished.  While cockiness and arrogance are never great traits, you want to use this interview time to tell us all the great things that you have accomplished while in high school.  Even if you feel like it might be boastful, tell us that you raised $5,000 to help families in low-income neighborhoods, or tell us about that time you interned at a prestigious medical institute.  Those things are important, and we want to hear all about them. 


Try and make the interview as much as a conversation as possible.  My favorite interviews are always the ones where I feel like I had more of a conversation with the student than an "interview" with them.  Feel free while answering a question to go on a tangent that you think is interesting and think that the interviewer might find interesting as well, it very well might be the thing that the interviewer remembers you most for. 


Don't be afraid to be yourself.  Again, simple advice, but important.  There are no "answers that we want to hear" per se, so it's always best to just be yourself, and don't try and tailor your answers to what you think we want to hear. 


There are certainly other tips that I could probably come up with, but those are just a few ones that I think would help you out when thinking about doing a college interview.


Have a good weekend!


  • August 16 2010 at 6:06 pm
    Susan Bair McCormick '74

    Do:  Relax and be yourself as was stated above.  I worked in the admissions office and traveled as a Carleton Admissions Representative to high schools and college fairs for a year after graduation.  I really went to bat for those whom I interviewed who were relaxed and seemed to be a good fit for our student body.  Academics and accomplishments can be well documented in the application, but personality can make a difference in final acceptance deliberations.