Once students have a sense for what to expect, they often follow up with the question, “How can I prepare for my interview?” My advice is easily summarized in two quips. Be Yourself, and Respect the Process.
“Be Yourself.” Our ultimate aim in meeting with you, in getting to know you that little bit better, is to help (and never to hinder) you as an applicant. We don’t come to be impressed by a fancy suit or a litany of hardly-attended activities. We want to know how you really think of yourself. Come prepared to discuss what you value. Why are you motivated, and to what end? What are you passionate about? How do you embody life of the mind? What impresses me most about an applicant is seldom the quantity, or even quality, of what they’ve done or the courses they’ve taken. The most stunning students are always the ones who seem most unabashed about who they are and what they do. They’re not searching for validation from me, but are entirely satisfied with who they’ve become. They commit to their activities for themselves and no one else. When you are who you want to be, and you do what you want to do, and you’re comfortable with that? You bet that’s impressive. So while I absolutely recommend stretching yourself, going the extra mile, broadening your horizons, all that – if you haven’t by the time I’m interviewing you in your senior year, it’s too late to impress me in those ways. At this point, relax, and just be you.
“Respect the Process.” What I mean here is kind of a simple reminder of good decorum. For example, I would caution against profanity when describing how poor a school or teacher is, for example, not because you’re always wrong, but to respect them and us – ‘the process,’ as it were. Similarly, I appreciate it when students, however they choose to dress (business professional, business casual, outdoorsy, hipster, etc), do so appropriately. I’m not here advocating turtle necks and long sleeves/skirts by any means, but I would recommend thinking of your wardrobe in terms of a semi-formal interview, over and against what you might wear out with friends on a Friday night, etc. Again, I wouldn’t worry too much if you forget to turn your cell phone off, but I also don’t recommend answering calls during your interview. Do you see what I mean? For my final word to the wise, don’t shock us for its own sake (advice worth heeding in your admission essays as well). You may have a passion for something taboo, in which case you may well indeed leave us stunned – but it should be from your heart, not from a cunning attempt to make yourself ‘memorable.’ At any rate, I hope this helps relieve some anxiety you have about an admission interview. If you have more specific questions, leave a comment below!