Applying To College

College Essay Writing and Interview Skills


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6 Confidence-Building Body Language Tips for Your Next Interview

6 Body Language Tips for Successful Interviews

It takes just a few seconds before we pass judgement on someone we meet. We can’t help it; it’s our nature. Even before a person speaks our brains start to give us the thumbs up or thumbs down.

Body language is how we communicate without words. It can be a look, a smile, a stance, a gesture. It can be a fidget, a crossed arm, a slouch.

Interviewers start to make decisions about you the moment they see you. That’s before you say hello. So if your body is talking, you need to know what it’s saying. Because in an interview, good body language is essential to your interview’s success.

If you’ve got a job interview, a college interview, or an internship interview, here are 6 simple and successful body language tips:

1. Sit up straight. Slouching is a sign that you lack confidence. Leaning back is a sign that you’re defensive or don’t care.

2. Lean slightly forward. When you lean slightly forward you lessen the space between you and the interviewer. It shows increased interest in the conversation.

3. Don’t fidget. Fidgeting is a sign of discomfort or weakness. It’s also distracting. If you twirl your hair, pull it back. If you twist or rub your hands, fold them in front of you or keep them flat in your lap. If you tap your pen, put it away. Fidgeting can be a hard habit to break, but if you work on being aware of when you do it, and stop yourself when you do, you’ll find that over time you’ll be able to control it more easily.

4. Maintain good eye contact. Looking someone in the eye is a sign of honesty and directness. It also shows that you’re engaged in the conversation. It’s okay to occasionally look away — most of us do that, especially when we’re thinking. But remember to bring your eyes back to the interviewer. Don’t stare, though — that can get creepy.

5. No limp fish handshakes. A strong handshake is a sign of confidence, so be firm when you shake someone’s hand. Too strong a handshake can come off as aggressive (and potentially painful). So can holding on for too long. Not sure about your handshake? Find several people to practice with.

6. Smile. A genuine smile lights up your face. It shows the interviewer that you’re happy to be there and that you’re enjoying the experience. So when you meet your interviewer, smile. And when it’s appropriate during the interview, smile (or even laugh). Definitely smile when you shake hands and leave — that’s the last picture your interviewer will have of you.

For more information about interviewing, check out my posts on how to begin and end college interviews and why you might be failing your job interview.

All eyes are on you from the moment you arrive for your interview until the moment you leave. Make sure your body language speaks volumes — in the right way.

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skills
Sharon Epstein

Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut. A Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee, Sharon lectures extensively on essay writing. Sharon teaches students how to master interview skills, write resumes, and transform their goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. She works with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, FaceTime, Skype and email. Visit my website for more info. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.

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Jump-Start Your College Interview: Bring Photos

lJump-start your College Interview - Bring Photos

Want to jump-start your college interview?

Bring Photos. Why?

  • Photos can be great conversation starters.
    • Imagine being able to say, “I’ve got some pictures of the play I starred in.” The conversation is off and running.
  • Sharing photos can put you at ease.
    • Are you on the shy side? Pull out your photos. It will relax the conversation right away.
  • Photos help when something’s hard to explain.
    • One of my students from Wilton, Connecticut, starred in a lot of plays. Instead of trying to describe the roles he played, he brought photos. The photos filled in the details so he didn’t have to describe each role, plus they showed him doing what he loved.

Ace Your College Interview - Bring PhotosWhat kind of photos should you bring?

  • Anything visual. If you’ve been in a dance recital, concert, or marching band—if you’ve built a tree house, gone with your sports team to the state championship, or just come back from an experience you want to share—almost anything you’ve done can be a shared in a photo.

Avoid These Photo Pitfalls:

  • Too many photos! Edit your photos before you share them. Don’t bring a dozen when two or three will do.
  • Don’t make your interviewer wait while you thumb through a hundred photos. Find the photos you need beforehand. The object is to get the conversation started, not bring it to a grinding halt.

Above All: Everything you bring should represent you at your best. If you think a photo is too goofy, silly, or perhaps even inappropriate for an interviewer, don’t bring it.  If you’re not sure, ask an adult.

Then share your photos and enjoy the conversation.

Helpful links:
5 Best Tips for College Interview Success
College Interview Tips: Is it Okay to Ask for Something to Drink?
College Interview Tips: How to Interview with an Alum
College Interview Tips: Combatting Nerves
Interview Tips: How to Interview with a College Sports Coach

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skillsSharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut. A Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee, Sharon lectures extensively on essay writing. Sharon teaches students how to master interview skills, write killer resumes, and transform their goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. She works with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, Skype and email. Visit her website for more info. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.


