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College Essay Writing and Interview Skills


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Top Interview Tips for Teens

Do you have a college, job, or internship interview coming up?

Would you like to feel more comfortable and confident?

When you don’t have much, or any, interview experience, there are a few tips and techniques that are especially good to know.

In this post you’ll find my top ten list of interview skills for teens. They’re easy to learn and they work. Use them and you’ll discover how to make a strong and successful impression in your interview.

Top Interview Tips for Teens

1. Arrive Early

Early means early. Being late makes a bad impression. Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes before your interview. Leave time for traffic jams, red lights, and a lack of parking spaces.

There’s a big bonus to arriving early. You’ll have time to sit down, relax, and get acquainted with your surroundings. You can double-check your notes. You can even take a trip to the bathroom.

If you’re not sure where you’re going, schedule a practice run. Or do it virtually. I tend to get lost, so before I go someplace new I use Google Maps street view and take a virtual trip where I’m headed. That way I can see the building I’m going to and it looks familiar when I get there.

2. Dress Appropriately

Collared shirts, khakis, dress slacks, skirts, button down blouses…this is the stuff people wear to interviews. Leave anything sheer, high cut, or low cut in your closet. Bottom line: This is one time you want to get wardrobe advice from a grownup.

3. Relax. It’s Normal to Be Nervous.

It’s okay to be nervous—in fact, a few nerves can keep us on our toes. But when you’ve got too many butterflies, here’s what to do:

Before your interview:

-Prepare. This may sound obvious, but it’s the thing that works. Know your positive qualities, have four or five examples you can talk about that illustrate your fit and experiences, and practice answering common interview questions. When you get to the interview you’ll feel more confident and in control.

The day of your interview:

-Arrive early so you can settle in.
-Take a brisk walk to shake off any jitters.
-Breathe! We forget to do this all the time.
-Bring a bottle of water. Nerves can give you a dry mouth. (But sip, don’t swig.)

During your interview:

-Remember the interviewer’s not the enemy—he or she wants you to do your best and succeed.
-If you stammer or forget something, don’t worry. It happens to everybody. Just smile and move on. If you’re really stuck, you can always say, “Can I think about it and come back to that question?”
-If you need an extra moment, take a sip of water.
-Smile. It helps you relax inside.
-Breathe.

For more help on how to de-stress, read my post on combating interview nerves.

4.  Know How to Start and End An Interview

Starting Your Interview: Look the interviewer in the eye and greet him or her with a firm handshake. Address your interviewer by name. Be cheerful and complimentary. (“Hello, Mr. Gavin, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Thank you for taking the time to meet with me.”) Smile.

Ending Your interview. Do the same thing: Look the interviewer in the eye, shake hands, and smile. Thank the interviewer for his or her time, and make sure to say that you enjoyed the experience. (“Thanks for taking the time to meet with me, Mr. Gavin. I really enjoyed talking with you.”) Saying you enjoyed the experience is important. It helps leave the interviewer with a positive impression.

Ace your college interview - handshakesTip: A note on shaking hands. Some teens feel uncomfortable about being the first to offer a handshake. Don’t be—it’s a sign of confidence and maturity. The interviewer’s looking at you for adult qualities like maturity, responsibility, and leadership. Your handshake should be firm, but not bone crushing. And certainly not like a limp fish (!). For more information, read my post on the best ways to begin and interviews.

5. Be Able to Answer Common Interview Questions.

There are lots of possible interview questions, but some pop up repeatedly. Here’s a list of common interview questions you should know how to answer:

Tell me about yourself.
Why do you want to work here/Why do you want to go to school here?
How would you be a good fit here?
Tell me about a couple of your strengths.
What’s your biggest weakness?
What are your favorite subjects in school? Why?
What’s been your most challenging subject?
What’s gotten you curious enough to explore on your own outside of class?
How would your friends or teachers describe you?
What book(s) have you read recently outside of class?
Tell me about a time you had to overcome an obstacle or challenge.
Do you get along with your teachers?
Where do you see yourself in five or ten years?

Practicing is one of the best things you can do to get ready for an interview. Enlist a friend or family member to practice with you, and take turns being the interviewer and interviewee so you get a feel for both sides.

For more sample questions, check out my practice interview.

6. Never Give One Word Answers. Add Relevant Examples Instead.

Good interviews are conversations; they’re a give and take of information. That’s why you should never respond to questions with a one-word answer—it‘s like turning a two-way street into a dead end. Check out this “before” example:

Interviewer: “It’s nice to meet you. I see on your resume that you interned for the electric company.”
You: “Yes.”

