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Avoid These Top College Admissions Interview Mistakes

Acing a college admissions interview can be just what you need to give your application that extra boost. But having a bad interview can also harm your chances of being accepted.

Don’t fall into the latter category. The following are several of the top college admissions interview mistakes – and ways to avoid making them.

1. Showing immaturity: College is about learning to live independently, and your admissions interview is partially about proving that you are prepared to do just that.

The interviewers will not see you as self-sufficient if your parents are sitting nearby. If you depend on your parents for transportation or directions, identify alternative methods early so you can get to the interview on your own – a great way to kick off your independence.

Interviewers also won’t see you as responsible and ready for the next step in your education if you are dressed inappropriately. You don’t necessarily need to wear a suit, but stay away from outfits that are too informal, too revealing or make you look like you just rolled out of bed. Prepare a sharp outfit the day before to avoid scrambling before the interview.

[Watch out for common college application mistakes.]

2. Acting disrespectful or rude: Whether the interview is for your first choice or safety school, give the interviewer your full attention. Don’t check your cellphone, don’t check the time and don’t do anything else while you speak to the interviewer that could possibly be construed as rude or showing disrespect.

Set extra alarms, and check for uncontrollable circumstances, like traffic, beforehand to ensure you arrive on time. Turn your phone off or to silent before you walk into the interview and put it in your pocket so it’s out of sight. Give the interviewer a firm handshake and express your gratitude for the person’s time.

Purchase and fill out a thank-you card and envelope ahead of time so it’s ready to be sent following the interview. Imagine this is your dream university, regardless of the circumstances, and make the kind of positive impression you would wish everyone to have of you.

[Manage the college application process with these tips.]

3. Skipping school research: Put aside some time before your interview to research the school and prepare a few questions to ask at the end of the interview not only to show your interest in the school, but also toassess whether or not the college is the right fit for you. They should not be questions that can be easily answered by perusing the school’s website for just a few minutes. Asking a question that’s too simple can be just as bad as giving a blank stare.

Think hard about what factors in a university are truly important to you and what you would like to know come your first day on campus. Where do students like to hang out on campus? What are the campus events students look forward to the most? Now is the perfect time to find out.

4. Being shy: It’s difficult for an interviewer to get to know you if you don’t share enough information. And if you appear timid, it can leave the impression that you might have difficulty adjusting to new social settings in college and actively participating in class discussions.

Prepare a few general remarks or comments to help you get the conversation started and overcome your shyness. Easy-to-approach topics include the weather, recent local cultural or sporting events, the latest book you’ve read, interesting news headlines and the interviewer’s college experiences. For example, you might say, “I’ve been enjoying the unseasonably warm weather we’re having and getting in extra games of golf. How about you?”

Avoid political, spiritual or very personal topics. While injecting some humor into the conversation is welcome, skip any inappropriate jokes.

5. Going overboard with the bragging: While you shouldn’t be so humble that you don’t say anything positive about yourself when asked about your accomplishments, be careful not to go overboard. Going on for too long about how great you are and how many amazing things you’ve done can be off-putting. It’s OK to let some of what you’ve done speak for itself.

If certain achievements are really that incredible, the interviewer will show genuine interest and have follow-up questions, allowing you to expand on your experiences in a more natural way.

[Find ways to include jobs or hobbies in your college application.]

6. Rehearsing too much: Admissions interviewers are looking to get to know what you’re like as a person. Your interviewer will most likely be able to tell if you come in with numerous rehearsed, canned answers.

Have a general idea of the stories and examples you’d like to share that are memorable and demonstrate your unique qualities, then further craft your answers as the conversation evolves.

Bradford Holmes is a professional SAT and Latin tutor with Varsity Tutors. He earned his B.A. from Harvard University and his master’s degree from the University of Southern California.

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College admissions