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5 Best Tips for College Interview Success

College Interview Success - 5 Best TipsYou’ve got a college interview. OMG. NOW WHAT!?!? Take a deep breath and read on.

Here are my 5 Best Tips for Interview Success:

1. Relax. It’s Normal to Be Nervous. Use these 4 relaxation strategies to help ace your college interview:

  • Arrive early so you can look around.
  • Take a brisk walk to shake off jitters.
  • Breathe! We forget to do this all the time.
  • Bring a bottle of water. Nerves can give you a dry mouth—you don’t want to feel like you’re chewing on a fist full of Saltines.

2. Decide On 3 Things You Want the Interviewer to Remember About You. This is a great way to feel more in control during your interview. If you decide on three ideas beforehand, you’ll never be fishing for something to say.

What should you choose? Any activity, accomplishment, goal or value that’s important to you. Think about:

  • Ways you’ve been a leader.
  • How you’ve contributed to your sport or school.
  • Your best qualities (You’re thoughtful, determined, loyal, etc.)
  • Your goals.

3. Be Prepared to Ask and Answer Questions.

  • Anticipate the types of questions you’ll be asked and practice answering them. (Don’t try to wing it. It doesn’t work.)
  • Have questions ready for the interviewer.
  • Tip: Don’t ask questions that are easily answered by the catalog or website.
  • I give you practice questions to ask and answer on my  website.

4. Body Language Counts.

  • Greet the interviewer with a firm handshake.
  • Sit up straight.
  • Make eye contact.
  • Don’t fidget.
  • No gum or candy. (True story: One of my students kept reaching into his pocket, unwrapping and sucking on Starbursts, then shoved the papers into his pocket and wiped his hands on his pants.)
  • Dress nicely. Like your mom would be proud of.

5. Follow Up Right Away with a Thank You Note.

  • An email is fine, but if you want to stand out also send an old-fashioned, hand-written thank you. It’s one more way to make an excellent impression, which is exactly what you want.

Remember: A good interview is an exchange of information and ideas. Be prepared, be comfortable and enjoy.

I’ll be writing about more interview tips, so stay tuned.

Helpful links:
College Interview Tips: Is it Okay to Ask for Something to Drink?
College Interview Tips: How to Interview with an Alum
College Interview Tips: Combatting Nerves
Interview Tips: How to Interview with a College Sports Coach

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skillsSharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut. A Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee, Sharon lectures extensively with college admissions officers. Sharon teaches students how to master interview skills, write killer resumes, and transform their goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. She works with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, Skype and email. Visit her website for more info. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.


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Interview Tips: How to Interview with a College Sports Coach

How to interview with a college sports coach from Sharon Epstein and First Impressions College Consulting

Do you plan to play sports at college? Then plan to do your homework. Whether you’re being recruited, or seeking out programs of interest, it’s important to find a school that fits you both athletically and academically.

That’s what Jenn Osher has done. She’s headed to Bard College this fall to play Division III soccer, after helping her Stamford, Connecticut Westhill High School soccer team win the Class LL state championship. Jenn says “always ask where the sports program is headed. “Bard’s program is getting better, and that was important to me.” Jenn also stresses that you should “make sure you like the people who will be on your team. If you don’t like them, you won’t want to play.

How Do You Check Out College Athletics Programs?

  1. Read the info on each school’s website
  2. Visit whenever you can
  3. Talk to the students playing your sport
  4. Contact the coach and schedule a phone or in-person interview

Here Are Tips for Interviewing with a College Sports Coach:

  1. Be on time
  2. Bring your resume, highlight reel, and scrapbook, or send them in advance
  3. Know the coach’s name
  4. Be enthusiastic
  5. Talk about your accomplishments without bragging
  6.  Say what you’ll bring to the team as an athlete and team player, as well as to the college as a whole.
  7. *This is the time to find out if the program is right for you, so have questions ready for the coach

Questions to Ask a College Sports Coach:

  1. How will I fit in on the team?
  2. How would you describe your coaching style?
  3. Where is your program headed in the next four years?
  4. If you’re making big changes in your program, will there be a place for me?
  5. How do athletes balance academics and athletics?
  6. What are the best features of your school?
  7. How will you help me become the best player I can be?
  8. Do your school and students support the program?
  9. Does the team have any travel opportunities during the year or during the summer?
  10. Why should I pick your program?
  11. How does the admission process work and do student athletes get any preference?
  12.  How is the training staff at your school?
  13.  Is there a strength and conditioning coach who will help me become a better athlete?
  14.  How would you describe the overall attitude of the team?
  15. Can you arrange for me to meet other players?

