Oberlin Blogs

My Interview Story

April 5, 2024

Natalie Frank ’26

I slept through my first Oberlin College interview.

I woke up at 6:30 am, brushed my teeth, dressed, sat before my computer, and opened it up to find an ominous email titled “Interview This Morning.” 

Damn. I forgot about the time zone difference between Wisconsin and Ohio. I slept through an interview for a college that I liked. In my high school mind, interviews were the real deal. A student worker sat before a computer, quizzing me on elaborate details about said college. There was a checklist, probably something that looked like this:

Interview Check List:

Knew college mascot

+1 – correct response

0 – no response

-1 – incorrect response

Brushed hair

+1 – good hair

0 – okay hair

-1 – just-out-of-bed hair

Arrived on time

+1 – early

0 – on-time

-1 – late

-100 – missed the interview


3 – accepted into Oberlin

0-2 – waitlist

<0 – don’t even bother applying

And I had just scored a whopping -102. 

Forget getting to know the college better or meeting with an actual student; I knew that the interviews were an undercover assessment of me as a prospective student in the college. I had just failed massively. 

When I applied to Carleton College and interviewed there, I messed up even worse by professing my admiration for Carleton’s Creative Writing Major. The interviewer looked confused, clarifying, “We don’t have a Creative Writing Major.” Talk about awkward.

If I was good at anything, it was failing college interviews in every setting. I knew that they mattered.

Spoiler alert: the interview didn't ruin me. A few months and a redone interview later, I arrived at Oberlin for my Fall 2024 semester.

I applied for a few Admissions positions as a first-year student and worked as an Ambassador, Tour Guide, and Overnight Host. You can imagine my surprise when I realized the interviews… didn’t matter. 

Much to my disbelief, there was no grading, expectation of perfection, or quiz. There wasn’t an admissions counselor out of view of the camera, hanging onto my every word. There. Was. No. Checklist.

I felt like I had been lied to. You’re telling me that I flunked this interview for nothing? I slept through this interview with no consequences. How was that possible?

My conceptions about college interviews were entirely wrong. Of course, some simple research could have righted that for me, but alas, you are rarely so wise as an 18-year-old. If I can, I’d like to give you some guidance as to how to approach and ace your Oberlin College interview (not that it needs acing).

Here are my top eight tips. 

  1. Check your time zones. 
    1. It is an easy mistake but saves you and your interviewer time. Trust me, I know.
  2. Throw on a shirt.
    1. No one expects a suit or tie, but make it clear that you are taking this seriously. Treat it as a blind date with a new friend.
  3. Ask questions.
    1. I thought of my interview as just that–an interview. I think that the word interview can be misleading. Instead, consider it a conversation. Get to know the student interview better.
    2. After my second interview, I called the tour guide I was with, Kate, to ask some questions. Here is what I asked:
      1. I love cities. Does Oberlin feel small?
      2. How easy is it to make friendships/relationships?
      3. Are you prepared for after college?
      4. Did you study abroad? Are you going to?
      5. Were you homesick?
      6. How is the Gibson case impacting the college? (This was 2022.)
      7. What is the nightlife like?
      8. Is Oberlin stressful?
      9. How did you go about getting a roommate?
      10. How is public transportation?
      11. What is the Creative Writing program like?
      12. What was your Oberlin College experience?
      13. How did you get to Oberlin?
      14. What do you like most about Oberlin?
      15. And more.
  4. Respond thoughtfully.
    1. Be honest with your interviewer. It’s no fun to have a monosyllabic conversation.
  5. Send a thank-you email.
    1. It goes a long way. I did not send an email after any of my college interviews, and I wish I had.
    2. It does not need to be the next great American novel. Make it concise. Include these elements:
      1. Subject line (Thank You for the Interview)
      2. Their name (Good afternoon Billy Bob,)
      3. Thank you
      4. Reiteration of what you discussed (I appreciated the chance to discuss my involvement in...and how Oberlin College offers...)
      5. Retiteration of your interest
  6. Take an active interest in the college.
    1. If this is a college that is important to you (as all colleges you are applying to should be), then show your interest.
    2. It helps to come up with three reasons why you want to come here. For example, I wanted to come to Oberlin because of the Creative Writing program, the Circus, and the queer community.
  7. Don’t put too much pressure on the interview.
    1. It won’t make or break your application.
    2. If the interview went poorly, brush it off, roll your shoulders, and keep going. (:
  8. Mention your passions. Be yourself.
    1. There is no one better to be.

Hopefully, these tips will provide some clarity on the interview experience. Remember that you are being interviewed by an Oberlin College student; they were in your shoes once too. They want to give you more information on Oberlin, sell it too, and understand why you want to come here. Don’t take it too seriously either – I asked Kate about the dating scene at Oberlin. There is no better place to get honest answers than in the interview!

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me. 

P.S. My second interviewer sent me a follow-up thank you interview. She attached resources for the Creative Writing Major, student publications (especially literary magazines), minors I would be interested in, and music opportunities. She also offered her email if I had any further questions. I really appreciated her care and attention to my needs.

P.P.S. Oberlin hired my second interviewer for a full-time job. She oversaw a department I wanted to work in and interviewed me again as a second-year student for the job I was interested in. (:

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