THE BLOG
08/20/2013 02:07 pm ET | Updated Oct 20, 2013

How to Succeed in an Admissions Interview

Many colleges and universities offer admissions interviews with either admissions staff or alumni in order to get to know prospective students. This is your chance to not only discover how well you might fit into a certain college's environment, but also to present yourself as an ideal candidate for acceptance. Below are some tips to guide you through the admissions interview process:

1. Dress to impress
Showing up to the admissions office in jeans and a t-shirt would be a rookie mistake. It tells your interviewer that you're not serious. Your appearance is the first thing your interviewer will see, so you should arrive in clean-cut, business attire. Dress pants and perhaps a sport jacket are appropriate for men, while girls may opt for a business-casual dress or a nice skirt and professional blouse. Comb your hair, polish your shoes and let your interviewer's first impression of you be one that highlights your confident, mature, and serious nature.

2. Have a firm handshake and look your interviewer in the eye when introducing yourself
Colleges want strong leaders on their campuses. When a candidate fails to make eye contact or offer a handshake, their self-confidence and leadership abilities are immediately called into question. Stand up straight when your interviewer enters the room, introduce yourself and maintain eye contact while shaking hands with him or her.

3. Don't be too humble
Your interviewer may have your resume in your file, but that doesn't mean you should skip over discussing your accomplishments and passions. Glossing over the fact that you are the Editor-in-Chief of your high school's newspaper or have earned straight A's for the past four semesters paints you as disengaged from your activities and academics. While interviewers don't want to hear you directly brag about your single-handed feats and self-driven greatness, they do want to hear about your involvement in more detail than what is just on your resume. Highlight how your personality makes you an excellent team player or how you use your superior math skills to help other students during class. Don't be ashamed to talk about your accomplishments -- this is the place to do it!

4. Answer your interviewer's questions in detail
When asked what your favorite academic subject is, don't respond with just, "math." In fact, avoid one-word answers at all costs. Interviewers want to make sure that you can articulate your position on ideas, even if the idea is as mundane as your favorite class. Being able to both answer the immediate question and additionally explain the reasoning behind it is crucial to showing interviewers that you have solid critical thinking skills, as well as the ability to adequately express your opinions.

5. Send a thank-you note
After an interview, it's always courteous to thank your interviewer for their time. Send a hand-written thank-you note (not an email!) to the school's admissions office. Make sure to get this thank-you out within two days of your interview. A hand-written card shows your continued and genuine interest in the school as well as your attention to detail. The interviewer is also more likely to remember you! In the body of the thank-you note, mention something specific from your interview and thank the interviewer for taking the time to tell you more about the school.

Admissions interviews can be great opportunities for you to paint the complete picture of yourself for admissions committees. Make sure to look your best, answer questions fully, and remain confident throughout the entire interview. Your goal is to have your interviewer leaving the room thinking, "Wow, that student would be prefect for this school."