It All Starts with a Smile

Breath in, breath out. Okay…one more breath. Now smile, extend hand, look them in the eye and say “Hello, my name is…”

These were amongst the thousands of thoughts running through my head while waiting for my interview. Fewer than five years ago, I ventured for the second time to the College of William and Mary with the mission of surviving my first college interview. What I have come to realize is that simply breathing in and smiling can make a world of difference. A big part of an interview is not necessarily what you say, but how you say it: the energy, confidence, and poise behind each response. The following are a few tidbits of advice to keep in mind that I find helpful when participating in William and Mary interviews.

Put a smile on. You won’t believe how much a smile effects the first impression. Not only does it show the interviewer that you are excited to be there, but also creates a pleasant atmosphere before the interview even begins. Eye contact is also essential. It demonstrates that you are engaged in the conversation, not just talking into thin air. Your interviewer will try and put those nerves at easy, but it’s also good to remind yourself when those nerves do creep up that this will not make or break your application. This interview is truly optional, and it’s simply another opportunity for you to showcase a side of yourself when applying for the class of 2016.

Say what you know, not what you think we want to hear. There are no answers that will determine the course your interview. Just be your unique self, not the person who you think we want you to be. Showcase your strengths while remaining honest. Some of my favorite interviews from last summer consisted of those students who were unashamed to demonstrate who they were. For example, when I asked what their favorite academic class was last year, the students who stood out in my mind were those who said “I like _______, and I love it because…” The added explanation without being prompted received a star my book.

Expect the unexpected and just roll with it. The tag phrase that the office likes to associate with these interviews is “this is a conversation more than an interview.” They are truly designed to be that way. The aim of these interviews is to gauge your personality. We not only want to hear that you do something, but WHY you do it as well. And it does not matter if you are the president of five hundred clubs or a champion yo-yo master: what matters is that you demonstrate your personal passion for whatever extracurricular activities you have chosen to highlight. Also, be prepared to hear some questions that may not be covered in your typical “top ten interview questions” guide that you looked up on Google the night before. Again, we are looking for personality, putting a face to an application, rather than right or wrong answers.

So, for those who are on the fence about signing up for our summer interviews, know that they are not meant to be intimidating. The people who will be conducting the interviews are rising seniors at the College, who are friendly, fun loving, and who want you to succeed. They not only love the College, but they also serve as a resource to you as much as they do for the office. If you decide to take a slot, just take a deep breath, smile, and I bet you will do swimmingly.