Colleges focus on grades and test scores, of course, but you are more than just a number -- your essays, recommendations, and extracurricular activities give them a glimpse of who you are. And then there's the interview. It may sound daunting, but an in-person meeting is a much more personal way of letting a school get to know you.
One of the first things I did before every interview was more research on the school. All of my interviewers asked the same question -- "Why this school?" -- so this came in handy because I was able to reference specific programs and activities that interested me. I also made a list of things -- at least three -- that I didn't want to leave the interview without talking about. These talking points have to be significant to your life and demonstrate your personality and what is important to you. One of mine was that I write this blog for The Huffington Post; it's something not every high school student does, and it is a major aspect of my life. I also talked about Minds Matter and Summer Search, the two mentoring programs I participate in, and the other extracurricular activities I do.
My first interview, with a Harvard alum, was unforgettable. His secretary set up the interview for a Monday. A week before we were to meet, the alum called me very displeased. Apparently I had missed my interview, and we had to reschedule. I was freaking out. I could have sworn that we were meeting the following week. I had even put a reminder on my phone. It turns out I did have the right date and time, and we were able to clear everything up, but this first interaction with my interviewer made me even more nervous on the day we met. He works in a fancy, very impressive office; as I sat in a conference room waiting for him, I was relaxed, looking out the window at a spectacular view of Boston. But as soon as he stepped in, my heart rate increased. I felt like an actor who had forgotten her lines on stage. We introduced ourselves and the interview began. As nervous as I was, when he asked me about myself, the words just came tumbling out. Soon, my heart rate and my apprehension settled.
My second interview was with a Georgetown alum, and it was by far my best one. She and I were both interested in travel and the environment, we had similar home lives, we preferred reading actual books to a Kindle... it was amazing. By the end of the interview, she said she felt she'd met a kindred soul in me, and I was ecstatic because I felt the same way. My next interview was with a Columbia alum. Our conversation revolved around books, debate, politics, and Columbia life. My final interview was with a Brown University alum, who, in a surprising coincidence that we discovered when we were scheduling our meeting, is a co-worker of my Minds Matter mentor. We met at coffee shop, and she was the first interviewer to buy me a drink, which really put me at ease. (She explained that an interviewer of hers had once done this for her.) We talked about my dream of traveling around the world, my work as a tech assistant on my school's plays, and why I want to go to Brown, among other things.
Overall, I think my interviews went smoothly because I treated them like regular conversations and went with the flow. You just have to remember to be yourself -- you're not rehearsing for a play, after all! As well as things went for me, though, I have to admit that I am now thoroughly exhausted with the interview process!