Being Your Best Self at Your College Interview

From Cindy Chea

For many students, interviews may seem like a daunting part of the college application process that they would rather skip. However, interviews aren’t meant to be scary (especially at Bryn Mawr) and they can be a great way to boost your application. Two senior interviewers, Claire Weeks, and Reyna Gariepy offer helpful tips and tricks on how to calm your nerves and what to expect so you can ace your next college interview.

Before we get into the advice, let’s go over Bryn Mawr’s interview policy for some context.

Interviews at Bryn Mawr are completely optional and they are now all held virtually due to the pandemic. You can either request an interview with an alum, or you can interview with the Admissions Office. Those who sign up for the Admissions Office will be randomly paired with either a senior interviewer or an admissions officer. Senior interviewers like Claire and Reyna are tour guides who have been specially trained to interview prospective students.

Now that you know more about interviews at Bryn Mawr, let’s get into the advice!

What are you looking for when you’re interviewing a student?
Bryn Mawr interviewers simply want to have a conversation with you. They genuinely want to learn who you are and why you’re interested in being a part of the Bryn Mawr community.

Claire: “Specifically, what I’m looking for when I’m talking with a student is if they’re excited for the Bryn Mawr community, if they’re engaged with their academics, and are open and flexible to learning. It’s nice to see students who are driven and know exactly what they want, but it’s also really nice to see students who are excited and open to exploring as well.”

Reyna: “It’s really relaxed, I’m looking for a nice conversation. I love to get to know people, their interests, their thoughts… and why they want to come to Bryn Mawr.”

Why would students want to interview at Bryn Mawr even if it’s optional?
While the different components of your application work together to show a holistic view of you, nothing beats presenting who you are than a person-to-person interaction. Whether you’re paired with an admissions officer, an alum, or a senior interviewer, you’ll have a great opportunity to make a personal connection and to ask your interviewer any specific questions you have about the College.

Claire: “I, personally, did not do an interview for Bryn Mawr. But now being on the other side of that I would definitely do an interview. Bryn Mawr is so small that you as an applicant can make a personal connection with your admissions officer and the person who’s advocating for you and promoting you to the other admissions officers. I think that interviewing is a great way to make a personal connection, and the likelihood that you will be remembered by someone the admissions staff is super high.”

Reyna: “I think an interview is a good way to get to know the school… If you’re interviewing with a student, then you’re able to talk to that student one-on-one. they ask you questions and at the end you can ask them questions about the culture and academics. If you get an admissions officer, it’s a good opportunity to ask questions about the application. It’s also a good way for you to learn how the Admissions Office works, and for the officer to get to know you.”

What are some ways students can prepare for their interview?
Bring questions! Both Claire and Reyna stressed that students should be prepared in this way. Not sure what to ask? Remember, interviews are meant to be a conversation; so bring questions that you are sincerely curious about.

Claire: “I think this is just good interview form no matter what kind of interview you’re doing, but have questions and your questions should be genuine. A genuine question is not something you would find on the website. If you can find your answer on the website, it is probably not something you should be asking me. Again, if you tried your best to look on the website and you could not find it, please ask but you should have other questions than that. Fact-based questions are maybe not the best, but ask me about my experience, or the ineffable things about students at Bryn Mawr that we don’t put on the website.”

Reyna: “I think one of the most common mistakes is not coming in with a question. Because at the end you get time to ask questions. If you’re with an admissions officer I would take time to ask about applications. If you’re with a senior interviewer, I would take that chance to ask about academics, or dorm life, or traditions. Even if you’ve heard it all before, go ahead and ask at least one question because the person that you’re asking will be different than everyone else you’ve talked to and they will have a different perspective on it. So don’t be afraid to ask the same question even if you already know the answer because someone might share something interesting that you didn’t know before.

What are some common interview mistakes you’ve seen from students?
The interviewers are trying to learn as much about you as they can, so don’t be afraid to elaborate and go into detail. It’s also okay to take a moment to pause and think about the question and your answer. Your interviewers are in no rush!

Claire: “I think that being specific about the things you care about, the things that are important to you are really important. We’re having a 20-minute interview and a vague answer is not going to help me understand who you are. I think that another tip is don’t be afraid to tell me that you’re nervous. If you’re nervous I will take extra steps to make you feel super comfortable and be more affirming to you as an interviewee.”
“Only share information that’s relevant, and not performative. Again, that goes back to being genuine. Don’t share performative information with me if it’s not something that’s relevant to a question I’m asking of you. Make sure you’re answering my question. Genuinely listen to the question and then give a genuine answer.”

Reyna: “If you say something and you’re like “oh I actually meant this…” go ahead and do that! Interviews aren’t meant to be perfect; we don’t think that you have to know everything. If we ask you a question that stumps you and you say “oh wait could I think about that for a second?” go ahead and say that because we’re throwing all these questions at you and we’re not expecting you to have all the answers right away… I’m just an interviewer; I haven’t seen your resume so go ahead and elaborate on a couple of things on your resume that you really enjoy doing and tell me why they’re important to you. Don’t be afraid to elaborate on things because it makes the interview more of a conversation.”

Any tips for calming nerves?
Nerves are natural! Remember that Bryn Mawr interviewers are on your side, they’re not looking to jump at every mistake or critique. The goal of an interview is to share your story and who you are, and no one knows you better than you. So just be yourself.

Claire: “It’s really hard to give a bad interview if you’re being honest. Something that I wouldn’t say about college admissions and interviewers, but I feel really comfortable saying about Bryn Mawr is that everyone who works at Bryn Mawr Admissions is so nice and are truly looking for the best candidates and the best people who are going to be happiest at Bryn Mawr.”

Reyna: “The important this is we don’t know if you mess up. We don’t know your story. No one knows your story except for you. So, you can’t really be like “oh my gosh I’m gonna mess up, what if I say something wrong?” because we don’t know who you are before we’re meeting you in this interview. Just bring your authentic self to the interview.”

What do you enjoy about being a senior interviewer?
Senior interviewers love Bryn Mawr and they love meeting new people. That’s why they come into the Admissions Office as tour guides, and that’s why they enjoy talking with students like you who are interested in Bryn Mawr.

Claire: “It’s so fun. It’s just nice to talk to people who are really excited about coming to Bryn Mawr. Another purpose of the interview is to learn things about you that you didn’t even know were important and impressive. That’s what I try and do: get people to say things that they wouldn’t normally share. Not in an emotional/intimate way, but get things that they don’t even know are so cool. I think that’s awesome.”

Reyna: “I love to get to know new people; I want to know why students want to come to Bryn Mawr. I want to know how people found Bryn Mawr and what draws them to it. It’s great to get to know people’s journeys, how they found it, and why they want to go here.”

We hope these tips will help you feel more confident when you go into your next college interview. If you’d like information to learn more about Bryn Mawr’s interview process or to sign up for an interview, click on this link.

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