Tagged: college interviews

What Are Mistakes Students Make In College Interviews

Tom Stagliano
Tom Stagliano, MIT Volunteer, interviewed freshmen for admissions
There are two basic mistakes made by the students:

First, the Student is supposed to schedule the interview. When the student contacts the interviewer, they have to realize that the interviewer is a volunteer with lots of other commitments. The student should know by the start of senior year in high school which colleges she/he will be applying to and which ones require an interview. They should schedule that interview as early as possible. This past Fall, I conducted four interviews and each applicant contacted me on the last day possible (per the college’s web site). Two for Early Action and two for regular admission.

That will be noted in the interview report. If you can’t budget your schedule well when informed of deadlines at least six weeks in advance, then how can you budget an intensive college life?

Second, the applicant should come to the interview with two purposes in mind:
The ability to tell the interviewer what the applicant does other than study and other than academic subjects. That is what the interview is all about. The interviewer does not care about your grades, nor scores, nor how many AP classes you take. The interviewer wants to know what else you do. Fifty percent of the applicants to most top colleges could do the work and graduate in four years. However, the college can only accept one of every seven of that 50%. Where you distinguish yourself is in that interview.

Have questions to ask. The interviewer is there to answer questions about the college. In my case the interview should be conducted before you finish the online application. You may learn something from the interview that will guide you better in filling out the application.

The applicant’s appearance should be neat and appropriate, like for a job interview. However, a tie is not required for the male applicants.

In my case, it is (roughly) a 90 minute two-way discussion, and you should make the time fly through your conversational abilities.

Relax, and enjoy the interview process. The interviewer loves her/his college and loves to interview otherwise they would not being doing the interviews. Take advantage of that.

NOTE: I give “extra brownie points” to an applicant who has done her/his homework and looked up information on me, and works that into the interview. It shows initiative. After all, I was an undergraduate at that college and many of my avocations were cultivated there.

If you contact me I’ll give you my interview prep guide.  stephanie@accessguidance.com or 610-212-6679


College Interview: Why Should We Choose You?

Scott Mattox

I am an ivy league graduate and have been an alumni interviewer for over 15 years. I ask this question, in various forms, to all my applicants. Having heard hundreds of replies to this question let me first address how not to answer the question. All of the following are actual responses I have gotten over the years.

  1. Do not say I am “hard working, conscientious” etc. This is by far the most common answer. Virtually all applicants are academically successful, and this answer will not serve to differentiate you from them.
  2. Do not say you are a “good person” etc. Self analysis of personality traits is always suspect, and in reference to number 1, I would assume all applicants think that they are good people.
  3. Do not say “I will make the University famous and enhance their reputation.” This is actually a fairly common reply. While in some cases this may ultimately prove to be correct, by no means can anyone reliably predict this outcome. Also while some element of self confidence is good, this type of response borders on arrogance.

The ivies, and likely most elite schools want to have a diversified class. This does NOT mean that they want of lot of diversified students, rather they want students that are exceptional in many different areas. For example they would much rather have someone who excels in one area e.g. : number one tennis player in their state, national science fair winner, or nationally renowned violinist, rather than someone who has all A’s, plays on a few varsity teams, and was in the chorus. Also please know that your interviewer has heard hundreds of answers and can recognize “bullshit” even before it has completely left your mouth. Above all be honest!! Choose an area that you are accomplished in and try to show how the Universities resources can help you achieve a particular goal in this field. The following a some examples of the more successful answers I have received: One applicant started his own successful software company in high school, and was familiar with the University’s strengths in this area and gave specific examples of the courses he would take to further his career goals. Another student started a charity to support a particular school in the caribbean. Her interest was in third world economics, and she was able to show how her acceptance would allow her to work with certain professors to make a difference in this world.

In short, you need to find an area in which you excel, and then show how this University has unique resources to help you achieve specific goals related to this area. If you are honest, the interviewer will see how your acceptance will be mutally beneficial.

