Making the move from high school to college is a big step in anyone’s life. It is an exciting time, when you get to meet new people and focus on studies that interest you, but it can also be very daunting.
When you first start at college, you can feel very much like a small fish in a big pond, and everyone but you knows what they’re doing.
Everyone feels like this, so you’ve just got to get on with it and try and enjoy your college experience as best you can.
Before you even set foot in your new college, there’s the whole admissions process to get through first.
This is often the scariest part of college, as you will feel an immense pressure to impress the panel – after all, they are essentially deciding your fate.
You need to convey your achievements, interests and personal strengths in a concise way that will convince them that you would be an asset to their establishment.
What if you make a brilliant impression in your written application, but fall apart when it comes to the interview?
This would mean all those hours you spent slaving away at it were wasted, when you could have given yourself a much better chance. It really helps to be as prepared as possible, and get some advice from people who have been there and done that.
Here’s where we come in – we’ll give you lots of tips on preparing properly, to help you feel more at ease when the time comes.
Why That College?
There will probably be loads of colleges near where you live; depending on what you want to study, you may not have as many to choose from, but there will still be at least a few options available.
Therefore, it is important to consider what makes this particular college special (even if you’re applying to more than one).
Think of a few reasons, in case what you wanted to talk about gets mentioned elsewhere in the interview. Chances are, you will have written about this in your initial application, so they may want you to expand on that.
They could ask follow-up questions, so read up on the history of the college and its main points of interest they will expect you to know about.
Always relate your answer back to your personal circumstances where possible. For example:
- [Insert college name] has a brand new sports center, and I’m really interested in keeping up my fitness alongside my studies.
- The course here has a wide variety of optional modules, so I can tailor my studies with subjects I’m most interested in.
What Can You Bring?
College admission is a two-way transaction: it finds the best schools for the best students, meaning that you have to prove that you would be an asset to the college before they decide to accept you.
This doesn’t mean you have to be a top student in all areas, you just need something that will make you stand out from the many other students looking for a place.
If you’re unsure what sort of thing they will be looking for, here are a few ideas:
- Demonstrable passion for the subject – how can you show that you are genuinely interested in your chosen course and haven’t just picked it at random? Maybe you’ve read around the subject in detail, or participated in extracurricular activities based on it. After all, they don’t want to waste resources on people who aren’t there to learn.
- Wide-ranging interests – it’s great being enthusiastic about your studies, but what do you do outside of school? Colleges don’t want robots who do nothing but work, so they need to see evidence of what else you enjoy doing that enriches both your social and academic life.
- Motivation – college can be tough for anyone, so you will definitely need to be able to keep yourself motivated to pass the course. Think of specific occasions when you have had to persevere at something to get through it, and be prepared to tell them about the methods you utilize to be successful.
On The Day
Make sure that you get enough sleep the day before, and wake up nice and early so you’re not rushing.
Eat a good breakfast first, if it’s a morning interview, or lunch if it’s in the afternoon – you don’t want your stomach to start rumbling in the middle of answering a serious question!
Besides, having a substantial meal beforehand will help get your brain in gear.
You’ll want to arrive in plenty of time, so plan your journey and take into account any traffic or other obstacles that could cause delays. Depending on how you’re traveling and who you’re going with, you can use this journey time to practise your answers to questions they might ask.
Consider your outfit carefully: you definitely want to dress smartly, so they take you seriously as a prospective student, but you also shouldn’t go over the top. Avoid any bright colours or bold patterns, as these can be distracting and take the focus away from you.
It is important to wear comfortable clothes, as these will help you feel more at ease in the unfamiliar surroundings.
During The Interview
First impressions are everything – make sure you enter the room confidently with a smile, and make eye contact with the interviewer or panel. This will make you come across as approachable and keen, rather than awkward or not bothered.
If this is something you struggle with, don’t be afraid to practise your entrances beforehand. They may offer a handshake, in which case take part using a firm grip and don’t linger for too long.
Listen carefully to every question you are asked, so that you don’t end up giving an unrelated answer or fumbling around the general topic.
You can always ask them to repeat a question if you didn’t catch it the first time; it is always better to be sure than to take a chance and get it completely wrong.
Don’t be afraid to take a few seconds to gather your thoughts before answering, so you can formulate a coherent response that isn’t just a stream of consciousness.
Remember, keep your answers concise – they will be seeing several candidates in a day, so you need to stick to the point.
College interviews are scary, especially if you’ve never experienced any kind of interview before. Interviewers will be mainly looking for commitment to your chosen subject, what you can bring to the table, and evidence that you are a well-rounded person.
Of course, it’s great if you can let them know about your greatest strengths and achievements, as long as these fit naturally into an answer you’re already giving; don’t try and twist a question so you can brag about something.
Just like with any other interview or high-pressure situation, it is vital to look after your body and mind as part of your preparation. Being sufficiently fed, getting enough sleep and dressing appropriately all count towards this.
Take some deep breaths, then get in there and dazzle the panel, so they will have no choice but to accept you into the college of your dreams!