Interviewing for College in Style

Looking Good, Feeling Good

When preparing for your college interview, take the time to be presentable. That doesn’t mean wearing a three-piece suit or an evening gown. Wear something nice that you feel comfortable in.

Chances are your interviewer will also be wearing something nice, but not particularly formal clothing. Don’t out-dress your interviewer. And don’t wear your grungiest jeans either. Middle of the road is what you’re aiming for.

If you have a favorite shirt, skirt, or jacket, go ahead and wear it if it’s clean and otherwise inoffensive. The idea is to wear something that makes you feel confident and attractive.

Avoid clothes that require your constant attention. In general, anything too revealing or too confining will have you fidgeting and readjusting throughout the interview. This will distract both you and your interviewer.

Don’t chew gum: it’s distracting and disrespectful.

Brush your teeth and do something with your hair so that you can forget about it during the interview. If you’re sporting a pink Mohawk, chances are this will neither hurt nor help your chances of admission. In other words, you don’t need to lose your personal sense of style completely, just make an effort to be presentable. This will suggest that you actually care about the interview.

By the way, if you’ve got a Mohawk, try offsetting it with your mother’s pearls or a crisp Oxford button-down (Sarcasm).

Don’t Worry About the Time

Students are sometimes told that the sign of a good college interview is a long one.

This is a myth.

During college interviewing season, which stretches from September to January, most colleges schedule interviews back-to-back with no breaks for the interviewer. So, even if you happen to be having a conversation that your interviewer would really like to continue, he or she is on a tight schedule and will probably not be able to do so.

If you notice you’re interviewer checking the time, this is not an indication that you’re boring. He or she simply needs to make sure that the next interviewee is not kept waiting.

Most college interviews will last approximately 30 minutes. Occasionally they’ll run as long as 45-60 if your interviewer is a talker.

If you’re done in twenty minutes sharp, don’t sweat it. Your interviewer will appreciate getting the information he or she needs as quickly as possible.

Remember, the interviewer has many more interviews to conduct. Do your part to make sure that the interview lasts at least twenty minutes by responding to questions using complete sentences, expressing curiosity about the school, and bringing questions that you’re genuinely interested in.

As uncomfortable as you may be feeling, imagine what it’s like to interview students who cannot or will not reveal much about themselves. Conversely, it can be frustrating to interview a student who talks endlessly without regard to the interest of the interviewer.

Although you won’t be able to control the length of your college interview, you can do your part by listening carefully, offering thoughtful answers and asking questions whose answers cannot be found elsewhere.

Grandma Says: Always Send a Thank-you Note

Sending a thank-you note is the kind of thoughtful gesture that makes you seem mature and gracious. Your interviewer will appreciate getting it, and you’ll feel good about sending it.

The best notes are hand-written on a card that you really like. If it’s a really interesting or beautiful card it may end up taped to the wall of your interviewer’s office.

Keep the contents of the card simple, honest, and clear. If there’s something specific about the interview that was helpful to you, let your interviewer know. If you connected with your interviewer over a band you’re both into, or a book, experience, etc., mention this. If there was nothing particularly memorable about the interview simply thank him or her for taking the time to meet with you.

Express your continued interest in the college, and wish him or her the best. You don’t need to send a card that sounds stiff and contrived. Simple, clear, and honest is the way to go.

If it’s difficult for you to send a card, go ahead and email your interviewer.

The point is to acknowledge that he or she took the time to meet with you, answer your questions, and get to know you better. Reach out in any way you’re able to.

The card is a nice gesture, but a thoughtful email gets the point across. Don’t worry about finding an expensive email card or signing your name electronically.

Sending thank-you notes or emails is not something that will earn you huge points in the college admissions game. It’s just the right thing to do, and you’ll feel better when you do it.

If you’re sending a card, you might ask someone to look it over before sending it. You’ll definitely lose points for typos. Make every effort possible to present yourself as someone who takes the college application process seriously.