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Interviews

Students and parents should contact colleges in advance to learn more about visitation options. Some schools do not provide personal interviews, but instead offer group information sessions that are conducted at various times throughout the day. Campus tours are often given more frequently. It is necessary to make arrangements for personal interviews well in advance. There are two types of personal interviews: evaluative and informational. Evaluative interviews mean that the interview will play a role in the final admission decision. Informational interviews are only used as an opportunity to convey specific information and will not be used in the decision process. Some schools that tend to have a high volume of applicants offer the opportunity to interview with an alumnus who lives in your area. While some admissions offices do not place the greatest amount of weight on these meetings, you do want to put your best foot forward and take advantage of the opportunity—a great interview may not help very much, but a poor one will certainly hurt your chances. Note: some alumni groups are better than others in terms of getting these interviews organized. If you are not contacted within a reasonable amount of time after your application has been sent in, don’t fret. Call the admissions office and ask about getting in touch with your local alumni representative.  

If students and parents wish, the College Office at Peddie can provide contact names at a variety of colleges, although these individuals might not always be available. Also, students should remember the name and request the card of the person who interviewed them at a given college. This facilitates further contact between the Peddie College Office and the college admissions representative regarding a specific student.

List of 4 items.

  • Interview dos and don’ts

    • Don’t chew gum.
    • Do go prepared! You need to do plenty of advance study about the college you are visiting. "Lack of preparation" is the number one complaint of college admissions counselors. Be prepared to discuss intelligently exactly why you are serious about that particular college.
    • Do set an interview strategy for yourself. There will be some things you will want to know about the school and some things you will want the school to know about you. The strategy that you adopt should be consistent with the rest of your application (e.g. drama, athletics, research opportunities, community service programs, etc.).
    • Arrive early. Try to tour the campus before your interview. Once in the interviewer’s office, don’t sit until you are directed to do so, and don’t move any furniture.
    • Don’t say "like" and "you know" constantly.
    • Do take your lead from your interviewer. He or she might open the session with any number of questions, including some that are rather audacious: "Tell me about yourself! Why do you want to go to college? What do you expect to be doing ten years from now? Let’s hear about your most valuable experience? What do you think about ...(a current issue)? What are your strengths? weaknesses? How would your friends describe you?" If the interviewer is relaxed, you may be, too. If your sense of humor and the interviewer’s mesh, go with it.
    • Smile. Sit up straight; shake hands firmly; make good eye contact.
    • Don’t give disjointed one-word answers when asked a question. Provide your interviewer with complete responses. Be as concise as possible when the interviewer is simply trying to clarify a point. The dialogue should flow naturally. The best interviews are really just conversations.
    • Don’t take your parents into the interview with you.
    • Don’t say that you don’t enjoy reading or that you read very little. Reading and college are practically synonymous terms.
    • Don’t ask mundane questions. Try not to ask any questions that you could easily find on the web site, view book or catalog.
    • Do be genuinely enthusiastic about particular activities, but beware of a bragging tone. There is a definite distinction between enthusiasm and cockiness.
    • Don’t come on too strong or appear overly anxious to impress. Remember that understatement is almost always the preferred style. And while we’re on the topic, don’t try to impress the interviewer with your family and friends. The fact that your father is a noted heart surgeon, author or politician may be important, but your college interview is not the time to bring this up. To a skilled interviewer you are the important one.
    • Do tell your host about the dedication and steadfastness you’ve developed on the playing field. If you are an  athlete, describe how this experience has had a positive effect on your schoolwork. However, if things weren’t so positive and the academics suffered a bit, admit it at once, stressing the importance of the "total learning experience"– on the field and in the classroom.
    • Do have a sense of what’s going on in the world. As a high school junior or senior, you should be reading newspapers and magazines, for example, The New York Times, Newsweek, or Time magazine. A well-informed discussion of current events with your interviewer may win you a few points. One never knows when one might be asked about a recent Washington appointment.
    • Don’t "knock" your high school experience. Telling your interviewer that your high school experience was beat, the education boring, the teachers uncaring, and the students nerds will only get you labeled a malcontent, a quality most admission officers dislike. However, thoughtful criticism of one’s school and the ways in which it could be better can generate interesting discussion – just beware of having an ax to grind.
    • Don’t play games with admissions people. For example, pretending that this is your first interview so that you can be credited with your great social ease, telling half-truths about your extracurricular record, and/or leading the interviewer to believe that his school is your first choice if it is not are not appropriate or ethical. Admissions officers, particularly experienced ones, are very perceptive individuals who have been through it all before and can quickly spot a phony when they see one.
    • Don’t be brutally honest. Your reasons for going to college might well be to earn a lot of money, improve your status, or make your family happy, but these are not reasons that will sit well with an interviewer, nor are they sound reasons—in and of themselves—for choosing any college.
    • Don’t try to extend the interview unnecessarily. The length of a session is not a measure of its success. The length of an interview is often determined by the number of interview appointments for that particular day. You will get a message from your host that the session is coming to a close.
    • Don’t judge the college by the interviewer (or tour guide). Sometimes students get "turned off" to a school because they didn’t like the interviewer. It would be regrettable if an entire institution were judged on a 30-minute session. Keep an open mind.
    • Do be courteous to everyone. Administrative staff and tour guides are important cogs in the admissions machine. They have access to admissions officers and will remember your kindness and your rudeness.
    • Terminating the interview may be as important as a good first impression. A "thank you for your interest and time" statement and a good, firm handshake (males and females alike) with eye contact provides a good closure. If it was great, say so. "This was terrific, I really enjoyed talking with you. Thank you again."
  • Questions you may be asked

