Should You Do An Optional College Interview?

College Interview
College Interview. sturti / E+ / Getty Images

If a college interview is an optional part of the application process, it may be tempting to pass on the opportunity. Perhaps you aren't confident in your interviewing ability, or perhaps the interview seems like an unnecessary hassle. These are legitimate concerns. You're busy. Applying to college is stressful. Why should you create more work and more stress for yourself by going through the interview process when you don't have to? Why not simply decline?

In most cases, however, you're better off doing the optional interview, for it will do more good than harm.

Key Takeaways: Reasons to Do an Optional College Interview

  • An interview may improve your chances of admission by demonstrating your interest in the college and revealing the personality behind your application.
  • Interviews are generally friendly conversations, and they help you learn more about a school and make an informed college decision.
  • Take a pass on the interview only if the travel will create significant financial hardship, or you are 100% certain that you're awful at verbal communication.

Reasons to Do an Optional College Interview

There are several reasons why you should take advantage of the opportunity to interview with the colleges you're interested in attending:

  • Choosing to interview demonstrates your interest. A student who is applying to 50 random colleges isn't going to bother interviewing. When you take the time to meet with a representative from the college, you're making a statement that your interest is sincere and that you want to learn more about the school. Also, the college wants to admit students who will accept their offer, and your decision to interview makes you a safer bet. In short, the interview is a way for you to show your demonstrated interest, a factor that many colleges consider in the admissions process.
  • The interview lets you learn more. A successful search for a college isn't about getting into the best school, but getting into the school that is best for you. An interview is a great opportunity for you to learn more about the college and find out if it really is a good match for your personality and interests. The interviewer will almost always give you the chance to ask questions, so be sure to take advantage of this opportunity.
  • The interview allows the college to put a face to the numbers. Put yourself in the shoes of the admissions folks. They have a bunch of transcripts and test scores to use for making admission decisions. If they meet you, you'll be more than numbers. All highly selective colleges have holistic admissions, so use your interview to paint a rich portrait of your personality and passions. It can be much easier to display your excitement, curiosity, quirks, and sense of humor in an interview than in the written application.

A Few Reasons to Not Do an Optional Interview

  • Cost. If a college doesn't have regional representatives and the school is far away, an on-campus interview can be a $1,000 (or more) investment with plane tickets, hotels, and other expenses. In such cases, it is perfectly reasonable to pass on the interview. In such a case, however, you could try to set up a phone conversation or Zoom interview.
  • You definitely won't present yourself well. If you really, truly are an awful verbal communicator, you may want to keep that fact hidden from the college. Being nervous about interviewing isn't a justification for skipping the interview—many students are nervous, and colleges understand this. But if people tend to like you less after they've met you, you may want to let your written work speak for you. This situation tends to be much more real in students' minds than in reality.
  • You haven't done your homework. Before interviewing, you should always practice common interview questions, and you should research the school. If you show up knowing nothing about the college and you're unprepared for even the most basic questions, you'd be better off staying home.

A Final Word about Optional Interviews

In general, it's to your advantage to interview. You'll be better informed when making important decisions about choosing a college, and the admissions folks will be more certain of your interest in their college. Keep in mind that choosing a college is typically a four-year commitment, and it impacts the rest of your life. The interview allows both you and the college to make a more informed decision, and it's likely to improve your chances of being admitted in the process.

Finally, always keep in mind that the interview is typically a collegial, two-way conversation in which your interviewer is learning about you, and you are learning about the interviewer and the college. Try to relax, be yourself, and enjoy the experience.

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Your Citation
Grove, Allen. "Should You Do An Optional College Interview?" ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Grove, Allen. (2023, April 5). Should You Do An Optional College Interview? Retrieved from Grove, Allen. "Should You Do An Optional College Interview?" ThoughtCo. (accessed June 10, 2023).