1. Communication is Crucial!
Communication skills are often cited as one of, if not the most, important skill sets school interviewers and employers are looking for. Set yourself up for success before your interviewer ever even lays eyes on you: Call and/or email the school’s admissions office one or two days in advance of your interview to confirm your appointment time, and to assure them that you WILL be there. (Huge bonus points if you can manage to speak to your interviewer directly over the phone.) And then, take steps to make sure you make good on your word.
Many potential students make appointments with admissions counselors, but then don’t follow through on the interview. Regardless if you get cold feet or if something pressing comes up, you MUST communicate with your interviewer/recruiter as soon as possible, and be straightforward about your conflict, so as not to waste their time. Making a good impression is all about setting yourself apart and demonstrating through your actions how much you truly want to attend your chosen institution (more on that later.)
2. Come mentally and physically prepared
Even if you haven't noticed the effect that lack of sleep and poor diet can have on person's classroom participation, your teachers and school administrators (and likely, your interviewer) definitely have. Confidence comes from knowing that you are as prepared as you can possibly be, and that means pressing your pants and shirt the night before, having your documents (see below) printed and packed the night before, getting at least 8 hours of good sleep and eating a balanced meal beforehand. Avoid any greasy or overly-rich foods that might upset an already-nervous stomach, but also be sure to choose something that won't have your gut growling during your interview. Protein and complex-carbohydrates are the name of the game, i.e. eggs or oatmeal, with a piece of fruit on the side to provide natural sugar to support your positive energy.
Don’t forget your paperwork! Be sure to arrive with a neat, simple folder/portfolio containing your:
- Transcripts (if required), copy of high school diploma
- letters of recommendation
- business card
- These may seem a bit old-fashioned, but if you or a friend has a knack for graphic design, consider carrying some simple, clean cards with a QR code on the back linking to you LinkedIn page, etc.
Showing up 10 or 15 minutes early makes a fantastic first impression. If your interviewer’s day is running ahead of schedule or another appointment has cancelled, he/she will really appreciate the opportunity to get your interview underway faster, and it will help you stand out more. If your interviewer or admissions counselor is not ready to receive you, allow yourself this time to relax, collect yourself, use the bathroom, get a drink or just introduce yourself to the office staff.
3. Be the best version of yourself
Be confident, but not arrogant. Interviewers are looking for someone who is "teachable," who is ready and open to learn new things and who can handle criticism maturely. At the same time, don't work yourself up trying to be someone you're not, based on what you think the interviewer wants to hear. Be polished, but not stiff or fake. Wear an outfit that you feel comfortable and confident in, but that also looks professional and appropriate to the environment of your institution. When it come to conversation: Your interviewer will want to know more about you, your life, goals, and motivations; so it's okay to share some things from your personal life if you feel comfortable, but be very careful not over-share personal information or issues that don’t directly relate to your higher education and training goals. Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. The interviewer will expect you to know what you're good at and what you're not good at.
4. Have awesome questions prepared
Once your interviewer has finished asking the questions, use any remaining time left in your appointment to ask questions and discuss the next step. If you are granted a spot in the next incoming class of students, what materials should you buy and/or start reading in advance? What are the most current class scheduling options? This is also a great time start preparing yourself for what will be expected of you if you are admitted. How much time per week are students expected to spend on independent study and practice? What are some of the pitfalls that contribute to dropouts among new students, and how can you avoid them? Perhaps most importantly: What are your options in terms of Financial Aid and payment plans? If your institution has a Financial Aid desk or office, consider asking your interviewer to point you in that direction so you can step in and get some information. This further demonstrates that you’re taking this opportunity seriously, and taking charge of money matters sooner rather than later. Before you leave, shake your interviewer’s had and offer to exchange business cards.
5. Clean up, Lock Up (your social media) and Follow-Up
If you haven’t done this already, be sure there’s nothing viewable on your public Facebook/Twitter/Instagram, etc. feeds that you wouldn’t want your interviewer or future teachers to see. (This is generally a good policy even if you’re not preparing for college/trade school interviews.) Adjust your privacy and search settings, and do web and image searches of your name. In case anything strange pops up, have an explanation prepared.
Finally: Follow-up with a call back, voicemail or email message to your interviewer. Keep it simple and brief, and do not press for an “answer” regarding the results of your interview. Thank them for taking the time to meet with you, let them know you’re available to answer any questions that may pop up, and express your excitement about the prospect of being admitted to their institution one last time.
Follow these steps, and you’re sure to leave a lasting, positive impression at your college/trade school of choice. Good luck!