Now that it’s high season for interviews (especially for you early action folks), I’ve been thinking back a bit to my college interviews.
My MIT interview was with an elderly alum, known to me as Mr. Neighbours, who was one of MIT’s Educational Counselors, or ECs. He had retired to the town next to mine. I don’t remember much from the interview except that it was at his house, which was quite dark, and seemed kinda scary to me. Nevertheless, he was nice if not particularly dynamic. He entered MIT just before the onset of World War II, and his MIT, while having the same values, was quite different from the MIT I would come to know (for example, there were many fewer humanities courses, student activities, and female students).
I don’t remember anything about the interview itself. It was interview season, and I was doing one every week or so. But with the 20-20 hindsight of an admissions officer, I suspect that interview helped me quite a bit. At MIT, the interview is an important part of the admissions process. The interview report is often one of the most helpful pieces of the application, since our interviewers ask the questions that we wish we could ask you. It supplies depth to your application, and often serves to amplify the strongest parts of your file.
I remember several of my other interviews. My Dartmouth interviewer was so cool as to make it one of my new top choices (that, combined with a major in geography!). As you know, I ultimately didn’t choose Dartmouth, but a nice alumna did make me consider it strongly. An alumnus of another Ivy League institution, on the other hand, asked me what made me special enough to attend his school. That was certainly a turn-off, though really the school is a fine place. So perhaps the lesson for this paragraph is, don’t judge a school by its interviewer.
I did keep up with Mr. Neighbours for a few years after I came to MIT. He was a great resource for me during the college selection process, and ultimately turned out to be a pretty good guy. I hope that you’ll also use your EC as a resource during the process and beyond.
The best advice I can give you for the interview is to be yourself. Treat the interview as a conversation, and as an opprtunity for MIT to get to know the real you. And definitely schedule the interview early. If you’re reading this, what are you waiting for?
In other news, I’m back in Boston briefly before heading to New Jersey and New York on Monday. Pirates of the Caribbean is on cable (I was shocked that the Academy did something right and nominated Johnny Depp for an Oscar). My time on the west coast was great, and I got to meet some really fantastic students (hi!). The biggest challenge in New York will be finding a friendly place to watch the Red Sox-Yankees games. I hope I make it out of New York alive.