Dos and Don'ts of Virtual College Interviews
July 9, 2020
Dos and Don'ts of Virtual College Interviews
The outbreak of COVID-19 has impacted almost every industry — and the college admissions landscape is no different. As students adjust to virtual classes and information sessions, they also have to start thinking about new ways to explore admissions options remotely. Since this would be the time many candidates would normally embark on college tours, they now have to seek out online options instead. Since students are not able to visit college campuses or conduct interviews in-person, they now must partake in virtual college interviews.
Although many students — especially students who don’t live near colleges of their choice — do Skype interviews with alumni once they’ve applied to a school, virtual college interviews with admissions office representatives are less common since they usually take place on campus. If you’ve got an interview coming up, you may be wondering how to prepare. To guide you through the process and make sure you nail your virtual college interviews, we’ve provided you with a list of dos and don’ts as you prepare to talk to admissions officers online.
DO still Dress Appropriately
Even though these interviews usually take place before you’ve submitted your application, admissions officers will still take notes to add to your file. You must make a strong first impression, which means you must dress appropriately — as you would for any other interview. Even though you will probably be in the comfort of your own home, it’s still an interview, and you must look the part. While you don’t have to put on a suit and tie necessarily, it’s important that you look somewhat professional, wearing a nice sweater, button-down shirt, or blouse on top (admissions officers will only be able to see your top half through the screen!) Do not wear overly casual clothes such as band T-shirts or pajamas.
DO Keep in Mind Things You Wouldn’t in an In-Person Interview
Virtual college interviews can be tricky, as there are new factors to consider. These are changes that you wouldn’t necessarily consider when interviewing on campus. As you prepare for your online interview, remember to do the following:
- Check that your Zoom username isn’t anything inappropriate — make sure it displays your full name only
- Check and recheck whether your internet connection is stable, and that you don’t anticipate any technical difficulties
- Use a computer that isn’t too slow, and one that you’re familiar with
- Keep your cell phone on silent mode, but close by, in case something does go wrong with your Internet connection
- Make sure you’re in a spot with good lighting, minimal distractions, and no external noises (more on that later in the blog!)
If this was an in-person interview, you would be sitting in the admissions office without needing to worry about Wi-Fi. But, since this has become the new normal, at least for 2020, you have to make sure you make the most of the circumstances.
DO Maintain Eye Contact With the Camera
Speaking of minimizing distractions, when you’re doing your virtual college interviews, it’s crucial that you maintain eye contact so that your interviewer feels that you are engaged and interested. This means looking directly at the camera. Even though it can be hard figuring out exactly where to look during a call — and be tempted to look on the screen where they are seated or on the side where you might have notes written down — you must not give them the idea that you’re focused elsewhere. Try to keep your eyes on the camera as much as possible — and practice in advance.
DO Prepare Questions for the Interviewer
In the midst of preparing to understand the nuances of virtual college interviews and trying to stay on top of technological errors, remember that at the end of the day, this is still a conversation that can boost your application. So, don’t forget to take it seriously, and ask questions that demonstrate your genuine interest the school. Browse the college website and research beforehand so that you can ask questions about facilities or courses that genuinely pique your curiosity. The admissions officer will not be sold on your interest in the college if it appears that you don’t even know what the campus specializes in or where the university is located.
DON’T Forget to Practice
Going off of the last point, the most important preparation tip for any interview — including virtual college interviews — is to practice in advance. For an interview that takes place online, why not practice online as well? Before getting on a Skype or Zoom call with the admissions officer, you can ask a friend or family member to interview you using the same software. Give your practice interviewer a list of common interview questions so that they know what to ask. This way, you’ll not only have practice answering different questions about your interest in the school and prospective major, but you’ll also have a sense of any technological difficulties that you might encounter during the actual call.
DON’T Focus too Much on Your Notes
A significant advantage of virtual college interviews is that you can write down pointers on (an actual or virtual) sticky note on your screen to refer to during your call. While it’s certainly helpful — and can guide you if you get stuck at any point — make sure that you continue looking at the camera and not towards your notes consistently. Plus, don’t try to memorize any answers, even to tough questions — remember the key parts of your profile and why the school stands out to you, and go from there. The conversation should feel natural. You want the interviewer to get a good sense of your personality.
DON’T Keep Any Distractions in the Background
Although some things (such as the predictability of your Internet connection) aren’t in your control, make sure that your environment is as distraction-free as possible before sitting down for your virtual college interviews. This includes:
- Making sure you’re sitting in a quiet spot with minimal background noise
- Informing your family members that you’ll be on a call
- Having a neutral background that doesn’t distract the interviewer
- Checking that the lighting is good and you can be properly seen
The purpose of these interviews is for the admissions office to get to know you. If there are alarm clocks ringing or distracting posters behind you, they might miss out on learning about important parts of your profile.
DON’T Panic If Something Unexpected Happens
Finally, remember that at the end of the day, things can always go wrong. Don’t stress out in anticipation that anything less than ideal may happen, but at the same time, prepare yourself. In an interview over video call, your Internet connection might falter, or you might encounter an unexpected incident that disrupts the interview. No matter what, don’t panic. Calmly explain to the interviewer the situation that you’ve encountered. For example, if your computer abruptly disconnects from the Internet, email them from your phone and let them know immediately. Or, if the call gets stuck and you have to log out and log back in, let them know what happened once you’re back in the call. They will understand.
While the situation is far from ideal, video conferencing apps have made it possible for students to still ask questions about colleges as well as give admissions officers a chance to get to know them. If you get a chance, take advantage of virtual college interviews to learn more about majors, course offerings, and resources, and to demonstrate your strong interest in the school. Keep these do’s and don’ts in mind and you should be all set for a great interview. Good luck.