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4 Tips to Help You Crush Your College Interview

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

As you wait anxiously about your decisions, a college may reach out for an interview.

Good sign, right?

Maybe! Your application could still be in the running. Or, the interview could just be a required part of the application. It may also be an optional piece that you could opt out of.

Even if you don’t opt out, you may not be offered an interview. Most interviews are conducted by nearby alumni, and there just might not be anyone available to meet with you. But it does not necessarily mean you have a lesser chance of acceptance.

If you do schedule an interview, it’s natural to be worried about doing well. But don’t fear! There are a few things to remember that can set you on your way to successful interviews and happy decision days.

Tips to Prepare for Your College Admissions Interview

Know Yourself and the University

Generally, the point of an interview is to find out more about you and whether you’ll be a good fit for the university. 

It’s really common to draw blanks, even on questions about yourself, especially in situations where you might be nervous. Just know that interviewers commonly ask about your academic interests, what you do in your spare time, your favorite movies or shows, and the best books that you have read recently.

When I had my interview, I wasn’t expecting some of these, especially those about books and movies. And the vast majority of my interviewers asked me questions about one or both of these topics. So I highly recommend being prepared to answer something like that, even if you do not understand why they may want to know.

Interviewers also ask questions that tell them whether you’ve done your research about the university and that you really would like to attend it. It’s good idea to research key details about the school, such as the programs that you’re most interested in and extracurriculars they offer that you may want to continue from high school or start new, and take a (likely virtual) tour of the campus. They’ll also likely asked if you have visited campus previously, what extracurriculars you hope to become a part of, how you feel about their curriculum style, what programs you are looking at potentially being a part of and why, plus more.

On the spot, questions about yourself can be overwhelming. But if you know what to expect when you walk in, you’re more likely to seem—and be!—a lot more confident and prepared.

Dress for Success—and Comfort

This may seem obvious, but it’s still necessary to mention: You want to look presentable and professional.

But, this does not mean that you need to be dressed extremely formally (like in a dress or suit). The interviewer understands that you’re likely a high schooler. You should looks respectable and also feel comfortable.

Interviewing can be a nerve-wracking endeavor, even to those who are great at it, so the last thing you need is to worry about pain or itching from an outfit choice.

Nowadays, interviews are likely being conducted virtually, so you may think you no longer need to dress up at all. This is not entirely true.

Be sure that all parts of your body that will be in view of the camera look as if you were meeting in person.

Beyond that, it is totally your choice if you want to go for a “look good, feel good” approach or just have the ability to relax in some more comfortable, less formal attire.

Flip the Script & Ask Your Own Questions

At the end of almost all interviews, you’ll be asked if you have any questions for the interviewer.

Don’t let this opportunity to impress—and learn more—pass you by.

Brainstorm questions ahead of time. Pick some that are not incredibly obvious and easy to find the answers to with a quick Google search.

Asks questions whose answers matter to you, and add on one or two that are university-specific, just to show one more time that you’ve been doing your research.

One of the questions I liked to ask was, “What is the best thing about this university?”

The interviewer always seemed to enjoy answering this, and the highlights of the college you may be attending are an important thing for you to know as well.

There are endless other options too, so ponder what is most important for you to find out.

Be Authentic, It’s What They’re Looking For

Perhaps an even more important than dressing appropriately is to be yourself.

Colleges want to know about you, not some idealized version of yourself that you think they will be more willing to accept.

Bring a copy of your resume to showcase your professional self and a handful of talking points to illustrate your unique personality.

If your favorite book is a children’s book, tell them; they do not want to hear you say that Shakespeare is your favorite author and you have read every one of the classics for fun unless that is the genuine truth. And explain your responses, even if they did not explicitly ask for it. Tell them why you feel the way that you do, what catches your attention about the books you have read, whether they’re by Dr. Seuss or Shakespeare.

It may feel like you are talking a lot, but that is what the interview is for! They want to get to know you as a person, not just an applicant.

Emphasize the things that make you stand out from the rest of the applicant pool. Show them why you deserve the chance to attend their university.

Good Interviews Don’t Equal Admission, and Vice Versa

Interviews can be tough—whether they turn out in your favor or not—but they don’t have to be the end of the world. You may make a few little mistakes, and that’s OK.

I felt pretty happy with the state of most of my interviews, with the exception of one. Despite the way the one interview I would look back on and cringe went, I was accepted to that university. And on the interviews I felt I handled well, I ended up being rejected.

You also may not even interview with a certain school that you are really interested in. It won’t have a negative effect on your chances of being accepted. I didn’t interview with the college that I currently attend, and it ended up not mattering in the grand scheme of things.

Finally, a lot of interviews end with the same disclaimer along the lines of, “I have to tell you that this is a very selective process and you should not be surprised if you don’t end up getting accepted.”

It can be disheartening, but it is not personal. You’re one of thousands of students hearing that same statement; it does not mean your interview went poorly.

Ultimately, it’s best to prepare properly and let your preparations guide you. If you do, you’ll be better able to handle the stress yourself. Just take them as an opportunity to show who you are and how you deserve the chance to attend this institution.

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Author: Heidi Temple

I am a first-generation student at Princeton University. I am currently planning to concentrate in Molecular Biology there. Then, I plan to go to grad school and eventually pursue a career in medical research.