College admission committees are interested not just in numbers on a paper, but in the whole person. An interview gives admission officers an opportunity to see how you'd fit in on campus and determine if you are who you seem to be on your application. Group interviews help save time while giving admission officers the chance to see how you interact with others and how you might behave in a classroom setting.
Preparing for the Interview
Every school's interview format is different, so you'll need to carefully review the information your school sends you about the interview. Ask someone to run through common interview questions with you and practice interacting with people in a group setting. It can be challenging to find the right balance between asserting yourself and rudely interrupting others, so ask for feedback when you chat with others. Tailor your interview answers and style to this feedback.
Many Format Options
Colleges use a wide variety of formats for group interviews. You might have an informal group discussion, during which the interviewer observes each participant. Alternatively, the interviewer might pose group questions to allow each group member to answer or wait for group members to volunteer an answer. Your interviewer may also ask specific questions of some group members, ask group members to share their opinions on an educational topic, or ask group members to work on a shared project.
Questions and Answers
Your interview questions are partially dependent upon the school and field of study you've chosen. Applicants to a technical university might answer questions about computer programming or changes in technology, while students who have chosen a literature major might answer questions about their favorite books. You'll also likely answer standard interview questions about your long and short-term goals, why you've chosen this particular school, what challenges you've faced in high school and how you think you'll fit in in college. Your answers should be specific, with clear examples, but not too controversial, political or dismissive of other interviewees.
In addition to monitoring your answers to questions, interviewers look at how you interact with other people in your group. Even if your answers are excellent, bullying other students or monopolizing the interviewers' time won't help you. Similarly, even if you're shy, you'll still be expected to answer the questions in an articulate, succinct way. If you're given time to chat with other interviewees, be friendly and warm rather than competitive or hostile, and be sure to talk about substantive topics such as school or literature rather than passing the time with gossip or social networking stories.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.