You might be wondering what part of your application to a college is valued more than the other. Essays, Recommendations, Test Scores, or Interviews? Well, this is subjective to colleges and depends on what the colleges prefer while assessing the students. You should not forget that all the parts of your application have important role in your admission even if the college emphasizes one over the other.

Pre-admissions interviews are the considerable parts of your college application. At some schools, you might have an interview with actual professors or members of the admissions staff. At others, you might interview locally with an alumni volunteer. Still many other colleges offer no interviews at all. 

It is a common for applicants to wonder what being offered a college interview means. Does being offered an interview mean that you have overtaken other applicants in the process? Does it mean that you are more likely to be accepted? If a college doesn’t offer interview to everyone, what are that factors that it looks before offering an interview?

The answers to these questions are not simple as the college admission process itself isn’t. There can be multiple answers as well depending on the college’s method of assessing students. In this article, we will have a look into the basic purpose of the interview and their relation to the college admission processes in order to find out what it really means being offered a college interview.

What Is the Purpose of the Interview?

The colleges have a picture of you based on your grades, test scores, essays, recommendations, ECAs and other activities. All the information provided in those parts of application are indirect. So colleges tend to look for ways to assess students personally and compare that with the assessment based on other parts of your application. The pre-admissions serve this purpose. They are meant to understand you personally. Testing your communication skills is also an important purpose of the interview.

How Much Do Interviews Matter?

In normal circumstances, there are low chances that interviews damage your application. So minor mistakes and fallacies are not big issues. It is better for you to be true and behave naturally. Being able to face someone calmly is also an art. Although interview is not the major deciding factor, one thing to be considered is that it can be so if you do not behave properly with the interviewer. Your unpleasant portrayal of yourself can harm your application process.

Some colleges offer direct insight into how heavily they weigh the interview process. For example, Brown University notes that, “Rarely will an interview be the determining factor in an application.” This seems to indicate that only in extreme circumstances will an interview get you in, or keep you out, of Brown.

University of Pennsylvania clarifies that interviews are an opportunity to get to know you better as a candidate and for you to get to know the school better. The process at UPenn is for alumni interviewers to send a written summary of the interview that will then be included with your other application materials. However, it is rare that an unfavorable interview summary arrives. “We find that interviews are generally positive and complement what we see in the rest of the application,” notes the website. 

The approach at Princeton University is similar to at UPenn. In fact, Princeton alums are told to consider themselves “ambassadors” rather than interviewers, with their primary role being to provide more information about and insight into the school.

Of course, there are some instances in which the interview might matter significantly more. For example, in the case of many combined BS/MD programs, the interview is ultimately the determining factor in admissions. In these cases, you are only offered an interview if you have already made it to the final round of application reviews and your interview is held in person, on campus.

Whether the college you are applying gives high emphasis to interviews or low, you obviously want to perform well in the interview. So, it is better for you to aware about what sort of policies do colleges have regarding the interviews.

Among the wide range of colleges, here are a few common scenarios regarding interview:

Interviews Are Offered to Every Applicant

This may not happen in most of the colleges you are applying. Most of the colleges do not choose to interview all the applicants since the logistics required to interview the large pool of applicants is difficult to manage. If you happen to apply in a college that interviews all the applicants, there are high chances that the interview is optional. Even if the interview is optional, it is better to take one since it shows your seriousness towards being in that college.

These types of interviews are usually a combination of evaluative and informational. Such interviews are not just for colleges to assess you, but also for you to learn more about the college. You should not hesitate to raise wise questions about the college in the interview so that you can have deeper knowledge about the college in order to ratify that with your research.

Interviews Are Offered to Most or Some Applicants

This scenario is the usual one. The colleges conduct such interviews through their alumni volunteers. The limited number of alumni volunteers cannot interview all the applicants to a college. So, the college selects candidates in order to interview them on the basis of availability of alumni volunteer.

If you are not offered an interview, it is because there were no alumni available to provide one in your region. This generally has nothing to do with your application, but more to do with where you are located and the availability of volunteer alumni interviewers.

If you are provided with such interview, as said earlier, such interviews are not just for colleges to assess you, but also for you to learn more about the college. So, present your queries and be interactive.

Interviews Are Not Offered

This is also a possible scenario, but is gradually becoming rare. Some colleges didn’t offer interviews in the past since all the applicants, especially those from far places could not reach the colleges in order to attend the interviews. But, with the internet, anyone can be interviewed. Moreover, colleges find it more comfortable to assess students through interviews rather than leave the part. But, be informed about your college. You might not enjoy preparing for an interview if your college doesn’t offer one.

Interviews Are Required

In case of some programs, interviews can be a requirement. And the interview is required at some phase of the application process. If the interview is a requirement during the early phase, it usually is still not a good indicator of whether or not you will be offered admissions. You can, however, consider it an evaluative interview that could potentially impact your standing with the admissions committee. Required interviews almost always indicate that the college weighs them significantly in the application process. Otherwise, why bother requiring them?

Some colleges will “strongly recommend” interviews, without actually requiring them. If you’re considering a school that “strongly recommends” an interview, you should approach it as a requirement. Remember, admissions are competitive already, and generally interviews help your candidacy by presenting a more multidimensional image of who you are. In addition, if it comes down to a candidate who made time for an interview and a similar one who did not, you can certain that the interview will factor into the admissions decision. 

Sometimes, interviews are required during later rounds of the admissions process. This is usually made clear in advance, so you will know ahead of time that the interview phase comes after initial reviews and is only offered to finalists. When this format of interview admissions occurs, it is usually in association with a specialized program. For example, BS/MD programs notoriously screen out about 80% of applicants before the interview stage, and then require on-campus interviews for all finalists.    

To summarize, in general being offered an interview is not a good indication of the status of your application. Furthermore, interviews will only rarely be a determining factor in your admissions process. That being said, there are some unique scenarios in which interviews become increasingly important later on in the admissions process. In these cases, though, that process will not come as a surprise. In general, this process occurs in specialized programs with more extensive admission screenings.


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