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Countdown to College: Make good impression at interview

What is the main objective of the interview from the college’s perspective? Most colleges would say that they are trying to find out if the candidate is a good fit. They want to know how interested you are and how you’ll contribute to their campus.

So beyond the obvious interview tips related to good grooming, appropriate attire and effective eye contact, there are lots of ways you can make a good impression.

• Bring your resume – make sure it specifically spells out your accomplishments. The resume, or “brag sheet,” details what you’ve been doing outside of school besides homework. It gives the interviewer a window into your interests and how you might get involved at that college. Bringing a resume may also provide you with the opportunity to talk about topics you’re familiar with and not be thrown off by probing, odd questions such as “If you were a kitchen utensil, what would you be?”

• Obey the Boy Scout motto and “be prepared.” Make a list of your talking points. What are the three or four items you want to make sure you mention?

• Conduct extensive research on the college. You should be able to list the most popular majors, name a few extracurricular activities that interest you, know what they’re known for (study abroad, internships, interdisciplinary majors, etc.). You should be able to demonstrate that you have completed a thoughtful college search and that you know why their college is a good fit for you.

• Make it a conversation. Sprinkle in questions for the interviewer so the dialogue becomes more than “question/answer, question/answer.” You might be surprised at how the mood changes once you’ve changed the tempo.

• Be confident. Of course it is nerve-wracking to be interviewed; however, how you deal with your nerves may shed some light on how you deal with other obstacles. College interviewers often say they are looking for students who they would want for a roommate. That means that it’s important to share your unique and maybe even quirky personality traits.

You want to stand out and distinguish yourself, but in an acceptable way.

Don’ts: Don’t tap your fingers or your feet, play with your phone (turn it off or on silent before you arrive), twirl your hair, slouch in the chair or get too comfortable.

Watch your language – beyond the obvious ban on profanity, avoid slang (“sweet,” “my bad,” “dude”), and stay away from stalling mechanisms such as “um,” “like” and “you know.”

Next week: Typical questions and how to respond.

Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte, N.C. For more information, visit