The college interview can make or break one’s case for admission to highly selective colleges, right? If you read a bunch of articles online about the importance of the college interview, you might very well come away thinking that the interview is paramount to a student’s success in the admissions process. Not so much! Sure, if a student says something that’s racist or homophobic during an interview, that can absolutely torpedo his or her chances of admission (as it should!). If a student demonstrates that he or she has done the equivalent of zero research on the college in question, that can absolutely torpedo his or her chances of admission, too. But to suggest that the college interview is essentially make it or break it is inaccurate. Those admissions essays, grades, test scores, activities — now those are make it or break it.
Devaluing the College Interview
Ivy Coach appeared on “NPR’s” “AirTalk” today in a segment about the importance of the college alumni interview. The segment began with the most famous college interview ever — the Princeton interview with Tom Cruise’s character in “Risky Business” of course! That movie came out at a time when college interviews were conducted by admissions officers. Nowadays, very few colleges offer interviews with admissions officers as most interviews are conducted by alumni. As Brian Taylor of Ivy Coach expressed on “NPR,” this in itself is reflective of the fact that the interview has become less and less important over time in the highly selective college admissions process. As he articulates, the college alumni interview is as much to make alumni feel like they’re a part of the decision-making process as it is to gauge how the applicant will contribute to the university.
Now don’t get us wrong. Students should absolutely attend alumni interviews when interviews are offered. But there’s no reason to get all worked up about them. If students are going to get worked up about something, get worked up about that B+ in AP European History. Get worked up about that Why College essay that fails to cite specifics about the school and how the student is going to contribute to that school. Get worked up about presenting activities that showcase a singular hook rather than well-roundedness. But don’t get worked up about the interview. Prepare — certainly. And we help our students prepare. But keep calm and carry on.