Unconventional college interview advice

As I’ve written many times, college interviews are much more conversations than interviews. An interview is one person firing questions at you, waiting for you to answer, then responding with a new question. But college interviewers use questions as a way to not just learn about you, but also get a conversation started. Where it goes from there depends on your answers, your ability to engage, and whether or not you both find some common ground. Put bluntly, a college interview is your chance to prove that you can have a relaxed, mature, interesting conversation with an adult.

So if you want to prepare for your college interviews, don’t rehearse answers. Don’t ask a counselor to do a mock interview so you can practice perfect responses. Instead, find a way to sit with an adult that you don’t know well and actually have a conversation.

One way would be to have your parents connect you with a friend or colleague who would be willing to pitch in and help. But an even better way would be to approach adults and ask on your own. I don’t recommend that you do this with strangers. But you could ask a neighbor, a boss you aren’t exactly chummy with, a teacher whose class you’ve never taken, or even a friend or colleague of your parents that you don’t know (and are willing to approach on your own).

Most adults with good hearts will respond positively to a teenager who says something like,

“I’m trying to get ready for my college interviews, and I think I need to get better at having conversations with adults that I don’t know that well. If I bought you a cup of coffee, would you be willing to just chat with me for 15-20 minutes? I promise I’ll do my best to make interesting conversation—in fact, that’s exactly what I need to practice.”

You might feel really uncomfortable asking. You might feel even more uncomfortable actually going through with it.

But if you stumble, at least you won’t be stumbling in front of an actual college interviewer.

If you did this several times, imagine how much more comfortable you’ll get, and most importantly, how much more confident you’ll feel when you sit down for the real thing.