#106 The College Admissions Interview, What to Expect and How to Prep with Vince Garcia Transcript


Lisa Marker Robbins  00:59

Interviewing is a key skill for your teen or young adult to master. And while you might expect it for jobs or selective extracurriculars, you could be surprised to learn many colleges offer admissions interviews. In this episode, we are diving into everything your student needs to know to shine in those crucial conversations with alumni, admissions officers, or student interviewers fenc. Garcia is an IEC who not only prep students for interviews, but he’s also the co founder and creator of like live in online interviewing tool for colleges and universities. He will explain the college interview timeline, the types of interviews your team might encounter, and most importantly, how to prepare like a pro. So your student is that is making real connections, not just trying to ace a test. I’m Lisa Mark Robbins, and I want to welcome you to College and Career Clarity, a flourish coaching production. Let’s dive right into a great conversation. That’s Welcome to the show.


Vince Garcia  02:11

Thank you so much for having me today. Lisa, you know, I was excited to do this, because I think so much of what I do, as an independent educational consultant is help students think about their future. And that’s what your business is about helping students really think about their future. And so being able to talk about one piece of this, which is the interview, and if you have the opportunity to do that it can make such a difference because people are looking for human connection. And this is one way that colleges offer the opportunity for students to connect.


Lisa Marker Robbins  02:48

I like that you point out right there at the top like, this is about connection. This is not you know, it can I think it can feel like a test. It can feel like an assessment and we all get nervous on it not that students aren’t going to be nervous going into interviews My Word Of course they are. But it’s really about connection. Yes, yes. Yes. that in mind,



yeah. And as as you prepare, you know, for for an interview, and there are different forms, which we can we can talk about. There are different things that you can anticipate and ways that you can prepare to have that authentic connection just as you would if you were going to go you know, visit a school or you have some questions to prepare, if you were interviewing somebody who is taking care of your son or daughter, you would have questions and in that way, you can prepare for this particular interaction. Love it. So


Lisa Marker Robbins  03:48

we should say because we have listeners all year round that are grabbing these topics, but we’re recording this in December ahead of the upcoming winter break. Because as IECs you and I both know that in less in the late winter here, once we come back, students are going to be getting invitations, and we go through kind of an interview season. And then there’s also another season in the fall. So you know this way better than I do. But let’s let’s talk about kind of the seasonality of when colleges might ask students to interview.


Vince Garcia  04:25

So we just came off of a big, you know, reveal a lot of colleges are coming back with early action, rolling decision, early decision, decisions have come out. And so there are going to be students who were deferred or they might not have gotten in and so they have to read look at their list and they’re they’re looking at their list and some of the schools that that are left that they’re really interested in, will offer them opportunities to interview but you have to turn in the application before you get the interview. So one of the things, one of the tips I would say is because of where we are in December, if your school offers, you want to work on those applications first and good example, like today, I was looking at a student who wanted to add Thompson and wash you, they still have some spots, I don’t know, by the time you publish this interview, that could be gone. But they had some spots left in January. And so that’s really important. So you’re getting, you’re getting those interviews, and then you’ve had students who as they apply regular decision, or early decision to early decision to is, again, binding. If you get an opportunity for the interview, it’s typically going to be at this point with an alumni person and the alumni person. There’s, you know, three different types of interviews, there’s an interview with an admissions person, in an interview with a student, alumni interviews are the biggest type of interview at this point, because they’re the ones that, you know, admissions offices that are closing, students aren’t going to be around until the 15th or 18th of January, so it’s good to be an alum. And when you’re doing interviews with alumni, it’s sort of the Wild West because they’re, they’re doing it because they’re really committed to where they graduated from, they feel like they want to connect with students and, and really share their experience with students. But those interviews, depending on the alums time, they could have, that they could do, you know, eight to 10 a day, or they’re gonna they’re gonna spend two hours with you. So you don’t know if you’re getting get 30 minutes or two hours. A couple of tips just for parents, you know, this came up in a in a little phone tree that we have with under other college counselors who are both in public schools and independent schools. But one one thing I would say that is not appropriate is if you get an interview invite, it should not be at someone’s house.


