The Interview: 10/20 Approaches by Matt McGann '00
Some thoughts on the interview, as the EA deadline nears.
About the interview…
For students applying for early action, the deadline to contact your alumni interviewer (Educational Counselor, or EC) is Friday (October 20). So, if you haven’t yet, go on to MyMIT, get your EC’s contact info, and make the call today!
Now, what if you’re applying for regular action? Well, the deadline isn’t until December 1, but I recommend that if you’re reading this now, you might as well contact your EC now, while you’re thinking of it. And I certainly recommend contacting your EC in the next month, because once Thanksgiving hits, things start to get a little crazy.
If you have already contacted your EC but haven’t yet heard back from them, don’t worry. Give your EC at least a few days to respond. If you’ve given your EC reasonable time and haven’t heard back, you can either give us a call at 617.253.4791 or drop us an email at [email protected]
What can you expect from your interview? Well, it should be like a conversation, not like a quiz. You won’t get any calculus or Jeopardy-style questions. It will be more along the lines of Tell me about yourself. What do you like to do for fun? Why are you interested in applying to MIT? What might you be interested in studying? Those kinds of questions.
My MIT interview was with an elderly alum, known to me as Mr. Neighbours. 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 necessarily 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 opportunity for MIT to get to know the real you. Also, I recommend Mitra’s interview advice and Stu’s Advice On How To Approach Your Interview.