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How to Ace Your College Admissions Interview

Interviews can strike fear into even the most stout-hearted of college applicants; questions like “What’s your greatest weakness?” and “Can you describe yourself in three words?” seem purposely designed to trip you up. Since many colleges require applicants to take part in “alumni interviews” (wherein you sit down with a past grad of the school and engage in some low-key #humblebragging), you probably can’t escape this particular gauntlet of fire—but you can prepare for it (and hopefully avoid any Ron Weasley-esque hyperventilation). Below are a few tips for not only surviving your alumni interview, but acing it.

The First Interaction
You’ll probably receive an email or text from an alum explaining where you should meet them for your interview (if they ask for suggestions on a meeting place, you can’t go wrong with a quiet coffee shop). Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to respond with the most brilliant, witty text/email you’ve ever written, but make sure to proofread anything you send. If you say “your” instead of “you’re” or “to” instead of “too,” you’re not really putting your best foot forward. And unless they make a joke, it’s probably best to stick to a straightforward, polite response—save the gifs for after you meet/hit it off. 

The Presentation
Your first impression will set the tone for the rest of the interview, so make it a good one. Arrive on time and dressed appropriately; business casual is the safest option, but the most important thing you can wear is a smile (it’s cheesy, but it’s true). If you’re an introvert or naturally anxious, you may struggle to maintain positive body language and a confident speaking voice—but remember that the alum is on your side, and isn’t trying to trip you up. Try your best to be engaged and personableeven if you come across as nervous and/or incredibly sweaty, your interviewer will see that you’re truly invested in getting into their university, and that’s what matters most.

The Conversation
A common mistake here is trying too hard to impress your interviewer. If the college wants one of their alumni to interview you, they already think you’re cool and accomplished, so there’s no need to spend 45 minutes bragging about yourself (there’s also no need, ever, to quote Drake. You can’t pull it off). Instead, focus on a few unique anecdotes that really express who you are, and then talk up the school you’re applying toexplainwhy you’re so passionate about attending, and talk about the programs you’d love to participate in, and how the school could change your life.

If you’re able to express your genuine excitement for the university, there’s a great chance that your interviewer will be left with a fantastic impression of you, and you’ll be that much closer to attending your dream college!