Lisa Marker Robbins  07:11

Oh, yeah.


Vince Garcia  07:15

And if it is, you want to take someone with you who who is right there. I just I was surprised by this particular school that that was reaching out for interviews at their house, I think, what


Lisa Marker Robbins  07:30

do you think that the college knew that? Because I wonder how closely that’s pleased. But I mean, regardless, yes, you shouldn’t go to someone’s home, I mean, Panera, the library, Starbucks zoom, do you find that with the students that you’re working with that? You know, Zoom is was very prevalent, it was the only option and 2020 and 2021? Do you find that most students are doing zoom interviews, or they’re doing in person interviews,


Vince Garcia  08:04

it’s still it’s zoom, it’s just so much easier to conduct an interview, the student feels comfortable because they’re in their space, you’re starting I mean, we are starting to see, you know, coffee coffee shop. And then going back to your point just for a minute. I don’t think the school knew but because the the person who was who was offering it was in charge of the whole region. They probably found out about it after the decision came out, because it just it made everyone uncomfortable. But they didn’t want it to impact the decision. So they just took their parent with them to


Lisa Marker Robbins  08:41

the interview. So yeah, it was wise advice.


Vince Garcia  08:45

Yes, yeah, that was the one thing I just thought you gotta you don’t want to rock the system. But you do want to let them know, after the system has made its decision that there are better ways to interview people.


Lisa Marker Robbins  08:59

Yes. Well, and that, you know, I’ve seen students to be asked questions that shouldn’t be asked in an interview at times. And again, that was something that you would want to give feedback on that maybe after the admission decision. Yes. So you know, most of our listeners, if they have a senior they probably also have a younger student. Or, and we have a lot of people that work in high schools that listen as well and other ICs. So let’s go back to something you said about you know, right now, at the time we’re recording this, and these probably won’t be available, you know, tufts and wash. You still have some interview slots open. Yeah, let’s go back because we’ll have a lot of junior and sophomore parents listening, so they’re actually listening with the ear of like, okay, let me plan for next year. So what you’re referring to is, that’s really kind of an open interview like, Hey, you’re applying to this School. And if you would like to interview, then it’s up to you to go grab a time was that?


Vince Garcia  10:07

Yes, yes, yes. And the other type of system is, and this is most of the more selective options like the Ivy League, they’re going to ask you to, to come into the interview to submit your application. So for students that I had, who were deferred recently, there, were going to be turning in their applications based on the interviews they want to get, because they want to make sure that they get those chances to interact. So the the timing for the interviews, I would say is that you have some students, you can begin interviewing in the spring of your junior year, I would say, unless you’re a very extroverted, very comfortable speaking with people, your son or daughter is can do that. And they have sort of a volume of things that they could discuss, and they have a sense of the direction that they want to go, then you can begin to book those interviews as you’re visiting campuses. That’s the first sort of phase. And then there’s summer. Usually, I usually have students start to connect July, August, early September, because they have, you know, a volume of things to talk about. They they will practice, they will do practice interviews with schools that they’re interested in. I always tell students, and sometimes we can’t, you know, always get this right. But I don’t think the place that you really want to apply to or go to, should be your first interview, because you want to kind of work out the kinks. And so I had a student today Oh, and there’s another type of interview. The other type of interview is Canadian schools. If you interview for commerce, which is the hardest major to get into, besides computer science, and engineering, and architecture and Canadian colleges, they use this system. That was some friends that helped develop this, this interviewing system called initial interview, where you it’s so odd. You interviewing at Commerce Rotman commerce in at the University of Toronto, you get you come online, and they’re recording you. And they give you two questions, and you type out your answer. And they’re watching you on the screen. And then they shoot out initial interviews, shoots out a question, and you have 45 seconds to think about it. And then you have two minutes to respond. And then yes, and then he gets a Submit Now, it sounds really


Lisa Marker Robbins  12:45

want to be practiced. If you’re going into that. Yes.


