The college interview can be an excellent means of breathing life into an application. Agreat interview can even, in some instances, push a borderline application over the top.
But interviews – especially high-stakes interviews at top colleges – can be challenging to navigate. However, college applicants have an excellent resource close to home: their parents or guardians. Nearly every adult has had experience with interviews for work.
Here are three specific ways parents can help prospective students prepare for a collegeadmissions interview.
1. Identify short- and long-term goals and each school's connection to those goals: Many college admissions interviews include questions about your short- and long-term goals. Why do you want to attend college? What do you hope to do with your degree? Your parents or guardians can help you prepare for these questions in part because they have likely answered versions of these in every job-related interview they've faced.
Your first impulse may be to provide a simple, straightforward answer about the importance of a diploma for future job searches. While true, this response won't help you distinguish yourself from the vast crowd of other applicants.
Many colleges have more prospective students than they do available spaces – and they want to admit students who will make their school a better, more interesting place.
Your aspirations should include aspects that are specific to you. Your parents can help you remember the activities, tasks and rewards that have motivated you to succeed in high school, as well as the moments in life that have pushed you toward art, history, literature, math, science or another area that distinguishes you.
After you've identified the qualities that set you apart, go one step further – determine the aspects of the particular college you are interviewing with that are ideally suited to help you accomplish your goals. Your parents may have suggestions for on how to naturally make that connection.
For example, if your goal is to become a diplomat, you may be considering schools with excellent international studies programs. Your parents or guardians will be well-aware of the importance of real-world experience and may note that your prospective college offers a number of guided study abroad programs. You can then note this connection during your interview and how the study abroad program will enhance your college experience and long-term career goals.
2. Compile a list of questions: Great interviewees ask questions. This is one way to demonstrate genuine interest in a school.
Asking questions is also a great way to address any concerns that you or your parents may have about the prospective college; you'll want to address this before you make a final decision.
Your parents will likely have an eye on the practical side of attending college. They can assist you in reading through the publicly available information on the schools you are considering. And they can help you identify and develop questions on other aspects of the college that are unclear.
For example, College A may advertise that it has an award-winning theater program with a rigorous audition process. Having read advertising copy for many years, your parents might wonder which specific awards the college won.
Your parents might also recognize that you need to learn more about the audition process and recommend you ask questions. Such questions might include: How long do candidates have to prepare for the audition – perhaps a single month’s time? What qualities is the theater program looking for in applicants? How many students are typically admitted?
3. Practice interview skills: Part of your impact during an interview comes from your body language and nonverbal behavior. Participating in mock interviews is essential to learning the best way to carry yourself during a college interview.
Your parents are essential resources for this part of interview preparation. Theyhave survived decades of meetings, sales pitches and numerous other situations. They understand the difference between a firm handshake that projects confidence and a brief touching of palms that betrays nervousness. They understand the importance of speaking clearly and looking interviewers in the eye – and they understand how college admissions officers will appreciate your attention to detail with these aspects.
Ask your parents to help you practice for the interview. Set up a time to interview with them and follow the steps of the process as if it were an actual interview.
Your parents or guardians can also work with you to phrase your answers in a way that best conveys key information. For instance, do you balance "I" and "we" in your stories? This demonstrates both that you are the person making things happen and that you are aware of your impact on others.
If you are explaining a challenging portion of your resume, are you portraying authenticity while taking responsibility? All experienced job seekers have been asked about a time when they made a mistake and how they responded. Let your parents' experience with this question guide your answer.
A college interview can open doors that might otherwise have remained closed. Take advantage of your excellent home-grown resources, and you may soon find greater opportunities.
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