Students, this is also how you should answer the question “Why do you want to go here?”  Lets talk about how to show your exceptionality in an interview and on your applications.  stephanie@accessguidance.com or 610-212-6679

5 Tips For Interview Prep

The best way to have calm nerves when facing an interview is to begin preparing before you get the call.  These 5 are proven and professional.

1. Like a politician, have your talking points ready.  Know your strengths as they relate to the position and your ability to do the job.  Have anecdotes  prepared that show your past performance at these tasks.

2. Your talking points are stories and anecdotes that show your past successes and ability to meet the needs of the role you are interviewing for.  At a college interview  you will show how you will add to the campus culture through your interests and high school experiences.

3, Know who the interviewers will be.  Google them to find commonalities that will make them more familiar and give you points for small talk at the beginning of the interview.  For students, learn if the interviewer is a graduate of the college and prepare a couple of questions to ask about that experience.

4. Know before you go.  The more you know about the role, company and industry the better prepared you will be and the more confident you will feel.  The job-and the college admission-go to the one who can demonstrate their fit.  The only way to do that is to know more than the other candidates!

5. Follow your answer with questions that give the interviewer the opportunity to explain more about the job or company.  Good questions are “What are your top priorities for the person you hire?” or “What do you think first year students should prioritize during the first few weeks on campus?”  You will appear savvy and make the interview more conversational.  A definite stress-buster!

It doesn’t hurt to write down some of the questions you think the interviewer will ask and practice with someone asking them.  Practice getting the information you want the interviewer to know into your conversation to avoid the head-slapping realization that you missed opportunities to sell your best qualities.

I’m ready to practice with you and have dozens of questions we can prep.  Stephanie@accessguidance.com or 610-212-6679


Tell Me About Yourself: Say This, Not That

One of the most frequently used opening questions in an interview is “Tell me about interview-panelyourself”?  It may sound like an invitation to explain how the nuns wacked your left hand so you would learn to write with your right one, but the interviewer has  a more limited objective in asking.

“Tell me” is an invitation to jump right in and explain how you are the perfect person for the job.  Since you have already researched the company, interviewer and the particulars of the position, you will be able to pair the requirements with your experience, knowledge and accomplishments for the most important items on the company’s list.

Focus on illustrating how you will add value in this role.   Use numbers whenever possible:

-Managed an office serving 200 customers per day

-Controlled a budget of $1million

-Cut costs by 20%

-Reduced time from concept to product by 15% by removing redundancies

-Increased output by 10% by cross-training workers

Next, mention your strengths such as motivating the team, time and resource management, or attention to detail.

Then add your knowledge of software, specific programs, or certifications pertinent to this job.

It sounds like a lot of information to get across but keep your answer as brief as possible and to the point.  Your response should take 2-3 minutes.

But isn’t this info on your resume?  Yes, it is but in back-to-back interviews its possible that your resume won’t be reviewed just before you walk in the door.  The written document will have detail and expand on your oral statement.

Craft your response before the interview and practice so that you look polished and professional in the interview.

For College Interviews

Practice is still your best asset in an interview.  Focus on what attracts you to this college and how the college will help you reach a goal.  Talk about something that isn’t on the application or isn’t detailed.  Do you take dance classes, practice yoga, are you becoming certified to teach martial arts?  College admissions folks love to hear about your passions, hobbies and interests!

interview-recording-717291_640Interview prep can make the difference between a so-so experience and a great, over-the-top interview.  I’d love to brainstorm answers to interview questions, practice with you and provide feedback.  stephanie@accessguidance.com or 610-212-6679




Use This To Keep Your Foot In The Door: A Thank You Letter


So you’ve had an interview for an internship or a job and you believe that the interviewer

Learn To Write Thank You Letters!
Learn To Write Thank You Letters!

is interested in you.  Maybe you’ve had an interview with a college admissions representative. How do you re-inforce the good impression you’ve made?

Writing a thank you within 24 hours lets the interviewer know that you are interested in the job (or college) and excited about the opportunity to work for this company (attend the university).  Its OK to send the note via email or on  a professional looking note card or stationery through the postal service.

