College interviews give aspirants chance to shine

By Lena Wilson


This winter, dozens of East seniors will be dressing in their best business-casual attire to attend a college interview. Although not all institutes of higher education require an interview for acceptance, it is a common practice for colleges and universities to offer prospective students a face-to-face meeting with an alumnus or admissions officer. It is an opportunity for both the student to learn about the school and for the school to learn about the student.
East counselor Kristin Hiemstra and Christoph Guttentag, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Duke University, both weighed in about the ins and outs of college interviews.
“The point is to make sure there’s a good match between the student and the school,” Hiemstra said.
With that in mind, students should come prepared for an exchange of information in order to determine this. According to Hiemstra, students ought to go into interviews already knowing a lot about themselves and about the schools to which they are applying.
“They should definitely know about the school’s missions and institutional goals,” Hiemstra said. “These goals will be determining the make-up of the incoming class.”
Guttentag also stressed the importance of reading up on the college beforehand. It does not give a good impression for students to ask their interviewers questions whose answers can be readily found on the school’s pamphlets or website. To further make a good impression, students should be punctual both in responding when contacted for an interview and on the day of the interview itself.
In addition, students should be ready to talk in depth about their transcripts. They will have to discuss the courses they took and any “bumps” — low grades or other negative marks — along the way. And perhaps most importantly, they will have to convince their interviewers why the school should accept them.
“You want to make a connection,” Hiemstra explained. “Make them like you.”
Afterward, interviewers submit a written report to the school’s admissions committee. An interview does not make or break an entire application, but it can shade a college’s view of the prospective student.
“We find that the interview reports generally confirm the sense of a student we have from the rest of the application, although they sometimes also highlight some particular aspect of a student in a way we find useful,” Guttentag said.
But what about schools that offer optional interviews? Duke University is one of many which tries to make this particular part available but voluntary.

“In general, students who feel comfortable speaking with someone they don’t know about themselves, their activities, and their interest in a particular college should choose to take an interview if one is available,” Guttentag advised.
He elaborated, however, on many colleges’ choices for interviews to be optional.
“We understand that not everyone feels comfortable in that format, and if a student would like his or her application to ‘speak for itself’, we want to respect that decision,” Guttentag said.
Hiemstra encouraged students to take the opportunity. Not only is a college interview an excellent way to familiarize oneself with a school and vice-versa, it is good practice for future interviews required for jobs and internships.
“They’re a great opportunity for students to shine,” Hiemstra said. “Unless you’re a dud, take the interview.”

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