How to Nail Your College Interview
College interviews can be a nerve-wracking step in the college admissions process. Fortunately, you can ease your nerves by thoroughly preparing. The more you prepare, the more confident and poised you’ll be when it’s time for your interview.
Read our step-by-step guide to college interview preparation to help you nail the interview and increase your chances of admission.
Do All Colleges Require Interviews?
Only a few schools actually require interviews, like Georgetown and most of the Ivy League schools (with the exception of Cornell). Other schools merely recommend interviews. Some, like MIT, “strongly recommend” that you participate in an interview. And many schools don’t offer interviews at all.
If a school you’re applying to recommends an interview, schedule one! Interviews help the admissions team learn more about you as an individual. Many schools say that interviews almost always help your chances because they provide a more personal glimpse of your personality, values, and goals. Plus, scheduling the interview indicates a strong interest in the college.
To determine if a school you’re interested in requires or offers interviews, visit their official website. If you can’t find the information or if you have questions, contact the admissions office for details.
How Do College Interviews Work?
In some cases, interviews are on campus. In other cases, schools allow you to meet with a local representative (someone who lives near you). You’ll interview with someone on the admissions team or, in most cases, with an alumnus.
Either way, it’s your responsibility to request the interview. Highly selective schools typically want you to schedule your interview a few weeks before the application deadline.
Once you’ve requested the interview, colleges usually put you in contact with a local interviewer. You and the interviewer will agree on a place and time that works for both of you.
If there’s not an interviewer nearby, you’ll most likely be able to schedule a phone call or video interview. And if an interview turns out to be impossible, colleges won’t hold it against you when evaluating your application.
After the interview, the interviewer will send a report to the college. They’ll provide feedback on whether they think you’re a good fit. They may also offer insight on your strengths, weaknesses, goals, and personality.
Do your research, prepare to ask and answer questions, and practice.
Tips on Preparing for the College of Interview
Now that you understand the college interview process, we’ll share some helpful tips on interview preparation.
If you’ll be doing several interviews, schedule them strategically. As the saying goes, “Practice makes perfect.” The more you interview, the more you’ll sharpen your interview skills.
So, rank the schools you’re interviewing with from “top choice” to “last choice.” If possible, schedule interviews with the schools at the bottom of your list first. That way, by the time you’re interviewing with your top school, you’ll be a seasoned professional.
Do Your Research
It’s vital that you’re well-informed about the school before your interview. If you haven’t done your research, it will be obvious to the interviewer, and it will seem like you aren’t genuinely interested in the school.
Prepare to talk about why you’d like to attend and why you’re a good fit for the school. Make a list of a few specific programs, professors, opportunities, or unique factors about the school that interest you. If you’ve visited, you can also discuss what stood out to you on your visit or what you enjoyed. Rattling off generic statements like, “I want to learn from renowned professors,” is not impressive.
You want to show that you’re truly excited about the school. Indicate that you’ve taken time to learn about the college or university and imagine yourself living and learning on campus.
Prepare to Answer Common College Interview Questions
There’s no way to predict exactly what your interviewer will ask, but there are some common college interview questions you can expect to hear.
Before we provide a list of these questions, a word of caution: You don’t want to sound too rehearsed at your interview. The interview should be a conversation that showcases your personality.
For this reason, we recommend that you don’t write full answers to any interview questions or memorize prepared responses. Instead, jot down a list of the main points you would like to cover in your response.
Now, let’s look at some common college interview questions and brief tips on how to tackle them.
- Why do you want to attend our college? Tip: Use your research to explain why this college is a good fit for you. Share what makes you excited about this school.
- What can you contribute to our campus? Tip: Talk about your extracurricular involvement in high school, in addition to leadership or volunteer experiences/accomplishments that demonstrate your character.
- What are your strengths and weaknesses? Tip: Give specific examples or anecdotes to support your strengths. After stating your weakness, explain how you’re working to improve in this area. Example: “I sometimes struggle with math, but I’ve been getting tutoring. I also think part of the problem is a lack of confidence when it comes to math, so I’ve tried to change my mindset. Instead of telling myself I’m just bad at math, I think that I have to work a little harder and practice more.”
- What’s your favorite subject in high school? What do you want to study in college? What do you want to do after college? Tip: When answering these questions, explain why these subjects fascinate you or how you decided on your career goals. You can also mention how you think the school will help you meet your goals.
- What are three interesting things about you I don’t know from your application? What’s your favorite book? What do you like to do outside of class? Tip: These questions are simply designed to get to know you. Give genuine, honest answers that show your personality. Don’t worry about trying to impress the admissions officer. (Of course, avoid talking about anything inappropriate or topics that might reflect poorly on you, your morals, or your judgment).
If you’re prepared to talk about the college/university, your high school experiences, and your goals for the future, you’ll be in good shape for the interview.
Ask Questions, Too
You should also prepare a list of a few questions you’d like to ask the interviewer. Asking questions at the end of the interview reinforces the fact that you’ve done your research and that you’re truly interested in the school.
Try to come up with creative questions that can’t be easily answered with a quick Google search. You can also ask a question related to something the interviewer mentioned earlier in the interview. This shows that you’ve been paying attention, and it makes the interview a more engaging conversation.
Other questions to ask include:
- What’s your best advice for an incoming freshman?
- What do you wish you had known as a freshman?
- What made you choose this school?
- What was the best part of your experience at this school?
- How do you think this school helps students prepare for graduate programs and/or careers?
You can also ask questions about specific programs, study abroad opportunities, or even campus traditions. You may want to ask your interviewer if he or she participated in an event that interests you and to share what that experience was like.
In general, show that you’re curious and enthusiastic about the school. Avoid questions about your chances of admission, rankings, and reputation. Focus on opportunities, programs, and school culture.
Ask your friends or family members to conduct a mock interview with you. This gives you an opportunity to practice covering your main points without reciting a prepared speech. You can also identify any problem areas and work on them before it’s time for your real interview.
After the mock interview, ask your friend or family member for feedback. How did you come across? Is there anything you should do differently in the real interview?
The Bottom Line
Keep in mind that the college interview is unlikely to make or break your chances of admission. Think of it as a conversation that will help the college learn more about you (and help you learn more about the college).
If you’re still feeling nervous, remember that preparation makes all the difference. Do your research, prepare to ask and answer questions, and practice. By doing so, you’ll showcase your personality and why you’re a great fit for the school. Good luck!
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