Seven Tips for your Best College Interview
Written by Kelly Kane
Distinguishing yourself from other applicants is an important consideration when preparing your college applications. How best can you position yourself for admission and even scholarship? Meeting deadlines and submitting strong application materials are a part of the answer, but optional items like the college interview can be equally important.
Interviews are not required for admission to Hillsdale, but they are strongly recommended. An interview can help to strengthen your application—and your competitive edge for admission and scholarship. Its purpose is evaluative and informative, allowing both parties to learn more about one another.
Whether you’re intimidated or excited by the prospect of an interview, here are my seven tips to help you succeed, informed by more than six years of admissions experience (and lots of interviews):
- Make a good first impression. Arriving a few minutes early will allow you the time to find where you need to be and have a moment’s rest to put your mind at ease before beginning. If for any reason you will be tardy or need to miss your appointment, be sure to call ahead.
- Remember the interview is a conversation, not a test. You should plan to talk about things like your college search, academic work, extracurricular activities, goals for the future, and how Hillsdale might be a good fit. You are the expert on the subject of yourself, so feel confident you are well prepared to answer questions about your background, interests, experiences, and aspirations. We will not be asking you to solve a calculus equation or translate any epic poetry from the Greek during your interview, so no need to worry too much.
- Be ready to provide the “hows” and “whys” behind your answers—remember, we are looking to understand the you that is not already presented on paper. Why is Hillsdale part of your college search? How do you hope to grow during your years at Hillsdale? What is it you love about your favorite class? Be authentic and truthful. If your answers are only an effort to impress, you will struggle to explain yourself when pressed.
- Consider the length of your responses. Find the happy medium between something too brief and minutes-long monologues. Focus on the most relevant information you are looking to convey, and do so clearly.
- Avoid making assumptions. Try not to assume the interviewer necessarily agrees with your perspective. Be prepared to present an argument for your assertions, or to define your terms.
- Take the time you need to consider your answers. It is not impolite to take a short pause to organize your ideas before responding to a question: “I don’t know, I’ve never thought about that before. May I have a moment?” Taking the time to be thoughtful can be to your advantage, and help you avoid saying something you may later wish was said differently.
- Ask questions in return. In fact, prepare a list in advance of any questions you may have about Hillsdale. Demonstrate the sincerity of your interest in specific aspects of Hillsdale’s curriculum or community, or ask the interviewer for their experiences or advice.
I am often asked by prospective students how to best position themselves for earning admission or scholarship to Hillsdale, and the interview is always first on my list of recommendations. With campus, regional, and even virtual interview options available, I encourage you to not only take advantage of the opportunity, but with the benefit of these seven tips, to make the most of it.
Kelly Kane is a Michigan native and 2014 Hillsdale College alumna. She recruits Hillsdale students from Alaska, Arizona, Southern California, and Hawaii. When meeting with students for their admissions interview, she can be found enjoying a coconut milk latte. Kelly resides on the west coast with her husband Alex, a fellow 2014 Hillsdale graduate, and their dog Buster.
Published in August 2020