    • Why are you considering this college?
    • How did you come to include us among your choices?
    • What makes you think this college and you are right for each other?
    • Where else are you applying and why?
    • Which is your first choice? (Don’t answer if you are not sure. If you are at the school you think is your first choice, then confirm that - but never give another name. Wesleyan doesn’t want to hear "Vassar.")
    • What do you hope to major in? Why?
    • What are your plans for the future? What do you expect to be doing ten years from now?
    • What have you liked or disliked about your high school?
    • If you were the Head of your school, what would you change?
    • What would you like to tell us about yourself?
    • What newspapers and magazines do you read? How often?
    • What books not required by your courses have you read recently?
    • What TV shows do you watch?
    • Tell us about your family.
    • How do you spend a typical afternoon after school? Evening? Weekend?
    • What extracurricular activities have you found most satisfying?
    • What are your strengths? Weaknesses?
    • Do you have any heroes, contemporary or historical?
    • How would your best friend describe you?
    • If you could talk with any one living person, whom would it be and why?
    • How do you feel about: the nuclear freeze, nuclear power, use of drugs and alcohol, advertising, gun control, the election?
    • What events have been crucial in your life?
    • What is the most significant contribution you’ve made to your school or community?
    • What is the most important thing you have learned in high school?
  • Questions you might ask college representatives

    • What do you consider to be your strongest majors or departments: What are the most popular majors?
    • What are other distinctive majors or programs, or other programs, off-campus (i.e. study abroad, internships, Washington semester, etc.)?
    • What are your admissions criteria (i.e. how much weight is given to courses and grades, test scores, activities, essays, the interview, etc.?)
    • How many (# and %) freshmen return for the sophomore year?
    • What is your policy concerning the granting of credit and advanced standing for AP tests?
    • What are some of your "overlap" colleges (other institutions which your applicants also consider)?
    • Explain the freshman advising system.
    • What percentage of students live in campus housing? Describe the various types of residence halls.
    • What percentage of your students continue on to graduate or professional schools?
    • What do students do on weekends?
    • Do you have "no-need" or merit-based scholarships? What kind of student would be competitive for such scholarships?
    • Is it possible to return for an overnight visit on campus and/or visit classes? How are these arrangements made?
    • What role does the personal or alumni interview play in your admissions decisions?
    • How important are extracurricular activities in the admissions process? How important is community service?
    • Many people get to attend exciting summer programs and travel, but I have to work; will that work against me when I apply?
    • What is your financial aid policy? Do you package preferentially? Is there a chance that I will be admitted, but denied aid?
    • How are you able to distinguish between the variety of transcripts you see? How can you tell the difference in grading policies?
    • Do you make admissions decisions based on perceived level of interest, and how do you assess that? What kinds of things can I do to make sure you know the level of my interest?
    • If I am submitting tapes of my acting/music, is that allowed? Should they be sent to a specific professor to review first?
    • What’s the one thing students say they wish they knew about this college before they enrolled? 
  • The tough questions

    In an article in The New York Times a few years back, John F. Gummere, a former Headmaster of Penn Charter School and a trustee of Haverford College, suggested a number of questions that students should ask in assessing the strength of a college. Here is a summary of the questions Gummere feels seniors--and their counselors, for that matter--may want to consider asking during interviews. We’ve also added our thoughts to these questions.  
    • Atmosphere and morale. What percentage of last year’s freshman class was asked to leave or otherwise punished for disciplinary reasons? Effective student government, concerned deans, and attentive advisers should be able to keep this percentage very low.
    • Academic support systems. What percentage of last year’s freshman class encountered severe academic difficulty, that is, failed two or more courses? A large percentage here may well indicate that ineffective teaching is going on, and that academic counseling services are ineffectual.
    • The college experience in general. What percentage of the students graduate in five years? (Some schools encourage a semester off, so five years is a more reasonable measure today than four.) For smaller private schools you should expect a figure near 90% and be alarmed by figures much lower than 70%.
    • The appeal of the college to the public. What was the number of paid applications this past year? How does that compare with the previous five years? If the number of paid applications is high relative to the number of freshman places, the college is popular, that is, it has a high "selectivity index." Sharp variations in figures from year to year indicate the college’s public reputation is tenuous.
    • Quality of students who attend the college. What is the academic profile of typical freshmen? 
    • Diversity of the student body. What is the social composition of the freshman class? What is the breakdown of minority groups by percentages, the ratio of women to men, the number of foreign students, the geographical distribution of the freshman class?
    • Scholarship opportunities. What percentage of last year’s freshmen received some kind of financial aid? What percentage received direct grant aid from the college? What are the opportunities for merit scholarships? Are there special aid programs for minority groups, the very poor or the middle class? (Even students who do not intend to be candidates for financial aid should ask this question, for often the diversity of a student body is directly affected by the college’s commitment to aid its students.)
    • Financial health of the institution. How much has the endowment grown in the past five years? What special gifts have been received? What special programs have been funded? What is the percentage of alumni who contribute to the college in a given year? Very often you can make an accurate judgment about the respect accorded a college by the financial and business community by asking this question. By asking about alumni support, you can also judge their view of the current health of the college. An alumni giving rate of 50% is outstanding, so do not expect to be quoted figures above that.
    • Admissions selection process. It is acceptable to ask how admission decisions are made and who ultimately makes them. Is it a committee process? Do two or three people make the decision? You might ask the question this way: "Each school seems to review applications differently, I am wondering how you do so here?"
    • Academic atmosphere. Are there any first-year academic signature programs? How is first-year advising done? What’s the largest class I could have as a first year? The smallest?  
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