Should you do an on-campus interview?

For seniors planning college visits this summer, you'll find that many schools offer an on-campus interview.  And while on-campus interviews are almost always optional, a lot of eager students jump at the chance for some face time with the admission officers (or are thrown into spending aforementioned face time by an eager parent).

So, should you do an on-campus interview? Here are few things to consider before you make that decision.

1.  Figure out if the interview is informative or evaluative. 

Informative interviews aren’t used for admissions evaluation purposes.  They’re just an opportunity for you to learn more about the school and ask questions of an admissions officer (or current student).  Here’s how Johns Hopkins describes their informative interviews:

"Interviews typically address your academic background, goals, interests, and what you would contribute to the campus community. More informative than evaluative, these conversations will also allow you time to ask questions of your interviewer and learn about his/her Johns Hopkins experience."  Full text is here

Evaluative interviews, on the other hand, mean that what you say can and will be used to judge you in the court of admissions. Yale offers evaluative on-campus interviews:

"An interview is not a required part of the application process, but we encourage you to meet and talk with a Yale alumnus/a or student interviewer when possible. An interview will let you learn more about Yale and have a further chance to share information about yourself. All Yale interviews, both those with alumni and those with current Yale seniors, are evaluative. We read interview reports along with all your other application materials."  Full text is here.

2.  Ask yourself if you really want to interview.

You should never interview just because it’s offered.  Interview if it's something you want to do.

An informative interview can be a great way to learn more about a school you’re really interested in.  But it can also be a great way to torture an admissions officer when you don’t know much about the school, can’t think of anything you want to know about, or just aren’t all that interested.  If you’d be excited to learn more about the school from someone who can really answer your questions, great.  But don’t do one just because you think you should.

And just because an interview is evaluative doesn’t mean that every interested student should do one.  To have a good interview, you need to have something to say.  You need to be comfortable having a relaxed conversation, telling someone more about yourself, and asking questions to which you sincerely want to know the answers.  If you don’t think you can do those things, don’t beat yourself up.  That’s why interviews are optional—they’re not a good idea for everyone.  And it’s better to have no interview than to have a bad one.

Of course, if you have questions about interviews that aren’t answered on the college’s website, don’t be afraid to ask.  Most admissions officers are happy to answer those questions when you’ve already taken the time to read what they’ve shared for you on the website.