As most college-bound families quickly find out, the admissions process is long and complex.

From the first time you take a practice test or meet with your high school counselor, to refining your college essay and requesting recommendation letters, there is a lot for an applicant to keep track of. And for any selective schools on your list, you might want to consider adding another to-do: the college interview.

Why? Because requesting a college interview and making a good impression is one more way to differentiate yourself from the pool of other applicants. While very few colleges actually require interviews as part of their application, many strongly suggest taking advantage of the opportunity. As far as how important the interview is, that really depends on the selectivity of the school and program. For institutions or specialized programs that admit a very small percentage of their applicants, anything you can do to show your interest and give yourself an edge is worth pursuing.

Here are some of the reasons you should consider scheduling a college interview.

To Demonstrate Your Interest in the School

Making the effort to visit the campus or participating in a virtual interview does not go unnoticed by the admissions department. It’s an indication that you are not only being proactive and serious about your college search, but that you also consider their school a strong possibility and good fit. Reinforcing your interest in the school can only help you.

To Ask Questions

The college interview is a two-way street, meaning an admissions officer or one of the school’s alumni will try to get to know you while you have the opportunity to get the inside scoop about aspects of the institution you’re most curious about. So use the time to ask questions, but be mindful the interviewer is paying close attention to the type of questions you ask. Use the interview to show that you’ve done your research and spent time thinking about your future and why this particular school makes sense for the career you might want to pursue. Don’t waste time asking generic questions that are easily answered on the school’s website. Your goal should be to ask targeted, in-depth questions about internship opportunities, special on-campus events and what sets the college apart from other schools you’re considering.

To Reveal Who You Are 

You can share far more about who you are during an admissions interview than in a 500-word college essay. If you are passionate about a particular field of study, possess a unique talent or have a personal experience that shaped who you are, this is the perfect time to talk about it. Anything that gives insight into your character, motivations and ambitions beyond what’s included in your application packet — especially if it demonstrates why you’d be a great fit for that specific school — has the potential to make an impression on the interviewer that can help sway a decision in your favor.

Because most college interviews are optional, they can’t make or break your application. That said, if you wow your interviewer by leaving them with a memorable picture of who you are and why you’d be a terrific addition to the incoming class, an interview can only help your chances, giving you an advantage over an applicant with similar qualifications whom they haven’t met one-on-one.