Admissions interviews are sometimes confirmation of a decision already made, sometimes a second chance for applicants to show some positive merit, and sometimes a chance for the admissions committee to advise a candidate they need to think about another career and educational goal. In any case, there is some risk for the applicant. You assemble the best possible application and most of the other materials are under your direct influence, but interviews are unknown, uncertain interactions that are graded by someone else on a scale that is unknown to applicants. It is possible to have an interview that felt like a bad dream end up helping your application, but it is also true that feeling an interview went well is no guarantee that it helps your application.
It is helpful to know how many different agendas there could be by adcom members. If the school has a very selective admissions (very low acceptance rate), the committee is tasked with selecting only applicants that match their standards very very well. That means the adcom could have an approach that they need to filter out applicants and they are looking for reasons not to admit. When a school has more typical acceptance rates, the adcom attitude is more likely to be inclusive and members may be looking for reasons to admit. This is certainly a generalization and admissions officers could disagree with the assessment, but it is clear that some schools are looking for what you bring to the table and will admit based on that, while others are looking for your weakness as a reason to deny admission. Admissions interview performance is certainly influenced by the applicant pool and school culture.
When a poorly written essay comes in, or when the verbal test scores or english test screws are low, the interview is a place the adcom confirms their interpretation of those scores or a place they gain confidence that the scores are not accurate. If you have low verbal or English language test scores, you should do really well in he interview because this is your one chance to impress the adcom. You can undo lots of the damage of low test scores by interviewing well.
Additionally, if your essay doesn’t clearly explain why that program is the best choice for you and how your career will be impacted by attending the school, the interview is a chance for you to strengthen that message. At schools where fit is a critical component to the admissions decision, this is a golden opportunity to make clarifications.
In short, there are lots of implications around interview performances and it helps you plan if you get to know the school you are applying to. The more you know about the school (read: the more interaction you have with the admissions office), the more comfortable you can be with the admissions interview as a piece of the application process. Don’t get scared by uncertainty, but do your best to prepare and you will give yourself the best opportunity for a strong interview.
This post continues a recent series of posts about admissions interviews. Please visit the earlier posts including:
MBA Admission Interview Preparation
Admissions interview preparation services are now available via InsideTheAdcom. Preparation promotes success!