I’m sure everyone here knows what the Common App is. (Just in case someone is confused, it’s a site that allows you to send the same application to various affiliated schools, so that you don’t have to create the same application for each school). Anyway, I sent my “Harvard” application through Common App, received the “Congratulations, you just sent your application!” notification, and didn’t think about it again, happy to have that application checked off the to-do list.
Then a couple of days after I submitted my application, I received an email. A Harvard Club member had reached out and asked to schedule an interview. I anxiously replied back, securing my interview with Harvard.
Yes, I was terrified. I’m sure many of you would be too.
That’s why this blog exists. We’re going to go through everything they asked (and what they didn’t) to help you prepare for an interview with Ivy: Harvard edition.
Well, first off, the impression I received when I walked into the building was overwhelming. Let’s focus on that first – your interview is not the only interview, so get ready to see other aspiring potential students. Also, most of the ones I saw were dressed up (as was I), so unless indicated otherwise dress professionally but remain yourself. Meaning, don’t go out and buy a tuxedo if you do not own one (unless you really would like to, in which case more power to you). Just wear what is professional enough for an interview. The same goes for the ladies; in addition, a little makeup is fine, but don’t overdo that either. Sometimes impressions can be made by the interviewer that can be subconscious to them and an opinion of you could be formed in less than a minute, so remember to have a professional appearance. You can try asking someone for their opinion if you aren’t sure about what to wear.
So I sat down in the lobby until I was called by the man who had emailed me. He gave me a quick rundown. “This is not a time to be modest,” he said. “You want them to know everything about you that you can possibly think of. This is our chance to know the real you behind the application. Talk about everything you can, your hobbies, your activities, anything. They haven’t seen your application, so you may find some things to be repetitive of the Common App. You’re advertising yourself. Good luck!”
I was a little surprised that he was giving me the advice, and then two people walked out and called my name. They were my interviewers.
One was a tall woman – she turned out to have been a lawyer who graduated back in 2009. The other was a doctor – he graduated in 1997, a year after I was born.
Keep in mind, the age range your interviewers may be is completely random, and their careers are different as well.
So I sat down before we began as they introduced themselves. That took at least a minute, and they spoke about their background, hobbies, studies, and career. I mentally took notes of how to form my story. Background, hobbies, and aspirations.
When they finished, they turned to me and said “So, tell us about you.”
What a general question, right? It’s hard to answer something like that because there’s so much to a person that you can’t state. Hopefully this blog will make it easier for you if you get this question.
As I spoke, I took note of what they seemed to be most interested in:
• My background – culture wise.
• My extracurriculars
• Demeanor**** (That’s a huge point we’ll get to)
What they didn’t really focus on, however, were my grades. Sure they asked about them, but that wasn’t the focus. For example they asked about my SAT score, what classes I took, and which was the most challenging. That’s what they cared about- how the grades came to be, not the actual grades themselves.
The focus of the interview consisted of these aspects. I knew they were interested because they asked me to elaborate on them. For example, when I stated my background, they asked me to explain how my background has played a role in who I am today. When I tried to explain, another question was asked, which was “How has your travel affected your perspective, and what did you learn?”
So they seem to care about cultural awareness and experiences. That’s something our readers here should note- and remember, if you haven’t traveled, they’ll ask you to elaborate on experiences in general. That’s something to think about. How has an event shaped you?
The next thing they seemed to care about was my academic team (an extracurricular) in school. They asked me how I had been spending my time recently (they touched on my previous three years later, for the first half of the interview I only spoke of the present).
I spoke about my team (for the sake of remaining anonymous, I won’t state what team this is). They wanted to know about difficulties, leadership, and ways of operating that my team has had since being formed. They also asked about why I formed the team, why it mattered, and where we were now. At the core of their question were the ideas of “What do you like,” “What have you done about it?”, “Where is your motivation reflected?”
So don’t worry if you don’t have a team to talk about. Unless you went straight home every day for 4 years and never participated in anything, you probably have tons to talk about. Remember the three questions, they apply anywhere:
• What do you like?
• What have you done about it?
• Where is your own motivation reflected?
The next thing they wanted me to elaborate on was my life outside of school.
“Do you play any instruments?”
“What do you like to do in your free time?”
“What do you consider fun?”
Now you want to be honest, so you can talk about something nonacademic. Just remember to ask yourself, “If I was the interviewer, what would my reaction be?” before you state whatever you’re going to state.
Finally, they focused on my decorum. My way of speaking was very important. I’m someone who likes to make people laugh, so I made sure we had a couple of jokes here and there to warm up the room. Yet they constantly made eye contact, focused just on me, and never interrupted. Their demeanor was respectful, and that’s how yours should be to them in return. Make eye contact, speak to be heard, never interrupt, and remember your manners. You can be friendly, but remember they are not the friends you spend your free time with, so keep a proper decorum.
One thing I would also like to mention is that you have to show that you care. Do your research on the school. When they ask you “Do you have any questions,” ask them something. Engage them. It could be about their experience, the school itself, or admission questions. Just show them that you actually care.
I don’t know what they wrote down, what impression they may have gotten or anything of the sort yet. Here’s hoping for the best. But I can say with confidence that if any one of you guys apply and have an interview, some of these questions are going to pop up.
Let’s just go through them again:
Your “story” Your hobbies, activities, etc Your courses Your manners
• Where do you come from
• How has that influenced you
• Where have you traveled
• What event really shaped you
• What/how have your experiences taught you (this applies even if you have never traveled.)
• What are your hobbies?
• How do you exercise your hobbies?
• What do you like? Why?
• How have you done anything about it?
• How do you convey your motivation?
• What do you do in your free time?
• Do you play anything?
• What do you consider fun?
• What courses have you taken?
• What is your favorite course? Why?
• HOW (not what) did the grades come to be?
• Keep eye contact
• Remain polite
• Don’t interrupt them.
This gives you some time to think. So if you’re interested in some Ivy, keep on the lookout for a possible blog. Whatever Ivy you are interviewing for, it is best to remember to stay yourself regardless of the question. Be honest and they’ll know.