Freshman year at college is certainly going to be filled with lots of firsts: living in a dorm, sharing a room, being without parents, friends, food and lots of others. For me, one first came sooner than expected: my first college interview.
My first college interview was for a volunteer program called The Collaborative Mentoring Program at Rutgers. The program is a combination of tutoring and mentoring local New Brunswick youth. I was interested in this program because you truly get to know the student you’re mentoring and find individual ways to help them. It seems much more personal than some volunteer services I have done in the past. For me, the program has more benefits than just getting to know someone whose life you could significantly impact for the better. As a member of the Honors College, community service is a requirement for me during college so, this seemed like the perfect way to get it done. Additionally, there is a one credit course offered along with the program so, I’ll be earning college credits while doing something I love: giving back and helping others.
Once I decided that I was interested in the program, I started to collect my materials for applying. This includes my resume (which, luckily, I made in high school and just had to add a few more things to it), my high school transcripts (yup, these still matter), a personal statement on why service is important to me and the application itself. After emailing these to the person in charge of the program, I heard back almost immediately. I always take it as a sign of a good program when there’s a quick response time; to me it means they’re on top of their business.
After hearing back and scheduling a time for an interview that worked for myself and the coordinator, the next big question was: What do I wear? I’d gone for interviews before but often seemingly more casual and never in the summer so, my professional summer clothes choices were at a minimum. Luckily, my mom had a dress I settled on. My outfit for the meeting is pictured below:
The night before the interview I was feeling a little nervous. I hoped the coordinator would know that I wasn’t just interested in getting volunteer hours but that I truly wanted to be a part of the program to be able to help someone in need in such a personal way. I went sleep early that night to be well rested for the day ahead.
The morning of the interview, I gave myself plenty of extra time to get ready. I wanted to make sure that I had all of the papers I needed, that I had time for breakfast and that if anything went wrong, I would have time to fix it. My school, Rutgers, is about an hour and a half away from me so, I gave myself two hours to get there, just incase.
Once I got to campus I was able to relax a bit, being certain I would be on time. But, then I realized something: I had no idea where the building I was supposed to be meeting the coordinator is. My MapQuest app kept telling me that I had arrived but I was not at the correct building. After a few failed attempts of trying to look at a map and figure it out, I went in the student center and asked. Unfortunately, the directions I received were the same my MapQuest app was giving me. With no other options and time running short, I sent an email to my interviewer saying “Hey, I’ve been here on campus for a while now but I’m really having trouble finding the building. What address should I be using?” and she emailed me back almost immediately, saying to just call her for directions.I thought “What a horrible first impression. I must seem so unprepared.” But, when I called her, she was so nice and helpful that it helped to banish my worries.
Once I finally found the building and the office, I was about five minutes late. At that point, I was so glad I had emailed her asking for help because she would know I was lost, not because I didn’t care enough about the interview. Luckily, someone in her office showed me to the interviewing room before she was ready so I had a few minutes to relax, clear my mind of the worry from being late and lost, and prepare myself for the interview.
After she walked in and we greeted each other, I realized I had been worried for no reason. The coordinator told me everyone has trouble finding their building so she always expects people to be at least thirty minutes late. What a relief! After that, the interview went smoothly. We talked a bit about why I was interested in the program and my past volunteer work. She discussed with me what the program entails in more detail than I had been able to find online and I was even more interested after learning more. I also found out that the program is not just community service but, is also considered an unpaid internship because it has an academic component.
Before the meeting was over, the coordinator told me I got the position and, as long as I wanted, would be a part of the program this school year. So exciting! Before the school year starts, I have to get a TB test, complete a background check and get fingerprinted. I also have to choose which concentration within the program I would like to be a part of, which is mainly based upon age group and what content you’ll be teaching/helping with.
I’ve still got a lot of firsts ahead of me this upcoming school year but, I’m happy to say one of the first firsts, despite a few bumps along the way, went well. Having had one successful first experience has definitely helped to build my confidence going forward. I’m so glad to have been able to do this before the school year started so that I’m going in with some kind of commitment to keep me busy and that I’ll be joining a community of fellow volunteers.
As I was leaving the interview, the coordinator left me with a piece of advice for freshman year. She told me to take it slow, not to bite off more than I can chew, that while it’s important to be involved, don’t overdo it. As my lists of firsts grows and I hear about more and more things I’ll be interested in, I’ll have to try to keep this advice in mind and take it slow so that I can enjoy and get the most out of everything that’s coming this year.