In admission circles, interviews are said to have three main functions: first, to gather information about the student; next, to evaluate the student/school match; and finally, to recruit the student by showing off the school's best side."
From College Admissions: A crash course for panicked parents -Rubenstone and Dalby
Many students face the first college interview with trepidation because they do not know what to expect. Yet, those same students usually end up enjoying interviews after they find out that interviewers are friendly, relaxed, and rarely ask questions a student cannot answer. In fact, good interviews are merely conversations, and thinking of them that way is less stress-producing than seeing them as occasions during which the student must somehow perform.
Be that as it may...
Are you being judged on your ability to have a cordial conversation with a complete stranger? Sure you are.
If you are a bit nervous, will it be held against you? No. You will, however, be expected to be dressed appropriately, to be aware of your non-verbal behavior, and to be able to speak articulately.
Be prepared to ask questions that will help you get a feel for the tone and style of the school.
Explain any aspects of your record or candidacy that will provoke questions or concerns in the admission committee meetings. Don't be afraid to say you are good at something - that's not bragging unless it is said in an egotistical manner.
Don't answer open-ended questions with short responses, but don't ramble either.
Above all, be yourself. To be sure, your sharpest self, but don't make the mistake of trying to be the person you perceive the school is looking for. First, they seek individuals, not types, and second, the only convincing person you can be is yourself.
Tips on Interview Protocol:
Make arrangements early. Telephone well in advance to set up times for interviews and campus tours.
Schedule interviews in the summer. Even though the campus will not have students going about their daily lives, you need to use the summer for interviews and visits simply because there is not enough time in the fall when you need to be concentrating on your senior courses. Try to limit fall visits to a few schools you like the most.
Make good use of the tour. During the tour, stay up in the front of the group with the guide, who will always be a student. This person can give you an accurate feel for what it is like to go to that school. Ask him or her good questions.
Hone your skills to increase confidence. Your college counselor will be happy to do a practice interview with you. Just ask.
Research the school’s procedures to better schedule your interviews. Most smaller colleges offer interviews, while schools such as Ivy League institutions have local alumni conduct interviews.
Follow up after the interview. Write your interviewer a thank you note with a reaction or two about the college. Know the name of your interviewer in the event that your college counselor needs to speak with him or her. In other words, be businesslike and efficient.
Make it a priority to display interest. If an interview is optional, consider it recommended. When selective institutions decide whom to accept, in order to keep their yield rates where they want them, they favor students who have shown the most interest. Ways to show interest include: on-campus tours, attending a session here at GA when a college visits, attending an evening meeting in the area that a college hosts, scheduling an interview, etc. The yield rate of a college is the percentage of students that accepts the college’s acceptance and matriculates. The higher the yield, the higher the college is ranked.