The college interview is usually not a required part of the application process, but admissions committees at selective schools use them to get to know applicants better. From their point of view, it’s hard to choose from excellent candidates; therefore, it’s fair to say that students who sit for an interview and do well can give themselves an edge over other applicants who choose not to interview.

“Interviews are your opportunity to demonstrate the real person behind your application,” says Jaime Garcia, director of College Access for Chicago Scholars, a mentoring and leadership development program. What’s more is that taking the time to visit a school and sit for an interview indicates a high level of interest in that institution. “It shows the school you’re not just fishing by sending out a ton of applications,” says Garcia.

So what sorts of things are colleges hoping to find out during an interview that they couldn’t already tell from your application?

Here are the winning attributes that colleges and universities tend to look for in students they admit. Study them well so you can shine in the interview chair.

Alignment with the school’s values

Besides conveying excitement about attending the school, you want to illustrate how you’d fit into the campus culture and what contributions you might make. “Beyond a paper [or] web application, colleges seek applicants who both demonstrate a personal interest in attending and whose values and passions align with the mission of the college or university,” says Garcia. Being a personality fit is just as important as being an academic fit because it will determine an applicant’s success on campus.

Strong communication skills

Interviewers want to see students who are articulate, genuine, and who can speak confidently about what is important to them. What you don’t want to do is provide one-word answers, or recite memorized responses that come across as rehearsed. Instead, engage your interviewer with stories that reveal who you are. “Do not regurgitate your academic background at the interview. It’s important to go beyond the standard responses and get at the core of your interests,” says Garcia. Also, keep in mind that how you speak is as important as what you say, so use complete sentences, avoid slang, make eye contact and always be polite and positive.

An inquisitive nature

The best way to demonstrate that you want to learn more about the school is to ask smart questions. “Interviewers want to know that you did more than read the website. Your questions should reflect your knowledge of the college [or] university and capture areas that you would like to explore,” says Garcia.

A well-rounded student career

Most admissions officers want to see more than just a high GPA and a great SAT score. What are your interests and passions outside of the classroom? “This is especially important if you feel that your application doesn’t highlight some of your personal characteristics, or if you need to expand upon or explain an aspect of your application,” says Garcia. Highlight your values and goals while supporting them with real-life examples and anecdotes.

Taking advantage of the opportunity to interview with your choice colleges will not only make you memorable but will also help you when it comes time to make your final decision on which school to attend. By taking the process seriously, a college interview can help you determine which college is the best fit for you and hopefully improve your chances of being admitted.