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Meet Thomas Keen
at Columbia University
Many students applying for undergraduate admissions will find that having an interview is not a requirement. However, some of the more competitive US universities will recommend students complete an interview after submitting their application. If you have the opportunity, an interview can be an ideal opportunity to enhance your application by highlighting elements of your academic interests and character that may be easier to convey in person rather than on paper.
These interviews will differ from what you may expect at a UK admissions interview. US interviews will likely be conducted by an alum of the university and/or admissions staff member. The questions will not be based on your field of study, but rather the admissions criteria evaluated by US universities. Interviews will allow you to highlight the subjective elements of your application that may be easier to convey in-person rather than in a print application, such as: your character, personality, academic and extracurricular interests, career goals and reasons for wanting to attend the university.
Whether a compulsory or optional element of the application process, students will not be required to attend an on-campus interview in the US. The interview will likely be conducted over the phone or via the internet/Skype. Often universities will be able and willing to arrange for an alumnus/a in your local area to conduct the interview. Alternatively, one of the admissions staff may be planning a trip to the UK for a recruitment event, such as USA College Day, and might be available to interview you during their stay. In the event that a university requires that you attend an on-campus interview, you may then wish to ask whether they are able to provide assistance with your travel expenses.
We recommend that you conduct several mock interviews with friends, family or advisors to allow you to practice your answers to likely questions. By doing so, you will be more likely to have well-organised and thoughtful responses to questions that are likely to be asked. However, it is important not to memorise your answers as you want to come across as genuine, rather than rehearsed.
Questions that you may wish to cover in your mock interview sessions include:
Having already conducted extensive research when choosing the universities to which you would apply, you should be able to discuss your interests in the university and how you see yourself fitting into academic and social life on campus and local community. However, other potential questions may require more forethought.
If you have already written your application essays, you may find that you have already addressed many of the topics that will be discussed in your interview. In your interview, you will want to ensure that your responses to questions are consistent with your essays. However, try to avoid repeating what you have written in your essays when possible, particularly if you are being interviewed by the admissions officer who might be reviewing your application.
After asking you a series of questions, you interviewer is likely to ask you whether you have any questions for them. You will want to make the most of this opportunity to learn more about the university and to demonstrate your interest in learning more about it. We recommend that you prepare 3 - 5 questions in advance to ask the interviewer.
The most important rule of thumb when devising questions for your interviewer is to ask questions that cannot be answered by reading the university’s website or prospectus, such as: