I think I'm safe in assuming that some of you readers are prospective students, possibly interested in visiting Oberlin and some other colleges. And the coolest, most amazing part about visiting is the tour and an interview, yeah? Most of the admissions interviews on-campus are handled by student interns, trained in the delicate art of information sharing. Folks like me. So, in order to make this the most easy, comfortable process as possible, here's my advice for interviews. Prepare your grains of salt.
Interviews: What To Do (and What Not To Do)
-- Don't freak out. Contrary to popular belief, the admissions departments aren't comprised of evil squid people who will steal your brain-stems the instant they get you in the interview room alone. Our interviews are mostly informative here--they're for you, as much as us. Don't worry. We don't ask about your GPA or your academics, but what you care about.
-- Talk about what you care about. Oberlin is all about passion--don't be afraid to talk about what you love--at length! Don't hesitate to explain things. Before I did interviewing, I didn't really know what Model UN was--I didn't know why you thought it was the best thing since David Bowie. If you've got an internship where you do some really complicated research, detail it. If you work 3 jobs outside of school, tell me.
-- Don't worry about what you wear. Certainly, dress to impress and wear clean clothes, but don't worry about being formal. I wouldn't bust out the suit and tie unless it makes you feel comfortable. Obies are all about comfort: whether that means American Apparel gold lame leggings or beaten-up sweatpants or flower-print dresses is up to you. There's no one style. In general, we aren't a suits/blazers/power-skirts kind of campus--I can't remember ever seeing an Obie in a high fashion designer. Aside from that, you see every kind of fashion, from Doc Martens and Dickies to thrift store finds or very experimental, super-trendy gear. You have to leave campus to find a name-brand clothing store.
-- Answer questions with more than one sentence. Please.
-- Make bad jokes! Puns! Don't hesitate to laugh- I might try to be funny! Pretend that I'm funny! I'll return the favor!
-- If we ask you what books you like, please don't pick whatever you just finished in English class. Pick what you like. If you like Philip Marlowe or Dan Brown or Thomas Pynchon, that's all good. Tell us why.
-- Don't chew gum. Really.
-- At Oberlin, we talk about music the way some folks talk about the weather. Go on, get alt-rock on me; go electronica--I can take it. Do you like to play the piano? Cool--tell me why. Have you been in marching band since you were a tadpole? Great--tell me stories.
-- Don't curse, use derogatory language, or try to offend me. Don't be a tool. Racist, sexist or bigoted comments are deeply uncool.
-- If you do something scandalously amazing, but I don't ask you about it, mention it. Distinguish yourself. Make me want to write to my mother about how spectacular you are.
-- Do some research about Oberlin and know why you'd want to apply/attend here. Obviously, if you're reading this, that counts, but do have a reason you'd want to apply here. It can be cheesy, or silly, or deeply profound, but have a reason.
-- Make eye contact.
-- Ask me questions about Oberlin. I'm a student and I'll answer your questions as fairly and completely as I can.
-- Our interviews are conversations, and can involve gratuitous amounts of shooting the breeze. An interview is for getting to know you, outside of your resume, your transcript, and your essays. I really like interviews. Speaking with you lovely folks makes my world happier and larger. Your interviewer is going to each interview on the positive, waiting for you to confirm their super-high opinion of you. You don't have to brag or try to be the Most Incredible Person in the World--just be you.
Best of luck,
Responses to this Entry
I remember my Oberlin interview. Not in detail, but I remember what we talked about for more than half the interview time. We talked about a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson that goes like this:
"Speak what you think to-day in words as hard as cannon-balls and to-tomorrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day."
It was a big deal to me because I wasn't, and have never been, one hundred percent sure of what I think. About anything. I would have a conversation one day, and a week later realize everything the other person had said had to be discounted because of a point that hadn't occurred to me at the time. My interviewer and I shared a genuine connection over this concept--just because we're can never be sure of something doesn't mean we shouldn't be enthusiastic about it. In the words of E.M. Forster, how do I know what I think until I hear what I say?
Anyways, much love to the Oberlin admissions interviewers. Keep up the good work.
Posted by: Izzy on November 25, 2008 12:09 AM
I just found this in order to be stunned by it. Clearly there should be a section for must-read blog posts, and this should be one. Also, you rock.
Posted by: Brandi on January 13, 2010 10:21 AM
Thanks! It's really rewarding to see the folks who I interviewed (and then raved about) get into Oberlin and be happy here.
Posted by: Aries on January 13, 2010 10:32 AM
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