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Ivy Interviews

I’m writing this approximately 10 minutes after my interview with Yale.
I’m not here to vent or talk about how supposedly my chances of getting into said college have immensely increased *bragbragbrag* (not true by the way)
I’m just here to share my interview experience so that others can feel a bit better when they get that foreboding email in their inbox.

To give a bit of background, tonight’s interview with Yale was not my first. In fact, it was my last.
Over the past few months, I’ve had alumni interviews with 7 different colleges (including Yale). Although that sounds tedious and rather nerve-racking for those who cringe at the word “interview,” I’d like to say the contrary. It was actually an enlightening experience and one I would gladly repeat if more of my college alums offered interviews to me.

Don’t let what I said above mislead you. I am by no means an extroverted or charismatic person. I’ve never seen myself as an “extraordinary” person or one in a million, and, like many other seniors, I was terrified of interviews.

My very first interview was in November, and it seemed quite intimidating. I was going to my first college interview and with MIT no less (yes I’m aware it’s not an Ivy).
Being a newbie at any interviewing process, I was worried over how I looked, what I sounded like, and how I answered. I remember waiting in the cafe 10 minutes beforehand worrying if this would gravely effect my chances or if I could even find my interviewer.

However, over the course of my 1 hour interview I relaxed. I was surprised by how straightforward many of the questions were. My interviewer was by no means intimidating — in fact she was a pregnant grad student and about an inch shorter than me. I was able to just talk about my academic achievements and hobbies in a relaxed manner. By the end of the interview I felt a bit relieved: it was much better than I thought it would be.

I approached the next 6 interviews differently. In fact, looking back, I could have done better on my MIT interview. Why? Well:

Luckily for me, that was only Early Action interview: all my other interviews were for regular decision, meaning I had a few more months before fretting about those. So, I got all of my Regular decision apps done and then checked my inbox everyday.

Then, in early January, I was contacted by my 2nd and 3rd college back to back: Princeton and Brown. Though I had the experience of one interview under my belt, I was still very nervous. I looked on all sorts of websites on what questions they ask and what to expect only to realize the answers were either all the same or all varied. Some people told of the typical college interview questions while others told of their eccentric interviewers who asked random questions (like the cube of 7. Not joking).

From what I found I realized that I didn’t need to study. A few months of college essay writing had gotten me well acquainted with my goals, accomplishments, extracurricular actives and all other things an interview has. Any others that I couldn’t anticipate should be answered naturally: with an unscripted answer.

So, I didn’t prepare anything.

And it was a success.

I was still nervous — the interview was still a rather new thing for me — but I didn’t have to think “oh don’t forget to ask that question” or “I need to remember to mention this or that.” There was no extra thinking of overanalyzing the situation. Since they were all casual alum interviews, I treated it like I have having a conversation (a more formal one, granted).

I ended up feeling more confident about my answers. They were spontaneous, but genuine. I didn’t need to pretend I happened to think of something because I did. As a result, I had fun: I told a few jokes and had some laughs with my interviewers.

My Brown interview was a particularly great success. We started going on tangents about idealism in the local area as well as stereotyping and ideas about education’s value. The whole thing was very free-spirited and open. It was not even close to a Q&A session as one might imagine an interview to be.

In fact, I got so close to my Brown interviewer that I started emailing her rather regularly. We chat about random things and recently she has even offered to critique a scholarship essay of mine.

In the end, all of my interviews ended up this way.
I did not prepare anything other than inherent enthusiasm for the college.
There was really nothing to prepare.
I did this all til the very last minute of my Yale interview.

Which by the way, was in a similar format (for those of you interested):

I went to my interviewer’s house and we had a nice 30 minute chat.
He had no questions prepared and no information about me. Instead, we spent time talking about what I thought of the local area, what my interests are, what subjects I’m currently taking, what I feel is an “ideal day,” what I feel college will be like, and if I’ve been to New Haven before. (oh and of course questions!)

I guess what I’m trying to emphasis is that everybody makes it sound so formal and important when in reality it isn’t.

You’re having a conversation with someone who really loves the school you’re applying to. They’re not there to judge you, in fact they really can’t do much. Most don’t get any prior information about you. You’re application is finished and the most their interview write-up is add any further things you left out or can’t be expressed on paper about you that could possibly help in the tiniest way.

As my Brown interviewer said, unless I managed to burn her house down, there’s really nothing in her write-up alone that could possibility prevent me from getting in.

So, future or current interviewees, fear not the alumni interviews.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a backup school or an Ivy leaguer.

What’s most important in college interviews is:

1) Feeling comfortable just talking about things
2) Asking questions when you feel interested, but do not feel required to (I asked a lot because I wondered a lot)
3) Don’t over-prepare or stress out. It’ll probably show more than you want to
4) Have fun. Part of it is for you to get to know the school as well. (And trust me: these guys love talking about their experiences)

Oh and for those of you who have arranged an interview but are wondering “how am I going to recognize someone I’ve never seen before” don’t worry about it: you’ll meet them, no problem

It helps that you two are probably the only ones darting their heads back and forth.

It all works out.

Good luck everyone and remember, no matter where you end up it’s the college experience you’re applying for, and that’s something that no college interview can change. 

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