The key to writing a great thank you is to forget everything you write on Twitter and in texts.  No abbreviations or emojis.  Ever!  This a a formal piece of writing and give it the respect and time it deserves.

Employment/internship interview

Email subject line:  Thank you for the interview

Salutation: Dear Mr. Thomas, or Dear Dr. Thomas,

First paragraph: Thank the interviewer for including you in the interview.  Show appreciation for something specific you learned on the company tour or from the interviewer about the company.  You can mention that you learned that the interviewer shares  an interest or hobby of yours.

Second paragraph: If appropriate, mention a problem the company faces and an idea for meeting the challenge. Ex  “You mentioned that you are looking for a way to connect with younger customers.  Have you considered purchasing ad space in the sports and drama programs of local high schools?”

Third paragraph, reiterate your interest in the company and in this specific position. Restate your qualifications that match with the job’s, restate your personal qualities that match the company culture.

Fourth paragraph, ask when you can expect to hear about the next round of interviews or when the next decision on who to hire will be taken.

Sign off using  Sincerely, or Best Regards, followed by a comma and put your name on the next line  If this is not an email sign your name, don’t type it.

If you have been interviewed by a committee, everyone on the committee should receive a thank you. They should be similar but not identical  Try to mention something that each recipient said during the interview.  Send them all at about the same time.

College Interview


Subject line: Thank you for the interview

If you have just had an interview for college admission you can be less formal.  Its Ok to say “Hello,” instead of Dear So-and-So.   You should thank them for the opportunity to talk to them about X College and be sure to mention something you learned that interests or excites you  You can ask a follow up question or ask for clarification.

In the next paragraph say that you are looking forward to applying and hope to receive a letter of acceptance.

If, by chance, what you learned changed your mind about applying, in the body paragraph say that the interviewer gave you great information about X College and that you now see that you and the college are not a fit.  Why would you write a thank you letter if you aren’t interested?  You send the letter because it is the proper, mature and professional thing to do.  You will get practice in letter writing and gain confidence that you can handle uncomfortable situations.

Sign off using Sincerely,  and sign below.

Over the course of your professional life you will have many occasions to write letters.  Practice now writing a short, direct, thank you that helps you make a connection to other professionals.  You never know when the person who interviewed you will pop up in your life again and remember that you made the effort to connect through a thank you note.

This Says It All
This Says It All

College Interviews: How to Answer and What to Ask


Any interview is apt to provoke nail biting and college Q and A sessions even more so.  For most high school students, it will be the first of many interviews so lets dive in and start the prep.

Its unlikely that you will totally blow a college interview but having thought about what you want them to know about you will calm your nerves.

Research the college so you can speak/ask knowledgeably.

Have a few anecdotes in mind to use.

Remember you can always say “I’m not sure” or ” I need to think about that for a moment” before you answer.

Carleton College
Carleton College

Interview prep includes additional questions and answers, practice with constructive feedback, and relaxation techniques.  Make an appointment today!

stephanie@accessguidance.com or 610-212-6679

How Should You Prepare For a College Interview?

College interviews are required by  some and strongly advised by others.  Preparation for contact with the person who may make the decision to accept your application.

Begin with a thorough investigation of the college website for insight into their mission, strengths and offerings.  While you’re looking, consider what you might want to explore or find out more about in an interview.  If the answers aren’t readily available on line,  write questions for the interviewer on these items.

It isn’t possible to predice what the interviewer will want to know but there are some questions that are frequently asked.  Take time to prepare answers, keeping in mind what you learned on their website.

1.  Think about 5 things you want the interviewer to know about you. Work these into a response to “Tell me about yourself”.

2. Compile a list of 5 things the college you ultimately choose must have.   Use the ones that help answer “Why do you want to attend this college”.

3. How do you spend your time when not in school or doing school work?  Do you prefer structured activities or unstructured?

4. Identify are your strengths as a student.

5. Be prepared to discuss an academic paper or project you are proud of.

At the end of the interview,  thank the person you’ve spoken to.  When you get home send a thank -you email, or even better, mail a had written note of appreciation.

Making a personal contact at a college you’d like to attend is a great way to show your commitment.