Vince Garcia  12:50

Although I have to say now that I’ve had a couple of students do it, do it, it sounds worse than it than it is. And because because, you know, and your you know, your whole, you know, system in terms of preparing students for their career, one of the questions is obviously going to be talk about why Rockman and, and why, what do you want to do? And what are the resources. So you can definitely practice and prepare yourself, just as you would in a face to face or a zoom interview. So initial interview is has not been adopted widely in the United States only. There’s only one school that use it uses it for a very selective program. USC does it in their business school, but don’t I don’t know, I don’t even want to talk about it, because I’m afraid more colleges will adopt that crazy, you know,


Lisa Marker Robbins  13:43

right. Dating. So, you know, like recapping. So there’s like open interviews where you’re just expressing interest. And we should be clear, not every college is even going to give the opportunity for some colleges will have no interviews at all available. And you’ve got to do your homework, because it’s not like the common apps gonna suddenly ping, go select an interview time. I always say to people, like, quit just relying, I mean, the common apps great, but like quit relying on that whole heartedly thinking is going to have all the things, it’s not going to necessarily tell you if they’re doing, you know, test optional, or if they’re doing self reported scores, or if they’re offering interviews, you still have to go to the college’s website to see how this works. And to make sure you’re not missing anything. So these interviews, he’s open interviews where anybody can grab them, but they’re limited. You’ve got to go to the school’s website to find out about it and to sign up, right. Yeah, yeah.


Vince Garcia  14:43

And that’s where your spreadsheet I think really comes in the process of applying to college. The United States is crazy. I mean, it is it is a wild ride. It’s a wild it’s an operational nightmare from Should I tend to send a test score to If I do send a test score, do I can I self reported? Or do I have to? Do I have to send it officially? And should I? Can I get an interview? Can I just sign up? What for one? Or do I have to turn in the app? So you have to jump through these hoops. And you have to sort of prepare yourself. So for the students, like I said, who were deferred, we already had the plan. So the plan literally, the next today is already being enacted. So for parents out there, and students who are really on top of their process, one of the key ways to demonstrate interest is this interview. So taking notice, oh, and then one other one other tip, I would say, and this is really high level, I’ve only seen it a couple of times. But sometimes after a student has applied a school that doesn’t typically offer interviews, puts in the students portal, we have an opportunity for one week for you to interview. And if you don’t open that portal, I look. Yeah, you missed it.


Lisa Marker Robbins  16:06

Let’s let’s give context to that for our junior and sophomore families who are listening, because so what Vince is really saying is, once you’ve hit submit on that application, you now go into the schools portal, you have an account, they’ll email you the login. And you need to be logging in every week, you need to be paying attention to email. Get some I mean, email etiquette, I preach it all the time. Email is not going away. And as a career coach, you will have to email in your job students. So let’s get practicing now. So that’s a fantastic point, like check your portal because you might have applied, but there’s no opportunity and then suddenly they see something in there about you. Or maybe they send it to everybody, like, here’s an opportunity, grab an interview slot. And then if you look at it two weeks later, you’re like, oh, my gosh, I totally missed that.


Vince Garcia  17:04

Yeah, yeah. That that particular option came two years ago through Babson and I know the reason the student got admitted is because we opened up portal,


Lisa Marker Robbins  17:15

and they jumped on the opportunity, and they jumped


Vince Garcia  17:19

on it. So so it can come in different ways. But you can be proactive and plan for it.


