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PLEASE HELP!!—Does anyone have any tips for an outstanding interview? How best to calm nerves? Or what should be worn?


First and foremost, here is a piece of the email I received (just to provide some insightful information):

“This year all one-on-one interviews will be conducted virtually (Zoom, Skype, Facetime, etc.) or by phone. The interview will last 30-40 minutes. In accordance with Duke policy, recording any audio or video of our interview or conversation is prohibited. As a reminder, the interview is not a mandatory part of your Duke application. However, it is an opportunity for Duke to learn more about you and for you to learn more about Duke. As an alumni interviewer, I do not have access to your application, and you do not need to provide me with your resume or transcript. Through our conversation, I hope to learn about your interests and activities.”

To be honest, this is longer than most conversations I have nowadays considering the quarantine and I worry my elaboration on things will be very brief rather than extensive (which is what I believe they are looking for in ~35mins). Furthermore, what exactly should I wear?—like how “dressy” should I look? What are some questions I can ask the interviewer? Should everything I say be reflective of my application with detail? And lastly, how can I overcome nerves (this is my NUMBER 1 School)?

All answers, support, and advice are appreciated!! Thank-you all and good luck!

Also, FRIENDLY vs FORMAL? Which “style” of conversation should predominate when I speak?

4 answers

answered on
Accepted answer

Hopefully this will help, here's a post from college vine about virtual interviews: and one from unigo with a few bullet points:

Main takeaways:

- wear business casual --> a nice blouse, button up shirt, sweater, etc.

- try to do something relaxing before and after your interview

- think about the worst case scenario and try to find a solution to it, this can be redirecting the conversation to something else, simply admitting you don't have an answer, etc.

- be confident and believe that you deserve to go to the college

- in terms of being friendly vs. formal, be a mix of both --> address your interviewer with their correct prefix, be polite, but if they are more laid back/casual, then match their tone, but don't lose the respectfulness

I hope this was somewhat helpful and best of luck to you!

Thank-you!! This was very helpful! I’m honestly just really nervous because it’s my top school! Thanks
No problem, it's to be expected, so don't worry too much about coming across as nervous, another note-Some interviewers will ask what other schools you are applying to, so if you'd like you could even tell them that it's your top school, just make sure to have concrete reasons to support that.
answered on

I have not applied to Duke but I have had several interviews and they haven't been as nerve-racking as I expected. Be prepared to answer questions about your activities, how you spend your free time, and what you are passionate about. Also, in all of my interviews, I have been able to ask questions of the interviewer, so it would probably be good to think of some questions you want to ask. Finally, try to think of this as an opportunity to get some questions answered about Duke and show your love for the school. They really do just want to get a better understanding of who you are and why you want to go to that school. Good luck! (Also, as far as what to wear, it is probably a good idea to err on the side of formal, at least from the waist up.)

answered on

I was accepted ED this year so I can tell you what I did. As far as how you should dress I don't think it matters much but I wore a button down shirt so there's no need to be formal but I personally wouldn't wear just a t-shirt. The interview was really more of a friendly conversation from my experience and they really only asked simple questions of me. They asked about one of my academic interests, why Duke, and the EC I was most proud of but conversation would veer off from those topics over the course of the interview. Don't worry too much about having a lot to say. As long as you're genuinely interested and passionate about what you do you shouldn't have an issue with making good conversation. I would come with a question but what you ask is down to what you wish to know (I asked about career support and study abroad). I don't really have a tip for nerves because I was literally sweating before mine but as soon as you get into conversation they go away but just make sure you have a positive attitude about it all. The interview isn't an important component of the application so don't put too much pressure on yourself to do well, it will only make you more stressed which makes the interview unenjoyable which it should be. Let me know if you have any other questions.

Be a good interviewee.
answered on

I would echo pretty much everything that's been stated already in this thread.

My only additional contribution is that while you should be relaxed, natural, and realize in the grand scheme of things, alumni interviews really count for very little in your college applications, be risk-averse in your approach to your interviews. Avoid controversial topics, bold claims, oversharing, etc etc.

Your alumni interviews will function in a very similar manner to your letters of recommendation: letters of recommendation are almost always positive, so most letters of recommendation (vis a vis other applicants) don't really give you a step up all that often. However, if you have a negative letter of recommendation, that's a significant red flag for an admissions committee. Similarly, alumni interviewers typically come away with positive impressions of the students that they talk to, so avoid giving them any reason to dislike you!

In terms of lasting 30-40 minutes, don't worry! How long an interview lasts is really more up to the skill of the interviewer, not the interviewee, and since your interviewer will have done this before, they'll know how to steer the conversation to be able to learn about you. Don't feel pressure to fill up time or talk when you've run out of things to say. Just give them a road map of certain topics in response to questions so that they can ask you follow up questions if they are curious about certain things! And 30-40 minutes is not a hard rule, either. Some alumni interviewers have their own styles, and I know plenty of students that have had 15-20 minute alumni interviews that went just fine.