I have been thinking about how just a little over a year ago, I was accepted to the University of Rochester and made plans to visit the campus in the spring. The admissions process had been stressful, but what I had found most difficult was the fact that I wanted to make a good impression on the admissions staff—but still be as authentic as possible. Of course I wanted to get admitted, so I talked about my accomplishments. But these are not necessarily the best and most interesting parts of myself, as I later learned.
What I didn’t expect while waiting for my admissions interview was that it would be like having an everyday conversation with a friendly stranger. My interviewer didn’t drill me questions about all my grades and every single class I took in high school. He didn’t ask me to talk about how I dealt with conflict or my weaknesses. We ended up talking about customer service and how it isn’t always pleasant. We talked about my travels to Europe and my interest in culture after taking AP European History my sophomore year. We talked about the pros and cons of suburban life and being jaded. After the conversation, I ended up feeling good about our conversation and I felt that I had been honest the whole way through. I think the admissions interview will be best as long as each person is authentic and tells their story.
1. Be authentic.
The admissions counselors at the University of Rochester know that you’re a great student. They’ve seen your transcript and those SAT scores, but when you sit down for 30 mins with them they want to know who you really are. What are you passionate about? What do you care about? What are you doing in your free time? You don’t need to try to please them by describing your 200+ hours of community service, the internship you did last summer, or your after-school job. The counselors want to hear about the books you’ve been reading, your interest in bugs, your ability to play the nose flute. It doesn’t matter what it is – even if it seems stupid or inconsequential—if it matters to you then it is worth talking about.
2. Tell your story.
A lot of people think that you need some story of strife to write the best personal essay or master your interview. That is hardly true. Like I said, it’s best to talk about your interests, your hobbies, your passions. Maybe even talk about your pet peeves. You’re just as fascinating as the next person, but you need to show the interviewer that. But if you have a story or something in which you struggled with that defines you, then this is valuable as well. You may be inclined to try to cover it up and act like the struggle does not/did not exist – but you don’t need to be perfect or pretend that you are. If this story defines you, then share it. Own it. The counselors will never make you feel ashamed of who you are, and you shouldn’t either.
3. Dress comfortably and presentably.
If that means you want to wear a suit or dress, feel free. But they just expect clean, presentable clothing.
4. Don’t worry about bringing resumes, transcripts, etc.
They have it all on file, anyway.
5. Think about what’s not on your application that you could chat about.
Admissions knows a lot about you through your application, so what’s something you’d like them to know about you that isn’t in your files?
6. Ask them questions!
This interview works both ways. Show your interest in Rochester by asking questions and making sure it’s a good fit for you.