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How to ace your (virtual) college application interview

Updated: Feb 22

The college application interview can be tricky, nerve-inducing, or both — add a global pandemic to the mix, and things get even more confusing! While interviewing virtually is similar to interviewing in-person, there are some things you should know about the virtual interview before starting. As someone who has been through countless virtual interviews, I am here to share a few tips to help ensure your virtual interview is a success!

Know what you’re getting into.

Do your research: Does your college offer interviews with admissions officers, alumni, or someone else? Are they holding interviews this year? Will they be held before or after application submission? Do you sign up for an interview or should you wait for a potential invitation? Which virtual platform will they use? If you can, familiarize yourself with the basic functions of the platform. 

Most college interviews are similar at heart: They won’t make or break your application, but they should give you insight into the university and give your interviewer insight into you as an applicant. Interviews are used to gauge your fit and interest, and to weed out anyone who’s not a fit for the school. If you don’t click with your interviewer, or if you feel like the conversation is awkward, it’s by no means the end of the road. The important part comes from showing up prepared and having a good attitude. 

(Physically) set yourself up for success.

Your background environment will subconsciously affect both you and your interviewer. Throw out your trash, declutter your desk, and make your bed. You don’t want to give off the impression that you’d be a safety hazard living in the school dorms. If you have a controversial poster hanging up, consider taking it down. The focus of the interview should be on you, not something in your background that might raise a red flag. 

A location with ample natural light may boost your mood. Make sure the light is coming from behind the camera, not from behind your head, or else your face will look dark and shadowy to the interviewer.

Let the people you live with know beforehand that you have an interview coming up. That way, they’ll know not to go in and out of your room or make a significant amount of noise. 

What should you wear? The question of the century. There’s absolutely no need to roll up in a three-piece suit, unless that’s an integral part of who you are. Err on the side of “nicer,” but do understand that the college interview is casual at heart. You want to feel confident and comfortable in how you present yourself, but similar to your poster art, make sure you aren’t distracting anyone with your clothing choice.

Don’t stress about making it perfect.

Like I said, your college interview will not make or break your application. It’s meant to be a casual assessment of who you are, your interests, your potential involvement on campus, etc. You want your interviewer to come away from the call being able to visualize you as a successful, vibrant, engaged student at the university. You won’t be able to achieve that if you go into the call acting uptight or robotic.

Things don’t always go according to plan. Even if you warn your family ahead of time, your mom might barge into your room mid-interview. Your Internet connection may wobble. Perhaps your neighbor decides now is the perfect time to mow the lawn. Take a deep breath. Instead of lashing out or reacting harshly to these external distractors, take it as an opportunity to prove your adaptability. After all, college will be full of bumps too. And that’s what makes it fun!

The standard advice of asking questions, being friendly, and coming prepared all ring true regardless of interview platform. I hope these tips provided some perspective and made you feel more ready to tackle your interviews. You got this!

Did you know College Torch offers mock interviews to its students?

Want to make sure you have a strong college plan and don't miss any of the important milestones? Download my completely free College Admission Timeline below!

Robert Powers (M.A. Johns Hopkins) is the college consultant at College Torch. He is an expert in colleges and the college admissions process. Parents are able to join his private Facebook group for Parents of College-Bound Students.

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