Interviewing 101

Our personal interaction with admissions candidates is critical to the selection process. Additionally, your interactions with students may influence whether they see a “fit” with Dickinson. An interview alone will never determine an admissions decision, but the evaluative interview may reveal important information about students, capturing a sense of their talents and engagement. Your conversation should be friendly but also challenging. It is important to remember that your interview carries the same weight in the admissions process as an on-campus interview. Finally, if the student has not visited Dickinson, emphasize the importance of a campus visit.

Arranging the Interview

After you receive the request from DAVS and agree to conduct the interview, contact the student immediately to arrange a mutually convenient date and time. Arrange to meet in a professional or public setting which is accessible, convenient and safe. This could include your office during regular business hours, a coffee shop, bookstore or the student’s school. Do not conduct the interview in a home or in an establishment where alcohol is served or consumed.

Interviews and evaluations must be completed by the application deadline listed at the end of this document. The goal always is to complete the interview within three weeks of the student’s request. An interview will typically last 45-60 minutes. If the student has not responded within 48 hours of your first outreach, please make two additional attempts, combining e-mail and a phone call. If the student is unresponsive after 3 contacts, please do not make further attempts. E-mail us and we will follow up with the student. Below is an example of the initial e-mail outreach.

Dear (Student’s name),

I am a Dickinson College (alumnus/parent) and a member of the Dickinson Admissions Volunteer Society (DAVS). I frequently conduct interviews for the Admissions Office with students in the area and have been asked to schedule an interview with you. I am available this Thursday afternoon between 4 and 5 p.m. or Monday, Nov 21, 2011 at any time in the afternoon. I would suggest that we meet at the Starbucks in Tenafly if that is convenient.

Please respond confirming which time you prefer or suggesting other times if the ones above do not suit your schedule. I anticipate your prompt response and look forward to meeting you.

(Your Name)

Conducting the interview

The goal of the interview is to get a sense of the candidate and to provide an assessment with supporting examples. Feel free to take notes during the interview. While there is no list of required questions, here are six that our Director of Admissions Volunteers asks:

  1. Tell me about your high school and particularly what you like about it.
  2. How has your experience at your high school—both inside and outside the classroom—influenced/shaped you to be the person you are today?
  3. What are the things about your character/personality that really define you as a person?
  4. How will you be remembered at your school? What’s your legacy going to be?
  5. You’ve probably heard the phrase “engage the world” in conjunction with Dickinson College. Based on what “engage the world” means to you and imagining yourself as a Dickinson student, tell me how you see yourself engaging the world while you’re a Dickinson student.
  6. Imagine yourself out of college, looking back on your college experience, what do you want to say you got out of that experience?

Other common topics/questions include:

  • The student’s college search—On what type of school is the college search focused? What does the student know of his/her learning style to inform these decisions?
  • Life beyond college—Is the student interested in a particular major or career field? What sparked and/or who inspired that interest?
  • Knowledge of Dickinson—What has the student learned of Dickinson that suggests it would support the kind of experience the student is seeking?
  • “What else do I need to know?”—At the end of the interview, explain that you will be an advocate in the admissions process; let him/her fill in any gaps to provide a clear sense of what makes that student “tick.”

Know Before You Go

  • Alumni, please emphasize Dickinson's strengths and what was special for you in your Dickinson experience. Likewise, current parents, please emphasize Dickinson's strengths and what is special in your child’s Dickinson experience. Please don't make negative comparisons to other colleges and do not comment on the student’s chance for admission.
  • Do not ask what other colleges a student is considering or whether Dickinson is his/her first choice. It's fine if that information comes out naturally, but it is not important for the admissions committee to know this information.
  • Present information about Dickinson accurately and in a positive manner. This does not mean you should avoid information that is not entirely positive. Students appreciate honest answers to difficult questions.
    Do not ask any question which you would not want to be asked. Take a common sense approach if a difficult/sensitive issue should arise, being appropriately compassionate/serious while not dwelling on the issue.
  • Leave time for the student’s questions. Some students will come with a list. Others will not have any, in which case you should be ready to keep the conversation going or wrap it up.
  • Always feel free to offer a student the e-mail address of the regional counselor and encourage the student to connect with both you and that person with questions or informational needs.

Evaluating the Interview

Consider your assessment of the candidate in four dimensions: communication skills and demeanor; preparation (knowledge of Dickinson) and knowledge of self; engagement and passion; and intellectual curiosity.

Here are a few thoughts on each dimension:

  • Communication skills and demeanor—Did the student articulate deep thinking and energy or was he/she disinterested and reactive?
  • Preparation (knowledge of Dickinson) and knowledge of self—Did the student have only a very basic understanding of Dickinson’s distinctive strengths (or none at all)? Or was it a serious understanding of Dickinson’s approach and ideas about how he/she will take advantage of it?
  • Engagement and passion—Is the student enormously excited by and visibly passionate about an interest or has he/she dabbled in various areas without a particular interest in any?
  • Intellectual curiosity—Is the student unmotivated or going to college simply because it’s the next step? Or is he/she fascinated by new ideas, displaying an enormous appetite for learning and demonstrating keen insights into complex issues?

These categories won’t capture all that there is to say about a candidate—thus the value of written comments—but may serve to structure your thinking about the candidates you meet. Evaluations should be objective. Be thorough yet concise. Comments should be supported by student statements and conduct during the interview. While a favorable evaluation will not guarantee admission for a candidate, it will be considered by the Admissions Committee along with the many other documents that make up the applicant’s file.

Evaluation Submission

It is essential to the Admissions Committee's work that evaluations be submitted in timely fashion. Submit evaluations as soon as possible and within one week of the interview by e-mail to

Application Deadlines:

Early Decision 1 November 15
Early Action December 1
Early Decision 2 January 15
Regular Decision February 1