Too often, when consulting a boarding school’s application process, I would hear the question, “What do I say on my interview?” Some prospective students who are particularly anxious will ask, “Is there anything I should say that will make the admissions officers like me more?” These two questions mentioned above are only two of the myriad of questions nervous teenagers ask me regarding the intimidating interview. In this post, I am going to give you my take on how to go about an interview.
1. No shame, no gain
When you are participating in an interview, make sure that you are being one hundred percent you. Do not shy away from sharing information about yourself that might seem “weird” or “strange”, because often times, those quirks are what makes you the “one and only.” I know this upcoming phrase is a total cliché, but be yourself.
Warning: When trying to mask your true self or acting inauthentically, you will be caught. Admissions officers are psychics; after seeing hundreds or even thousands of applicants a year, they will be able to tell whether a prospective student is being genuine or not.
2. Just because it worked for everybody else, doesn’t mean it will work for you.
There are many students who believe in the existence of a certain method for acing an interview. It is true that there are specific methods one can adopt to do well on tests or essays, but there are no concrete methods to acing an interview. I once overheard a friend of mine advise a potential student by telling them exactly what she said or did during her interview. The advised was then under the impression that if he imitated her, he would do very well on his interview. That perception of an interview is completely false. There are recipes for many things in life, but there is no recipe for a perfect interview. An interview’s Q&A format is supposed to be spontaneous, not rigid. As opposed to having conventional factors determine how you should conduct your interview, aim to have fluid conversations with the admissions officers. Once again, there is only one you, and therefore you need to go about things your way. Of course, the general guidelines apply: be polite, make eye contact, and be genuine. Aside from that, trust everything will happen for a reason—it’s all you can do.
3. Being nervous is normal.
Whenever entering into unknown territory, I always find myself extremely nervous. At first, I interpreted my anxiety as a result of a lack of experience or preparation. As many “firsts” piled upon each other, I realized that nerves are only normal when embarking on something new. Right before my interview, I remember my mom telling me, “don’t worry Elizabeth, it’s not a big deal.” In that moment, I tried to make myself agree with my mother, but looking back, calling an interview “not a big deal” is stupid (sorry mother.) Interviews are a crucial part of the admissions process, therefore, they are a very “big deal.” So considering how monumental an interview actually is, know that anxiety is the norm. Accept the pre-interview jitters, inhale then exhale, and know that you will survive.
4. Do not be afraid to digress or strike up conversations
When asked a question, don’t just answer it; use your answer as a jumpstart to other topics. Your teachers may tell you that digressions in a presentation or essay are bad, but in interviews, they are not. Obviously don’t stray completely away from the question, but your ability to relate your answers to larger events is something admissions officers look for. I remember a friend who walked out from an interview and said, “Elizabeth, all we did was talk about the Giants’ latest game, I’m screwed!” Want to know what happened? The officer personally emailed him to say how great of an interview that was and how much fun he had chatting with him. It is important to remember that being able to relate and converse with the person interviewing you shows great awareness and is also a way of having the school learn more about you.
Those are the major tips I have for you. If I have more, I will make sure to post them in a comment below. Hope they can help, and good luck!