How to Prepare Your Child for College Interviews

There are more stressful situations than a college interview. Like when your name is broadcast on the school intercom followed by the words, "Please report to the main office." Or the awkward silence of a phone line just before you summon the courage to ask, "Are you busy Saturday night?"

Fortunately, the reality of a college interview is a lot less scary than the hype. Interviews seldom make or break an applicant's chances for admission. Grades, standardized tests, essays and recommendations carry more weight. Interviewers are usually more intent on selling their college than evaluating you. (It might be different if they were the ones forking over $20,000 a year.)

Expect a little nervousness before your interview. It shows you care -- an endearing quality. If you tackle the problem head-on by saying, "I'm a little nervous," your interviewer is sure to be impressed. Most will try to help you break the ice. Part of their job is to learn about your personality and interests.

There is only one rule for successful interviewing: Be yourself. Don't try to play the role of high school big shot or future corporate lawyer. As a 17 year old, you're not supposed to have all the answers. Instead of telling the interviewer what you know, identify elements of the college -- faculty, programs or student body -- from which you hope to learn.

Most interviewers ask open-ended questions to allow applicants to direct the conversation. I recommend that students think about two or three subjects for an extended discussion -- an activity, a book, your high school, etc. Interviewers often use a topic like these to assess the depth of an applicant's thought. If you say that Huckleberry Finn is one of your favorite books, be prepared for 15 minutes on the relationship between Huck and Jim.

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