US College Interviews

Posted on 2nd November 2017

At this time of year, students applying to the US might start thinking about their interviews. Not everyone will be asked to an interview, and they can be a little confusing. What will they ask? Is it like an Oxbridge interview? Why are they interviewing me at all?

Will I be interviewed by a US college?
There are some US universities that will always interview (such as MIT) and some who will only do it if they have former students from that college (alumni) who are near to the student. This happens a lot in large cities like London, but not so much in smaller towns.

The larger institutions are more likely to interview, as they have more alumni. In general, large private universities (Harvard, etc) are more likely to interview. It doesn't really depend on the type of candidate, unless that candidate is applying for a particular merit scholarship or something else unusual.

When will I be interviewed?
If you are asked to attend an interview, it will normally happen sometime in the month after you apply. So if you apply in November, you will likely be interviewed in December or January.

You will probably receive an email from the interviewer directly, asking to arrange a time and place. Make sure you reply quickly and politely, and be as flexible as possible.

What will my college interview be like?
If they do interview, it will likely be in an informal setting, like in a cafe. Some universities may interview via Skype (MIT for example, if they can't get to the student). Also, if you are visiting the university at this time of year, you could email the admissions officers and offer to come along for an interview. That always looks good on an application!

The interview will be with a former student of that university, and will focus on finding out more about - why do you want to go to that college, what can you bring to campus, what are you doing with your life outside of school? In general, what are you all about?

You should show interest in that college by way of pertinent questions, but otherwise relax and be honest. There won't be any technical or tricky questions - they're not like Oxbridge interviews at all. They are about getting a picture of what you are like as a person.

What happens after the interview?
The feedback from the interview will be fed back to the admissions officers of that college, and may be used to inform their decision. If you showed a genuine interest in that uni, and came across as interesting and personable, that could make the difference between acceptance and rejection. However, the other aspects of the application (tests, transcripts, references, essays, etc) are much, much more important!

Tips for US College Interviews
  • Always reply to emails from the college or interviewer promptly.
  • Be flexible: make it easy for the interviewer to find time and don't make them travel miles to you.
  • If you're in the US on holiday or visits, contact the colleges you've applied to and offer to pop in for an interview.
  • Turn up on time and dress smartly (but not overly smart).
  • Research the college and be prepared to explain why you're a good fit.
  • Ask good questions.
  • Relax and enjoy it!
If you need any help or advice on interviews or US college applications in general, get in touch with any questions!
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