Grace’s Guide to College Interviews



Clockwise from top: Pomona College, Claremont Graduate College, Keck Graduate Institute, Pitzer College, Scripps College, Harvey Mudd College, Claremont McKenna College.

Sweaty palms, business attire, and calming deep breaths. Your mind racing with any possible question you could be faced with. Whether for college admissions, scholarships, or employment, interviews are inescapable. After all, they provide an opportunity for employers and interviewers to get to know the person behind the written application. But, for many, interviews can seem extremely daunting and overwhelming, especially in our present world in which most people have been fairly cut off from interacting with others. 

This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous aspects of our lives, including work and school have been shifted to online. Another thing that is now online—interviews. For some, an interview from home is preferable and reduces the anxieties typically associated with interview processes. Yet, for others, online interviews increase nervousness, and even awkwardness with Wifi glitches, unmuting microphones, and background noise. 

“I felt like online I was more stressed out especially about zoom etiquette, potential internet issues, and not knowing if my interviewer was seeing/hearing things in the background,” shared Kathleen Wijaya ‘21 who was interviewed by colleges from home.  

“I had to get the house completely empty so he didn’t think I was unprofessional,” she said. 

The trade-off of being in her comfortable space and not having to dress up–she wore pajama bottoms–was a plus, as was being able to hide her nervousness off camera. Wijaya felt there were pros and cons to both in-person interviews and online. 

“I thought that in person, it would be more of an even ground since we would be conducting the interview in a public place,” she said, “ but I think that in the end, the results would have been the same.”

I agree that there are benefits and faults to both methods. However, as someone who has been through more than a few types of interviews, online and otherwise, and I have some advice to quell nervousness and let your true self shine (even if it’s through a screen). 

For me, when it comes to the days before an important interview, nervousness is practically inevitable.  

But there are two great methods that have aided me in combating interview anxieties. First– the importance of preparation. Essentially, know who and where you are interviewing. While you may have done research prior to submitting your application or receiving an interview, brushing up on your knowledge will allow you to feel comfortable discussing where you are interviewing. Not only that, but you can also form more specific questions about topics you are interested in. 

Another way you can battle interview nervousness is by learning how to turn nervousness into excitement. Anxiety is heightened when you value both the interviewer’s time and view whatever you are interviewing for as important 

Shift this mindset by reminding yourself that an interview is simply a chance to share more about you. The interviewer just wants to learn about you beyond what they already know. Think of it as a time where you get to talk to someone about your passions, interests, and qualifications. 

If you are someone who tends to be more on the quiet side or dislikes talking about yourself, I recommend looking up basic “get-to-know-you” questions and practicing answering them by yourself or with someone. Whether it’s “Why are you the person for this job” or “How would your best friend describe you”, practicing will give you time to articulate yourself and respond to the questions thrown your way. 

Remember, considering most, if not all, of the questions revolve around you, and therefore you know the answers (even if in the moment, it does not seem like it). If you get flustered, take your time and be sure to breathe. Some questions need more time to think about, and your interviewer will understand that. 

To sum it all up and for quick help just look to these 5 tips: 1.) Do your research, 2.) Turn nervousness into excitement, 3.) Remember it is all about you, 4.) You know the answers, and 5.) Take your time. With these steps, you can put your best (digital or in-person) foot forward and have a great interview!