Questions a College Sports Coach Might Ask You:

  1. What fields of study are you interested in?
  2. What are the things that you are looking for most in a school?
  3. What are you most interested in about our school?
  4. What types of grades are you getting now?
  5. How do you see yourself fitting in here?
  6. What extracurricular activities are you involved in?
  7. What do you think about your high school coach?

Follow up right away with a thank you note. Email is fine, and a snail mail follow-up won’t hurt, either.

Want more questions to ask a college coach? Check out this post from recruiting-101.com:
What questions should I ask college football coaches or basketball coaches on phone calls?

If you want to play sports at college you’ll need to work hard to find a school that fits you both athletically and academically. But the rewards will be worth it — both on and off the field.


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Interview Skills for Teens – July 26

Join me for “Interviewing Skills for High School Students,” Tuesday, July 26,  at the Redding Community Center, 7 – 8:30pm. Have fun practicing in mock interviews and get immediate feedback and advice. We’ll talk about how to prepare and what to wear, and how to banish pesky nerves.

Good interview skills are a must, whether it’s for a job, an internship, or college. So learn them here! (With donuts at the break)

Sign up through Redding Park and Recreation: 203-938-2551
www.townofreddingct.org


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College Interview Tips: “I Dunno” and One-Word Answers Won’t Cut It

A college interviewer is looking over a student’s transcript:

College Interviewer:  “I see you really improved your grades over the last few years”
Student: “Yes.”
College Interviewer:  “That’s a nice accomplishment.”
Student:
“Uh huh.”
College Interviewer: “Was there something that motivated you?”
Student: “…I dunno. I hadn’t really thought about it.”
College Interviewer: “…Okay, then.  Well, let’s move on to something else.”

Can you hear the sounds of an interview crashing? This student has offered zero information, and the interviewer hasn’t learned a thing. All she can do is move on to the next question. It’s probably going to be a torturous half-hour — for her.

Don’t give one word answers. Do make your college interview a conversation.

Think of a conversation as a circle. You’re responsible for completing half the circle and the interviewer is responsible for completing the other half. One-word answers don’t complete the circle; you need to provide information. And not just any information. Unlike the student in the example who tells the interviewer that he “hadn’t really thought about it,” it should be apparent that you’ve given some thought to many of these ideas before hand. Let’s try that conversation again:

College Interviewer: “I see you really improved your grades over the last few years”
Student: “Yeah. It was tough for a while because I had to learn how to balance school work with being on varsity. But it turned out to be a pretty good lesson. Now I’m more focused with things I want to do.”

Much better. Look at what’s changed. The student has engaged in a conversation by offering information, and the interviewer has learned some interesting (and positive) things about him. Now she has a starting point for her next question and the conversation can continue:

College Interviewer: “That’s right. I remember seeing that you made varsity your freshman year. Tell me more about that.”

The interview is off and running.

Think of your college interview as a two-way street. You’re a participant, and your job is to provide good information and ask good questions. Make it a conversation, and you’ll make a good impression.


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College Interview Tips: Combatting Nerves

Let’s face it. For some people just hearing the words “college interview” can be scary.  Like one of those cop shows where the only light in the room blazes on the poor suspect who’s sweating bullets while he tries to come up with the right answers.

Not your college interview.  So don’t worry.

Okay, you say. You get that. The interviewer isn’t your enemy and you’re not entering a torture chamber. You’ve prepared for your college interview. You’ve practiced answering questions and even have some good questions ready to ask. But you still feel your mouth going dry. What do you do?

Here are 6 tips to combat college interview nerves:

1. Arrive early. Give yourself time sit down, relax, take a look around, and get your bearings.

2. Take a short, brisk walk before your interview. You’ll help get rid of nervous energy and be less fidgety once you get inside.

3. Bring a bottle of water. Nerves can cause a dry mouth, so keep water with you and take a sip when you need it.

4. Take a deep breath. Focusing on your breath can be very calming. Try this exercise: Breathe in on a slow count of four, hold it for four, and breathe out on a count of four.

5. Greet the interviewer with a smile and a handshake. Look him or her in the eye, smile, offer your hand, and say hello. You’re taking the initiative to start the interview on friendly terms, and you’ll find it makes a difference.

6. Try “small talk” first. You don’t have to get down to big questions right away. You can ease into the interview with a bit of small talk — how the weather’s nice for a visit, how the directions were easy to follow, etc. This will give you an extra few moments to ease into things.

Every interviewer understands about nerves. You might even tell the interviewer you’re a bit nervous. That’s okay. The trick is to be well prepared for your interview and then to know a few techniques that can help make the experience as pleasant as possible.