You’re reading an excerpt of Admitted by Soundarya Balasubramani. Written by an Ivy League graduate from India, this is the proven guide for students worldwide looking to pursue undergraduate or graduate study abroad in the U.S., Canada, or Europe. Purchase for instant access to the guide and other exclusive resourcesβ€”including sample SOPs, sample resumes, scholarship lists, and a private community with other readers.

We began this chapter by talking about missions and mascots. It is important that you read the mission statement* of the university before you sit for your interview. Every university, and even departments, have their own mission statements and values. The following is the mission statement of Harvard College for liberal arts and sciences:*

The mission of Harvard College is to educate the citizens and citizen-leaders for our society. We do this through our commitment to the transformative power of a liberal arts and sciences education. Beginning in the classroom with exposure to new ideas, new ways of understanding, and new ways of knowing, students embark on a journey of intellectual transformation.

Through a diverse living environment, where students live with people who are studying different topics, who come from different walks of life and have evolving identities, intellectual transformation is deepened and conditions for social transformation are created. From this we hope that students will begin to fashion their lives by gaining a sense of what they want to do with their gifts and talents, assessing their values and interests, and learning how they can best serve the world.

Even if the language is slightly abstract, you can pick out some key cues from it: Harvard encourages diversity with respect to your background and the majors you pick. They want to build leaders out of you, and appreciate a student who has the ability to adapt and evolve over one who does not.

Reading the mission statement will fill you with a sense of purpose and excitement, especially if you can relate deeply to the values it mentioned.

Final Thoughts on University Interviews

The interview is the first instance the university gets to connect mere words on paper to a real, breathing human being. This is your chance to show them how all of the experiences from your past align perfectly with what you’re looking for. The interview itself can be divided into three parts for ease of preparation: The General, The Academic, and The Personal.

The General is for them to understand why you made the decisions you made. Why that university? Why that major? Why now? Why you? These are not easy questions to answer, especially the last one. Use the framework we provided by connecting what you’ve done to what you learned to how that will help you in the future. It’s nothing new; however, few students actively think about it.

The Academic is for them to see what you can bring to the table. How have your past experiences prepared you for this venture? What are you interested in? How will you add value to the university? This should be easier to answer if you did a good job choosing your major and universities.

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