7 ways to have a productive interview

How to distinguish yourself in the interview

As application deadlines come and go, students keep looking for ways to distinguish themselves among the ever-growing applicant pool.  The interview is a great way to demonstrate your interest in a college and learn about a school from an informed individual.  Even if it is an interview with an alumni, an interview can be a very worthwhile experience.  For students who are interested in merit-aid opportunities, you can be sure that an interview will be required at some point in the scholarship selection process.

Luckily for students, the interview is something that can be mastered beforehand.  Even if you are a very shy student or your palms sweat at the thought of interviewing with an admissions counselor, these 7 tips will help you have a productive interview:

1) Have a list of 3-4 well thought out questions to ask the interviewer.

The one constant in the interview process for anything (college, scholarships, internships, or jobs) is when the interviewer says “do you have any questions?”  While the main reason for questions is to inform the interviewee, the underlying reason is to see if the interviewee can ask a few articulate questions on the spot.  The worst thing a prospective student can do is “uhhh…no.”  The second worst thing to do is to ask a question that has already been answered

2) Make eye contact

In the age of social media, Facebook, Twitter, and texting, some people do not know how to make eye contact with people.  In an interview, this is integral, because eye contact projects confidence.  Need practice making eye contact?  Try this exercise: try to make eye contact with 3 strangers and say hello everyday.  It will be awkward, but you will go into your interview better prepared.

3) Write a thank you note

Thank you notes are one of the glues of society.  People always appreciate a handwritten thank you notes.  Plus, this is a great habit to start for anything in your academic/professional life.  If the interviewer only gives you an e-mail address, it is also acceptable to send a thank you or follow up e-mail.

4) Dress business casual (at least)

You don’t need to wear a tux, but you are going to want to look sharp for your interview.  Business casual is the way to go.  This means slacks and a shirt for guys and a skirt for girls.  Most importantly, pay attention to detail.  Take your clothes to the dry cleaners if you need to to get them crisp and clean.  Dressing well also has the benefit of putting you in the right mindset for an important interview.  This is why it is also suggested to dress up for a phone interview.

5) Do a mock interview before

Get a friend, parent, sibling, etc. to do a mock interview for you beforehand.  It will do wonders to your confidence, because you have already done it.  After you do it with said person, ask them for some feedback.  Did you talk too fast? Were you tapping your foot? Did you have trouble pronouncing a word?  Someone else can help you catch these problems.  Even if you don’t have a person around to do it, practicing in front of a mirror works nearly as well.

6) Get a good night sleep before/eat a decent breakfast/lunch

A good night sleep will ensure that you are attentive and not nodding off while you interviewee discusses the merits of [insert university].  Eating before will allow you to focus on the task at hand–the interview–and not about how hungry you are.  Plus, it is pretty awkward for you stomach to be making all sorts of noises in the middle of the interview.

7) Remember, your interviewer knows you are in high school

This might seem a trifle obvious, but your interview is well aware that he/she is not talking to a colleague or a peer.  They are speaking to you as a prospective student.  Take this knowledge and let yourself relax–the interview will go much better this way.

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