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Friday, January 26, 2007

Post-Tribune
Merrillville, Indiana

Educated Advice Columnist
Gerald M. Bradshaw

Prepare for the interview and be yourself



A lot of kids are getting fidgety right about now. For some it will all come down to how well they do in the alumnus interview. The early admits are in, and this time of year the alumni interviews are being scheduled for the majority of students who are applying as regular admissions applicants.

What is the best way to prepare?

Just as previous generations have prepared. You can start by reviewing the school's social history on admissions. If it's an elite college you are applying to, then the odds are that an older alumnus will be doing the interview--and will most likely be male. There are two reasons for this probability. Most elite colleges did not start admitting women until well into the late 1960s or early seventies. Yale admitted the first female undergraduates in 1989. So until then, it was almost all male undergraduates. The second reason is that older alumni by virtue of their age have more time to spending doing alumni work than do the younger, more recent graduates. This distinction should play an important part of your interview strategy.

Whether we like to admit it or not, each generation sees itself as a living testaments to a prior generation, when they were students. Now is the time to pull it all together and present them the best face of your generation.

First off all is the dress code. What do I wear to the interview? If you are a girl, the question is, should you wear a skirt, or slacks? If you are a boy, should you wear a shirt and tie? The simple answer is: be smart and consider the odds. Since most likely you will be interviewed by an older male, wear a skirt if you are female. There is no risk you will not offend a younger alumnus, if he or she turns out to be one. Remember, you are playing the odds. The chances are you'll get an older alumnus, and he will think it is a nice gesture on your part. To him, it shows respect. You want to be the iron fist in the velvet glove. You can be assertive and aggressive with your answers. But most of all, this is a social occasion. a time for him to get acquainted with the young prodigy seated before him. By dressing this way, you have made him feel comfortable so he can focus on what to write about you after the interview.

If you are a guy, the dress code is less ritualized and history-bound. Khakis and an open shirt will suffice. Sorry guys-no earrings, bracelets etc. But long hair is acceptable on a young male, which should reassure some of you that old alumni invented that look. Both sexes should stay away from trendy affectations such as spiked hair and black fingernail polish. You can dress as trendy or as contemporary as you want after you get in. Interviewing is a serious business. It is time to apply the old adage "you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." There will be plenty of time later to express your individuality in dress.

To many parents, it may seem logical that this grand college or university wants to interview their son or daughter to see if they will fit in. They have nothing but good intentions when they tell then to be on their best behavior and treat the interviewer with the utmost respect.

If you are a teenager, you will likely interpret this to mean that you must not talk too much or question what you are being told by the interviewer. And, of course, never to disagree with them, however disagreeable or objectionable their statements may be. It also suggests that you must do your best to set upright in your seat with you hands folded prayer-like in you lap. Nothing would be further from the truth.

Forget about the word "interview.' Forget this advice. What the alumni is looking for is something to write about you that isn't reflected in the paper application. That means he would enjoy learning about you, so tell him something that you enjoy doing that is of real interest to you. If you play sports, now is the time to talk about it. The same goes for music, that trip to Mexico last summer, and certainly how much you enjoyed doing math or the other academic subjects that you stood out in. Do not be afraid to talk about your accomplishments. Ask the interviewer questions in return. When did he graduate, what he did for fun when he was at university. By all means keep the conversation going. He may be as nervous as you and appreciate your forthrightness.

These are suggestions for creating a successful interview. Look the part and speak his language and you can't go wrong. Oh, and don't forget-start it off with a firm handshake. He'll associate that with a strong personality, and it will show up in his statement about you to the admissions committee.

Contact Gerald Bradshaw, The US States Top college consultant. One-on-one college consulting. Get help with the college application essay. Make you dream of being admitted into Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, Brown, Dartmouth and the University of Pennsylvania a reality.

Toll Free: 866-687-8129
gerald_bradshaw@post.harvard.edu

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