Crickets. You just slammed the brakes on the conversation and now the interviewer has no place to go. But if you add an example, especially one that shows off your positive qualities, you create flow. Here’s what that answer might sound like:

Interviewer: “It’s nice to meet you. I see on your resume that you interned for the electric company.”
You: “Yes. I started out answering phones, but when I told them I was interested in marketing they let me switch departments and gave me a mentor. Now I’ve discovered how much I like marketing.”
Interviewer: That’s terrific. Tell me more about your mentor and how you work together.

When you include examples, you continue the conversation. The interviewer learns a lot more about you, and gets a much better sense of why you’d be a good fit.

Tip: Come up with 4 or 5 examples you can talk about in your interview. Your examples should help illustrate your positive qualities. Start by finding an example of leadership, an example of your ability to work as a team member, a time you overcame an obstacle, and both a class and an activity that have been particularly meaningful and why. Then, depending on the question you’re asked, choose the example that helps answer the question. (You can probably think of other ones, too.) If you need help figuring out your positive qualities, click here.

7. Research the School or Business.

Pretend you’re an interviewer and you ask two students why they want to go to your school. The first one says, “Because you’ve got lots of fun courses.” The second one says, “I really appreciate the school’s philosophy that to fully succeed you should know more than your single field of study.” Which student is going to stand out to you? The student with the specific answer.

To stand out, you’ve got to have specific, thoughtful answers. For that, you need to research the school or business. (Yes, this is homework, but I promise it pays off.)

Here are the steps you can use to help you ace your homework research:

How to Research a Business: Go to the company’s website. Find out what the company does, such as the products it manufactures or the services it provides. As you look through the website, pay attention to the main ideas the company highlights (Sustainability? Innovation? Connection with employees?). Next, look for news about the company on the website or search for it on Google. This will help you understand what’s new, and where the company is headed. As you go along, jot down the key points, especially the ones that make you feel like you’d be a good fit or excited to work there. You want to be able to answer questions like, “What do you know about our company?”…”Why do you want to work here?”…”Why would we be a good fit for you?”

How to Research a School: Go to the school’s website. You’re looking for two things: Information about the school and information about the students. Start by looking at the home page. What images and words appear on this page? The home page is like the school’s main ad—it’s where they’re going to hit you with a strong message about who they are and what makes them attractive. After the home page, find and read about the school’s mission and academic philosophy. Then follow the links that interest you to learn about academics, student life, activities, etc. As you go along, take notes about what interests you. Jot down the key words used to describe the school and its students (Involved? Globally aware? Research oriented?). Then come up with examples of how you fit those words and interests, so you can talk about it in the interview.

8. Use Good Body Language.

Body language is how we communicate without words. Believe it or not, before you say hello an interviewer is judging you based on your body language. That’s why good body language makes a good impression.

Here are good body language techniques:

– Sit up straight
– Look the interviewer in the eye
– Don’t fidget
– Don’t twirl your hair
Have good energy
– Keep your hands in your lap most of the time
– Smile when it’s appropriate

For more body language techniques, read my post, Six Confidence-Building Body Language Tips.

9. Ask Questions.

You should have two or three questions ready for the interviewer. Your interviewer will expect it. Write your questions down on a notepad and bring them with you. You can refer to the notepad when you ask your questions. (But don’t refer to your notes when you’re answering interview questions.) Make sure your questions are thoughtful. Don’t ask questions easily answered by the website.

Tip: You don’t have to wait until the end of the interview to ask questions. Ask questions when it feels appropriate.

how to write collehow to write college interview thank you note10. Send a Thank You Note.

This is crucial. Send a thank you email right away. If you’d like to, you can also follow up with a handwritten note. When you’re writing, don’t be too casual. Instead of “Hey” or “Hi,” say, “Dear _____.” In the body of the note refer to something the two of you talked about, because that will make it more personal. One final, very important item: Make sure you know the correct spelling of your interviewer’s name, title, and contact information. If you don’t have it, ask for it at the desk when you arrive or ask your interviewer for a business card. If you still don’t have it after the interview, call and ask. Don’t hesitate to do this; you want everything to be just right. Details matter. Mistakes matter, too.

Bonus Tip: Show Your Personality! You want to remain professional—this isn’t the time to try out a comedy routine—but don’t hide who you are. Express your personality and let the interviewer get to know you. You can do that by:

-Greeting your interviewer warmly and with a smile.
-Engaging in conversation.
Having examples and experiences ready to talk about.

Finding connections: If you discover a connection with your interviewer (a book you’ve both read, the same city you grew up in, a shared interest or hobby), discuss it! It will help the conversation flow.

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skills
Sharon Epstein is a Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee, teaching students around the world 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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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 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 a Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee, teaching students around the world how to master interview skills, write stand-out 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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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 ConsultingDo 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.

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skills
Sharon Epstein is a Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee, teaching students around the world how to master interview skills, write stand-out 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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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.