Not surprisingly, you all seem to be the most interested about how the interviewer will evaluate you in the process and what role the interview plays in selection so while I’d planned to start at the very beginning—a very good place to start, I think I’ll have to start in the middle of the process instead.
Most of the comments/questions I received last time had to do with what the ECs look for, what questions they ask and how they evaluate the student. I can’t cover all of it at once ‘cuz it would just be too long but I’ll try to make a start here.
There isn’t any one piece of your folder that will cause us to admit or not admit you. Instead it’s about the complete picture of who you are as a student, as an individual, and as a citizen of your world. You don’t make up for one part of the application with another but each adds another piece to the puzzle which when completed is the picture of you. There is no bad essay or bad interview report for as long as they are honest and reflective of who you are they are of value to us in the process. A number of students called me last year because they were afraid they had had a bad interview so wanted another one. Sadly, we don’t have enough ECs to allow everyone to try again but I do know that every time I checked with the EC about the interview they didn’t feel the interview had been bad at all and each one had great things to say about the student.
During the interview ECs will ask you a serious of questions and most you will not be able to answer with a simple yes and no, but that’s a good thing. The more descriptive and complete your answer, the more fun the interview will be. They won’t ask you about your scores and grades but they will ask you about things you like about school or different activities and then they’ll ask you to tell them more about what you like best about the things you do. An EC told me recently that she was always looking for that subject that made the student’s eyes light up when they talk because that showed her what they found most interesting. I’m not saying we expect you to light up a room (although perhaps we could solve the energy crisis that way:-). Instead, just talk about those things that are of greatest interest to you—the things you’d miss doing the most if you had to give them up.
The downside of the admissions process is that we don’t as admissions officers get to meet each of you personally but instead only get to know you by what you and others write about you. The interview is one of the ways that we can personalize the information. ECs don’t make decisions about whether or not you are admitted to MIT nor do they tell us who we should and shouldn’t admit. Fortunately for them (and sometimes unfortunately for my colleagues and me) admissions officers have to do that. In fact, when you ask them what your chances of being admitted is, they just can’t tell you because all they know about you is what you tell them. We DON’T tell them anything else.
So the best way to prepare for your interview is to plan to talk about yourself and the things you like. The EC will like you and you will like them. You already have lots in common. They love MIT as much as you do, or they wouldn’t be sitting there.