How Much Do College Admission Interviews Matter?


There's an old story about a holy man who used to carry a piece of paper in each pocket. The paper in one pocket read, "You are the dust of the earth" and the paper  in the other pocket read, "You are the reason The Maker created the Earth."

I tell this story to my students the week before the SAT to put things into perspective.

“The SAT is a really important opportunity,” I tell them. “Or, it's not that important at all.” Some students laugh at this point, some look confused. Then I might say something like, “Sure, your SAT score may have something to do with which college you’ll get into, but most of you in this room are going to go to some great college and go on to lead long and fulfilling lives and when at the end of those lives you are on your deathbed taking stock of all you’ve been and done, I hope (dear God I hope) and expect that the issue foremost in your mind will not be your SAT score. If it is, then society, your parents and I have failed you. There is much more to life than the SAT.”

It's a lesson for life.

The lesson also applies to the college admissions interview, which is on my mind this week because I’m getting emails from students that say things like, “I have an interview with Yale in three days and idk what to do! Help!!!”

First of all:


In tomorrow's Part One of this two-part post I'll offer some evidence suggesting the interview may not be as important as you think, or important for the reasons you think.

In Part Two I'll outline a three-step approach for how to prep for the interview because either the interview is important or it doesn't matter how important it is because you've got an interview in like three days and you need help, like stat!

Full disclosure: I’m an alumni interviewer for Northwestern, so my information (and biases) come from this perspective. Being an alumni interviewer means I know a little bit about how interviews go, but since I’ve never worked in the Northwestern admissions office, I don’t how much weight NU accords to the interview. And no, I can’t (and won’t) get you into Northwestern. (Insert non-threatening smiley face emoticon.)


Written by Ethan Sawyer – In addition to being the College Essay Guy, Ethan is a writer, teacher, speaker, and voice actor. He has worked at Elite since 2003 is also the coordinator for the Elite Community Scholars Program, a program very close to his heart. You can email him at The views expressed in this blog post are Ethan's and don't necessarily reflect those of Elite Educational Institute.