How Important is the College Interview? A Guide for International Students

These interviews are not rated by the interviewer, but they are evaluated within an admissions office. Because the interview is recorded, admissions officers are able to refer to the video at different parts of the review process (i.e., during the first read, in conversation with their colleagues, pulling up a clip during committee).

These interviews do cost a fee (check for up-to-date pricing), but it is an all-you-can-send model. Pay for one interview and send it to as many schools as you wish. InitialView provides fee waivers, so do not hesitate to email us to ask (or to email the admissions office you are hoping to send your interview to).

Should I still request an alumni interview or interview with a specific admissions rep? 

If you are interested in the school, then by all means, yes. School-specific interviews are few and far between, so if you have the opportunity, take it! As Ethan has mentioned before, just doing an interview can count for something. You’ll just want to approach these interviews a little differently. Namely, do your research about the institution. Take the time to ask yourself before the interview “Why [INSERT SCHOOL NAME]?”. Refer to Step 3 in Preparing For A College Interview: A Three-Step Process.

What about the 2-minute video introduction/profile that some schools ask for?

Inserting your voice anywhere you can in the application process is important. Definitely take the time to record yourself if that option is provided. Do not regurgitate what you’ve already said in the rest of your application (i.e., do not feel the need to list your achievements or resume), but think about what you can add to your story in your authentic voice.

While video profiles do indeed give admissions officers a glimpse of who you are and an opportunity to “meet” you, they barely scratch the surface, particularly for an international applicant. International applicant stories are particularly important to admissions readers as they may not be as familiar with your curriculum, or they might not fully understand the different types of awards, activities, organizations, and classes you’ve been a part of. When admissions officers read your file, they are looking for your story. The interview is an opportunity for you to tie the pieces of your story together.

“As we’re watching an InitialView interview, we’re listening to the stories. It’s a great tool to better understand the humanity of the student.” – Boston College

Preparing for the Soft Skills You Need for the Interview…and for Life!

The wonderful thing about preparing for a college interview is that the skills you are developing are skills you will use in real life. You will be interviewing as soon as you arrive on a college campus—to be a part of a school club, for a research opportunity, for an internship, etc.

Before you worry about how to maximize the time you have with an interviewer, pause and reflect. It’s hard to tell your story unless you know your story. Spend time reading this post. Ethan and Monica lay out some great strategies and exercises for getting at the heart of your how and why.

“As institutions that are looking for the way you go about your work rather than just your academic and professional achievements, the interview is often times a very helpful part of the application.” – Johns Hopkins University

Everyone should be able to answer a first-tier question. What is your favorite subject? How do you spend your time? What is something you are proud of? It’s the second-tier question that will set you apart from another. This is why the exercises Ethan lays out are so important. How do you connect the question to what is important to you? Are you able to go deeper than the face value answer to the question. Predict the follow-up question by asking yourself “so what?” You only have a short time to make an impression, so don’t waste it! Make what you are saying interesting and relatable so that the interviewer wants to know more.

As with many other things, deliberate practice is key. And in the case of an interview, it means having a lot of intentional conversations. An interview isn’t a time to just regurgitate what you’ve written down. It’s a chance for you to be interactive, for you to react, for you to bring someone into your story.

What does this look like? After you’ve developed your message box, throw your pieces of paper away. Find a friend, a teacher, a parent, a friend of a parent, and have a conversation with them. In fact, get them to record the conversation (on Zoom or just with the camera on your phone). Watch the conversation and ask for feedback.

“The interview got me thinking and reflecting even after it was over.” – Aaryaa, student from India

As you continue having conversations, you’ll find that most people want to know similar core things about you. The key is recognizing how different questions can lead to the answers that are most important to you. Ask the people you are talking to if they were able to track what you were sharing. Ask them what impressed them. Ask them what else they wish you shared. Take notes and try again. Don’t be afraid to watch your video. You will be your worst critic, but you will also be able to pinpoint aspects of your conversation that are easily improved.

Some of my favorite moments in interviews I’ve conducted or watched are the most raw and organic moments. When a student pauses to ask a clarifying question or when a student laughs at themselves – those are the moments where I feel like I’m really getting to know the student. I’m able to imagine them in a classroom, in a meeting, or on a campus.

At the end of the day, what admissions officers want are individuals who are willing to take their thoughts and ideas and engage in a contributory way. It’s the interactive piece – the sharing of ideas and experiences – that makes an interview compelling.

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Here’s an unfortunate truth about the pressures upon admissions offices: If you’re applying to a selective school, admissions officers want your application—but they don’t necessarily want to accept you. Maintaining selectivity is one way admissions offices please their bosses in the president’s office.

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