Lisa Marker Robbins  17:29

Well, I also like what you said about one of one of our mutual friends, Sylvia, she was on before about demonstrated interest. Yeah. And so she she talked about the different ways. And I’ll link to that episode in the show notes. She talked about the different ways that students can demonstrate interest. But when you demonstrate interest, and we we do a deep dive over there, it’s telling the colleges like hey, you’re you’re more likely to attend if admitted. And I like what you just said, like be strategic with these interviews, because this is a an important way to demonstrate interest. So we’ll link to that. Let’s talk a little bit. So we’ve talked about, like, where these opportunities might pop up and surprise us and, and how to plan for them. Let’s talk a little bit about like, what kind of questions to expect, and how do you prepare for those questions going into interviews?


Vince Garcia  18:30

So I would say there’s there’s four parts to the interview. And the first part is sort of introduction, the introduction section, and they’re meant to be really open ended. And I will say, just as a tip, the open ended questions seem to make the students the most worried because they there’s no right or wrong answer. So they’re they wonder like, is this the way to go, but the open ended questions are, tell me about your high school. Tell me what are you interested in studying what has been a significant thing that you hope to when you think about high school? What is something that you’ll always remember? So they tend to be really broad ended questions, but they’re meant really, because there is no right or wrong answer to just get you warmed up and to make you feel comfortable with the process. The next section is sort of intellectual curiosity, academic progress. I always tell students, you know, when you’re preparing the first thing, and I tell them, because now a lot of interviews are being conducted through zoom. So if you say to the interviewer, oh, you know, I prepared I wrote down my classes and I have some questions. So when I look down, you’ll I’m looking down at my preparation. The person across from you understands that you don’t you’re not reading from some script, but you just prepared some notes. So as long as you let people We’ll know what you’re doing. And I will say sometimes students, they feel like, oh, I can prepare. And then if I press on the screen, and you know, have my answers there, they won’t notice that, but they can see when the light changes.


Lisa Marker Robbins  20:14

That’s so yeah, so it’s okay to prepare and have some notes. Yeah, no, no, it’s just I say all the time. The inner. I’m not, not in this sort of talking about interviews, but the people in college admissions, the college admissions officers, in this case, maybe an alumni interviewer, they expect you to be a teenager, they don’t expect you to be a 30 year old adult who has work experience and has done a million interviews for different various things. A million might be an exaggeration, but they’re expecting you to show up as a teenager would show up in so it’s okay to say, Oh, I you know, I brought some notes along that I use to prepare.


Vince Garcia  20:54

Yeah, yeah. And yeah, here’s my classes and my question. So as long as they know what you’re doing, you’re set. So. So in the academic section, What classes are you taking junior and senior year? What’s your favorite class? What would somebody who’s recommend you to college say about you in the classroom? What was a challenge? And what did you do about that particular academic challenge? If you say that you have a particular interest, they might like business or English, they might ask you something related to that particular academic area. So then, then the next question is really, people refer to it as the activities of the leadership section. But the way I think about it is, what are you going to talk about? How are you going to help the person across from you understand how you’re going to contribute to their community. So you could be a musician, you could be an actor, you could be you worked all the time, I had one student, we had to figure out how they were going to talk about this experience. But one of the ways that I tell students to prepare for the interview, they should always number one, to have five reasons that they’re applying to the school. Three of them connected to their major interest. And two of them can be things like lacrosse, or things that are unique to that particular school. But why are you applying? You have to be able to answer that that is number one. And then the next part are what are the three to seven things that you want them to know about you by the end of the conversation? And I had one particular student and this came up in the How are you contributing to our community section or leadership activities section, she took care of her grandmother who had Alzheimer’s who would sleep all day and at night, this young woman was sleep by the door, because her grandmother would always try to leave, because she thought it was now. And so she needed to say part of my responsibilities the last four years with taking care of her at night. Sometimes she’d be up from two to five, because her grandmother was read thought it was you know, 10am. So knowing what are the things you want to get across to your reader, when they get to the section at the end where they say, is there anything else you’d like to talk about? Or ad, you could say, oh, you know what, I want to talk about two more things. And then you have covered your list. And you


