Tip 3: Do turn your college interview into a chat

This article is part of a series, 10 Tips for Acing Your College Interviews.

Fra Filippo Lippi, The Annunciation, c. 1435/1440 Painting

A college interview is a performance

Here’s the thing. I said that a college admission interview is a performance. But unlike, say, a play, it’s not scripted. Or, I should say, it’s semi-scripted.

By preparing, you’ll have a supply of ideas, of turns of phrase, to draw on in the interview, but you won’t be regurgitating memorized answers to the interviewer’s questions. Although you want to be well-prepared, your goal in the interview is to make it feel like you’re simply having a chat with the interviewer, whether it’s an admission officer, a current student, or an alumni representative.

Good interviews feel like conversations. They flow. There’s give and take—listening and speaking. You respond on-the-fly to what’s being said. And you keep your responses concise. No rambling on oblivious to the other person or desperately trying to cork an awkward silence.

Sure, the interview is directed, in the sense that both parties are trying to accomplish something (more on this in the next section). But it’s also spontaneous. You’re essentially trying to make a friendly connection with this person. Yet you’re not forcing it. The connection arises naturally out of the flow of your conversation. It feels easy.

Think of the interview not as a test—where you rigidly field canned questions with canned answers—but as a chat.

Dr. Sean

Dr. Sean

Co-Founder at Readerly
Dr. Sean has over a decade of teaching experience at universities in the US and Asia. He earned a BA with honors from Columbia University and a PhD from the University of London. You can read more about his teaching and research here.
Dr. Sean