The first step to having a great college interview? Relax. Most college interviews that are part of the admissions process are conducted with someone who has exactly two qualifications: (1) They graduated from that college, and (2) they volunteered. And that’s not the same as someone who will ultimately be in the room casting a vote to admit or deny.
Do those interviewers share their impressions of you with the committee? Sure. But that information—positive or negative—rarely reverses an admissions decision. It’s secondhand information gathered from one short conversation that likely took place in a coffee shop. Don’t blow it off. You might as well have a good showing and give yourself an edge, no matter how small. But your chances of making a great impression go up considerably when you stop worrying quite so much about making a great impression. Relax, be yourself, and have a mature, engaging conversation with an adult. That’s what a great college interview looks like.
If you’d like more evidence that your interviewer isn’t a vetted, highly trained, voting representative of the admissions committee, see The Chronicle of Higher Education’s recent piece, “When Alumni Interviewers Screw Up, Things Get Weird.” There are plenty of alumni interviewers who do an admirable job for their schools (a few of them work with us as counselors at Collegewise!). But if yours doesn’t exactly represent all that you were hoping a representative of that school might, consider it bad luck, not necessarily a bad sign.