August 3, 2011 by Kylee Ponder
So, I came up with a cheesy acronym for these TIPS – This Is Plain & Simple, because that’s what your interview should be – you shouldn’t be freaking out the night before having mom & dad or sister & brother ask you every question that you might think you’ll get asked. Just be yourself, please! That’s all we ask of you!
After working in the Admission Office since my Freshman year as well as doing interviews & tours all summer even when I feel like I’m about to melt, I’ve been able to make some substantial observations about interactions between tour guides/interviewers and prospective students. Thus, I’ve decided to compile a list of some tips and ideas for you (if you’re a prospective student) to think of when you’re interviewing!
- ASK QUESTIONS. If you only glean one solitary suggestion from this blog post, gain this – ask questions. It not only makes your interview significantly less awkward at the end, but it makes tours (if you’re going on one) much more interesting. By “ask questions,” I don’t mean that you need to think of 15 detailed questions that all require 5 minute answers, just think of a few (2 or 3) key things that you need/want to know about William & Mary. At the end of the interview, we’ll open up the floor to you and you can ask anything from “Is the food edible?” to “How’d you end up here?” – we’d love to share our story with you to help you determine how you truly feel about William & Mary.
- Try not to be nervous! If you interview at the beginning of the summer, it’s plain & simple – we’ll probably be just as nervous as you are. If you interview during the end of the summer or the middle, we’ll clearly be a little more comfortable, but the moral of the story is…try not to freak out! I don’t feel like I’m a super intimidating person and I try to make the interview as low-stress as possible. When I start, I tell my interviewee – “This is meant to be much more of a conversation between the two of us than me sitting here and grilling you about everything that has happened to you for the past 17 years” and I mean it! The key word there is conversation – which implies that the interview is two-sided and that there’s interaction between the two of us which means I talk AND you talk too!
- Try to find common ground. This often can take a relatively run of the mill interview and transform it into something wonderful and unforgettable. This might sound creepy, but if you read our bios (that are on the wall in Admission) beforehand and you see that I’m the co-leader of the William & Mary Haiti Compact or in a social sorority and you’re interested in that – bring it up! That establishes common ground, which not only means I’m going to remember you more than the average person, but also that you’ll be more comfortable in what you’re talking about – and we can sense that, I promise.
- Tell me things that we won’t find in your application. If you’re involved in an extracurricular activity that you started because you have a particular personal motivation for or maybe you had a semester where your grades aren’t as strong because you got pneumonia – tell me! Those are things that might not be on your application and I can let the readers know that the reason for the C in Biology isn’t because you don’t love Biology, but maybe it’s because you were sick and couldn’t go to school for a month. We want to know those things that we won’t be able to tell on paper.
So rather than being outright “Don’t”s – these are going to be more so common themes that we see and how you can avoid talking about those and how you can be different and more than just the average interviewee. Side note – this does not by any means mean that you should avoid these if you’re passionate about them. As an interviewer, I can tell if someone is apathetically talking about an activity or if they’re talking about it passionately.
- hardworking – I get this adjective almost every interview, and here’s the thing about it – I know you’re hard working! Almost every student applying to William & Mary is. You can use it, just tell me a story about how you’re hard working so that I can get a better feel for who you are!
- the destination-less plane ticket – I often ask the question, “If I gave you a destination-less plane ticket, what country would you go to and why?” I have three very popular answers – England, Australia, and Africa. This is not to say that you can’t say these – just give me good reasons. Let’s break it down, people. For England, give me an interesting reason, not just “because I’ve always wanted to.” For Australia, the same! I had an interviewee who said she wanted to travel to Australia because she loves ecology and is obsessed with the Crocodile Hunter (thus Australia too!) and because it also has the seven most venomous snakes in the world. Do I like snakes? Oh, no sir. But did this girl give me a reason I remember? Oh, yes ma’m. She’s the only person who told me about her desire to go to Australia that I consciously remember – and that means it stuck with me! As far as Africa goes – pick a country. I think I may be more bothered by this than other people are because I’ve traveled to South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique, and because my brother-in-law-to-be is from Cape Town – but there are now 54 countries in Africa (with the addition of South Sudan recently) that you can choose from, all with their own personalities and qualities, so pick one!
- pre-Med: I get tons of pre-Med people, and I love that! I’m the daughter of a family practice doctor and it makes me happy to know that there are people going into medicine who care about the future of it. However, because I get so many pre-Med students, they kind of all blend together. Give me a specific reason why you’re interested in pre-Med and from that, I guarantee I’ll be able to see your passion more accurately. I had an interviewee who wanted to become a Spine Doctor – when I asked her why, she told me it was because she’d had a back injury and wanted to be able to help others like her doctor had helped her. This is a reason I remember. I had another interviewee who took an international service trip to China, worked in an orphanage there, read Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains (about Paul Farmer, founder of Partners In Health), and realized her true desire to become a doctor and serve in underprivileged areas of the world. Once again, a reason I remember.
- history: If it’s not a pre-Med student that I’m interviewing, it’s a history student. This is by no means bad, in fact, it’s awesome because by coming to William & Mary, you’ll be opening up your opportunities for first-hand history learning vastly. But, if I ask you to clarify, be prepared to talk about a favorite time period or favorite President (if you say U.S. History) – that lets me delve deeper into how passionate you are and figure out exactly what you love so much about history.
Hopefully that gives you a little bit of an insight into how non-intimidating the interview process is! I promise – we’re doing everything we can to make it as calm and not-scary as possible, so roll with us! Really some take-aways from this are these : Ask questions, Give us reasons, and Be yourself! Do those things, and you’ll be more than fine!