What to Do When Colleges "Recommend" an Interview

I noticed that a number of colleges "recommend" or "highly recommend" an admissions interview. My own institution uses this same phrase in our viewbook and on our website. But, I bet there are plenty of families who may not know what exactly a college really wants.

I picture dinner table squabbles between mothers and sons about what "recommend" really means. Can't you hear a teen-aged boy telling his mother, who thinks they should follow the college's recommendation, say, "Mom, if they really wanted me to interview, it would be required."

So what is a college really saying about the importance of the admissions interview?

While I cannot speak on behalf of all colleges and universities, I do believe the vast majority of colleges that use the language described above really, really, really want to get to know students on a personal level, and expect that you will take them up on the admissions interview and will find it useful. For years I've told families in the midst of the college search that they should interpret "recommend" or "highly recommend" as expected. Otherwise, why would a college mention it in the first place?

Similarly, colleges that use language like "interviews may be offered" probably mean they are not very interested in the interview or may not have the resources to interview everyone. Or, if a college indicates that interviews are optional or non-evaluative, you can rest easy that interviewing is unlikely to have any impact--good or bad--on the admission decision.

The many colleges across the country that recommend an interview do so because it is consistent with their community values and the admissions and recruitment culture they've built.

For those who might still believe a recommendation does not equal an expectation, it may be that you are a little nervous. Let me reassure you that the admissions interview is about you, and you are the expert. While there are a few things you should be prepared to discuss (academic performance, test scores, extra-curricular involvement, etc.), the interview is nothing more than a conversation between you and an admissions counselor who really wants to get to know you.

So, in this case, I have to side with the mom who thinks it's a good idea to interview at a college that recommends it. She's right on this one.

This is the second in a series of short posts in which Kent Barnds will provide honest, candid insight into the college admissions process. Watch for more "True Admissions" from Barnds, and listen to his podcast on this topic.