Lisa Marker Robbins  23:25

it’s okay to speak up, right? It’s like, I want, I want students to hear that, like, find your voice. That’s something we work on in the course that they want. They want to know you they want to hear from you find your voice, it’s okay to say, oh, yeah, there there is something or Oh, I do have a question for you. I love that, you know, what comes to mind vents is, is you’re saying this is a lot of the interview prep really are the same things that students are thinking about as they’re writing the essays. Yes. Right. So writing your essays, let’s say it’s, you know, let’s say it’s January, and you get invited. I had a student not too long ago, Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, has has a competitive scholarship student got invited for a weekend to go, you know, do different various activities. And part of that was going to be part of the interview. Right. And so, as you’re prepping, like if somebody’s listening, and they have a senior or you have a junior, and this happens a year from now, think about you’ve done a lot of work on writing your personal statement writing, though, why this college essay, why this major essay, the community essay, so lean into the work that you’ve already been doing to help prepare?


Vince Garcia  24:50

Yes, yes, absolutely. Absolutely. So if you take that information that you’ve prepared for your why, why are you applying to me? A tea, why are you applying to Occidental? Then then have them part of your work is done. The section after you know sort of the introduction, academic community leadership section is often sometimes what I call the random section where they might ask a student to talk about, there can be lots of different types of questions like What is an issue that’s important to you? And what have you done about that particular issue? If you are going to this one has been will be popular, I think in the next year, we’re about to have a presidential election. Now, they’re not going to ask you your opinion, but they’re about who you’re going to vote for. But they would say what issue would you want to know more about and ask a particular candidate? And so that’d be should be a reflection of your interests. And then the final thing, as you said, Lisa, this was it’s really true. I think one of the markers of intellectual curiosity are your questions. So you ask questions that surprise and engage the person across from you in a conversation. So one question I always give my students and it seems to always get a great response, like, Oh, that’s a great question is, is there something you wish you had known about the school that you went to? That you wish you had known right before you started? And so and I always say, you know, I wish somebody had said, you need to be confident about your writing before starting college, because when I went to college, I had so much writing to do in that first quarter, I felt like a train had hit me. I never I thought to myself, I was going to be writing papers every week, all the time. So that’s why the theme seems to really hit it.


Lisa Marker Robbins  26:54

That’s fantastic advice. Well, I know we’re up against a hard stop, because you have a student you’re gonna go work with. Yes, you work as an IEC, supporting students on this college bound journey. And if people want to learn more about working with you events, where’s the best place for them to find you?


Vince Garcia  27:12

Definitely go to our website, q&a, college admissions. And we’re based in Los Angeles, and we have a team of counselors and people who can support you through the process. But Lisa, I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity today. And the interview can be one of those plus factors that can really make a difference for students. So thank you for letting me talk about that today.


Lisa Marker Robbins  27:38

Thanks for joining us. I know it’s an important topic, and this is going to set students up for success. Absolutely. Thanks, Spence. Thank you. Thanks to fans for arming your teen with the know how to ace those college interviews while staying true to themselves. Now, here’s your weekly college bound homework, whether you’re prepping for interviews already, or that’s not anytime soon. Let’s dive into Vince’s exercise that he suggested. I want your team to list five solid reasons why they’re eyeing their colleges of interest. Break it down to three reasons linked to their future major, and to unique aspects of the college. Are you wondering why this is important, especially if you’re not prepping for interviews just yet? Well, this exercise is like a flashlight. Illuminating the path your team needs to tread before application season senior year. If you hit a roadblock with this task, and can’t pinpoint the reasons, I’ve got just the thing to help my complimentary webinar, how to guide your team to choose the right major college and career. You’ll find it at flourish coaching co.com forward slash video. And trust me, it’s been a game changer for many students. I’m going to link that in the show notes as well. If you found today’s episode helpful, go ahead and share it with a friend who could use some of this wisdom. And maybe bookmark this episode for when your teens interview season rolls around. Thanks for tuning in to College and Career Clarity, where we help your family transition out of overwhelm