Interviews. Just the mention of the word often unleashes student anxiety.

In July, I ran a number of mock interviews with students who really wanted to be on top of their game when going to visit campuses and meet admissions officials. 

At first, my student Sam was confused. "My friend did her college interviews with people who graduated from the colleges -- and they met at Starbucks."

"Yeah," I explained. "They do those, too."

"So we have to interview multiple times with the colleges?"

I explained that we were using the term "interview" fairly broadly. There are a lot of different opportunities to connect in person with representatives from colleges; some of those are informal conversations, and others are formal sit-downs. Taking a few minutes to introduce yourself to an admissions counselor is usually a fairly relaxed experience. 

But it doesn't mean that those exchanges matter any less. You want to have your thoughts together. You want to be articulate, engaging. You want to be ready to show your true colors, to present yourself in a polished way, and to highlight the experiences and attributes that will make you a welcomed member of any campus community.

All it takes is some forethought and a little practice. Here's how.

Prepare the key points that you want to share by brainstorming your answers to the questions below. Then give the list of questions to a friend. Have that person ask questions at random and then follow them up with their own clarifying questions. 

Use specific examples to support your answers, and remember that when you're headed to speak with an actual college representative, carefully review your research to demonstrate that you've done your homework on that particular school. (In other words, make sure you have a detailed answer for "Why us?")

  1. Where do you think your academic strengths lie?
  2. What did you do this past summer?
  3. What do you hope to do after graduation?
  4. What is your biggest weakness?
  5. What would you do if you had a free day?
  6. If you could change one thing about your high school, what would it be?
  7. What do you do for fun?
  8. What books have had a significant impact on you? What have you read recently?
  9. What individual (dead or alive, historical or fictional) has had the most influence on you and why?
  10. How do you define success? What needs to happen for you to feel successful?
  11. How do you respond to failure or rejection?
  12. What do you hope to get out of your college experience?