How to Prepare & What to Wear to a College Interview
For many students, a college interview is part of the admission process.
An interview can be a great way for your child to make a great first impression and show their real personality, beyond the words in an essay.
Here’s what you need to know to help your child prepare and know what to wear to a college interview.
What to Wear to a College Interview
- Clothing should be modest, simple, clean and crisp
- Avoid jeans, t-shirts, sneakers, and flip-flops
- For boys: khaki pants, collared shirts, belt and casual shoes
- For girls: dress pants, nice blouse or sweater, and casual shoes
- For accessories bring a notebook and pen
Do College Interviews Really Matter?
Not all colleges guarantee an interview for all applicants…usually the size of the applicant pool dictates that.
And not all alumni interviews are predicated on how competitive the student is.
It is an evaluation, however, and they will be measuring your child against other applicants. So, it is a chance for your student to shine by sharing more about their passions and interests.
How Should I Prepare for the College Interview
The interviewer is your ally.
Your student will do best at their interview if they see their interviewer as a friend rather than someone they need to win over. The interviewer’s recommendation is only part of your child’s overall admission picture. But, it can be an important way to move beyond the written word and show up as a whole person.
The interviewer’s recommendation can be a major help to your student’s application. Your student’s answers to questions help them become a multi-dimensional person in the eyes of the college and stand out from other applicants.
Most of all, your student’s enthusiasm for attending the school can help them actively demonstrate interest in attending, which can be a big factor in admission!
One parent from our Facebook group Paying For College 101 put it this way:
“The interviews usually aren’t difficult. They are assessing fit. Are you and your plans a good fit for this school?”
If an interview is listed as “optional,” then it’s not part of the application process. It’s informational, to allow you to find out more about the school. Still, your student can get an advantage from scheduling one!
Just as important as preparing your student to answer questions is to make sure they are prepared to ask insightful college interview questions.
There’s nothing worse when an interviewer asking a student if they have any questions about the college and the student has none. Review the college website in depth and try to craft a list of questions that don’t have answers you could easily find on the website.
Also, make sure your student tailors the questions to the school. One college interviewer told the story of a student you asked about medical research opportunities at a small liberal arts college, that didn’t have a medical school. Oops!
How to Schedule a College Interview
Many times an interview is done by an alum of the school.
These interviewers don’t just live in the city the school is located in – in fact, your child may be assigned an interviewer in their local area just to make it easier to get together.
Meetings should always be in public.
Your student should never go to the interviewer’s private home. You’ll want to pay attention to the schools’ deadlines for setting up interviews – they are often a few weeks earlier than the application deadline.
If you have questions about whether an interview is optional, recommended, or required, contact the school’s admission office directly.
Be sure to do this well in advance of application deadlines so your student has time to set up what they need.
Advice From Parents on the College Interview Outfit
Alright, your student has the interview set up – now what?
Now it’s time to get the right outfit.
First impressions matter tremendously, and being appropriately dressed will make a huge difference in how well the interview goes overall.
You might be tempted to go full business-formal, with a suit and tie, but that may be a step too far. You want your child’s personality to show through. Instead, focus on business casual.
One parent from our Facebook group shared:
“My son went on 6 – all were casual, with button-down and khakis, casual/dress shoes. They were all alumni interviews, though. Possibly a suit and tie if with school admins/personnel.”
Think black slacks or a modest black skirt, with a solid-colored collared shirt, blouse, or sweater. It should be very nice, but not overdone.
Jewelry should be nice and professional, not overstated. Perfume or cologne should be understated.
Most of all, make sure your student’s clothes are ironed and look nice. Rumpled clothes or wrinkles makes your student look like they aren’t ambitious and don’t put the work into being prepared.
How to Practice for the College Interview
Your student’s attitude and approach will say as much about their personality as their clothing.
Help your child practice entering a room with a smile and giving a good handshake.
One parent in our group shared this advice:
“I always remind my kids when they first walk into the room to look the interviewer(s) in the eye, shake their hands and introduce them self. It always helps to make a good first impression.”
To work out the jitters, consider having your child meet an adult friend or relative at a coffee shop and talk about themselves and their accomplishments.
Practice interviews are amazing for learning how to answer specific questions and gaining confidence in your presentation.
You can find a lot of information about what interview questions to expect, as well as what to ask the interviewer at the end of the meeting. Being prepared will help your child stand out and present their best self to the school.
Choosing the Right School for Your Student
Getting into a school is only the first step. You want to make sure your child targets the schools that are the most generous for their specific situation.
Many Ivy League schools and other selective institutions don’t offer merit aid, so don’t overlook other options as well. Interested in finding out more about merit aid for college? Check out our College Insights tool today.
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