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Emily SimpsonAuthor: Emily Simpson, First-Year Adviser serving Mount Airy and North Surry High Schools

Every fall, schools across North Carolina have the opportunity to nominate outstanding students for institutional merit scholarships, including Davidson College’s Belk Scholarship, North Carolina State’s Park Scholarship, UNC Charlotte’s Levine Scholarship, and UNC Chapel Hill’s Morehead-Cain Scholarship. These prestigious scholarships involve extensive application processes, including semifinalist interviews. After completing the scholarship nomination process, Mount Airy High School Principal, Dr. Sandy George, suggested the idea of providing our nominees with the opportunity to brush up on their interviewing skills.

Two months later, we had scholarship semifinalists on our hands, and I was busy hammering out details for an interview workshop. The timelines for these scholarships are all a bit different, so the invitation was extended to all of Mount Airy High School’s institutional scholarship nominees and set for our first week back to school after the holidays. Since the program was intended for a small group of students, I collaborated with my fellow Surry County college advisers, Avery Keese and Andrew Treske, and invited all Surry County scholarship nominees to take part. Of the seven students that chose to participate, four schools were represented, including Mount Airy High School, North Surry High School, Surry Central High School, and East Surry High School.

Surry Interview WorkshopThe workshop took place over the course of two afternoons; Tuesday, January 6 and Wednesday, January 7. The first session consisted of a presentation and a role-playing activity. Students enjoyed a snack as I covered everything from interview expectations and etiquette to professional dress. Ms. Keese and I made quite a team as she added examples to my presentation and helped stop me from rambling away (I effectively demonstrated how not to answer interview questions). Then it was time for some practice. Each student was asked to write a potential interview question on a notecard. Some students chose to write a question that they had previously been asked in an interview, and others chose questions that they felt nervous about answering. Notecards were shuffled and each student sat down with a partner for a “speed-interview.” The participants then spent twenty minutes interviewing and providing feedback for different partners. By the end of the activity, Mount Airy students were sitting with North Surry students and East Surry students were chatting with Surry Central students. We ended the afternoon by having each participant share something that they had noticed about themselves during the activity. This resulted in an excellent group discussion.

The following afternoon, we took the practice a step further with mock interviews. Having familiarized themselves with the potential interview questions beforehand, the participants arrived at Mount Airy, dressed in business casual outfits and ready to put their practice to the test. We were joined by four special guests who volunteered their time as mock interviewers: Mount Airy City Schools Superintendent Dr. Little, Surry County Schools Superintendent Dr. Reeves, State Employees Credit Union Employee Amber Lankford Fleming, and Mount Airy High School Counselor Alicia Henson.Surry Interview Workshop group posing Ms. Keese, Mr. Treske, and I served as interviewers as well. Each student was matched to an interviewer. Pulling from the list of predetermined questions, as well as our own interview experiences, we interviewed our participant for twenty minutes. We then gave tailored feedback to our interviewee using an evaluation rubric. To close out the workshop, we invited our guests to share interview tips and tricks with the group. Our scholarship nominees left the workshop confident and prepared for the interviews that awaited them. With the support of my Mount Airy community and fellow college advisers, I was able to provide these students with a dynamic learning experience. Taking on such a project was a brand-new experience for me as a college adviser, but it is one that I intend to continue. I’m looking forward to providing a similar workshop for a larger group of Surry County students in the coming months!

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