The Insider’s Guide to the College Interview

Admissions personnel, alumni, or students may interview prospective students as part of the admissions process.  The interview lets the college get to know the prospective student as a person, not just as a name with list of grades and scores.  As much as the interview is a tool for the college to see if they want an applicant and to woo them, it is an opportunity for an applicant to learn more about the college and see if they want to attend.  Two alumni interviewers provided the following advice.

George Gawrys, a former alumni interviewer for MIT recommends:
1.      Be ready to describe why you’d be a good choice for the school (what will you contribute to the student body besides your brains, grades, and SAT scores).
2.      Be ready to talk about what you’ll major in and why, even if you are not sure.
3.      Act like the school is your first choice, even if it’s not.
4.      Have important questions ready to ask about the school and its locale.  Do some research on the school and familiarize yourself with the departments, reputation, and even some of the faculty.
5.      Don’t be shy, but don’t be arrogant either.
Curt Schmidt, an alumni interviewer for Lehigh University, indicates that Lehigh interviews are considered informational and that most students from central New Jersey interview on-campus with a representative of the Admissions Department, because of Lehigh’s close proximity.  An interview with a local Lehigh alum can be arranged, upon request.  Curt shared the following advice for those interested in interviewing with an alum:
1.      Request an interview with an alum that has a similar major or career to the one you are considering.  Alumni can provide insight into the college placement and career counseling available.
2.      Stay relaxed and confident, and answer honestly. 
3.      Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.  I will have to think about that.”
If you accomplish the following four things at the admissions interview, it is likely to be a success:
1.      Demonstrate good interpersonal skills.
2.      Show that you are knowledgeable and strongly interested in attending the college.
3.      Share information about yourself and your interests that make you desirable to the college.
4.      Get answers to important questions you have about the college.
Please chime in and share your insights.  If you interview prospective students for a college, what advice would you give?  If you recently had a college interview, what do you wish someone had told you, before the interview?


MIT is unique in many ways.

There are almost as many women as men, which is unusual for a school where a large percentage of the students are studying engineering.

Freshmen are integrated with upperclassmen in the dorms. Each dorm has a faculty Housemaster who lives in the dorm. Freshmen move in and then are given an opportunity to change their housing assignment. Each of the dorms has its own personality. They have options I haven’t seen elsewhere. There are dorms where you can smoke, keep a cat, and paint your room any color you like. All freshmen don’t have to take a meal plan. It’s optional at certain dorms.

Majors are referred to by numbers. Classes are not listed as being 3 or 4 credits. They are listed with units, which is how many hours a student is expected to spend each week in and out of class. Students spend hours working collaboratively on p-sets (problem sets).

The first semester is Pass – No Record.

There are great pre-orientation and orientation programs. Pre-orientation lets you discover an area of study in a fun way, often with a trip. Perhaps you’d like to Discover Earth Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at Yellowstone on your pre-orientation trip.

There is a 4-week term in January called the Independent Activities Period (IAP). It is a time to try something new for credit or not for credit. Maybe you’ll want to participate in the Mystery Hunt. You can attend a lecture series, participate in a seminar, do independent research or just extend your winter break.

There are a large variety of educational opportunities. Many freshmen get involved in research. There are opportunities to work in groups on world problems and to do research abroad.

MIT overlooks the Charles River. It is close to the Red Line of the subway so you can travel around Cambridge and Boston easily.

To see another photo of MIT, check out the photo gallery on my Web site. If you’ve visited or attended MIT, share your experiences.