The college interview is an opportunity for the admissions representative to get to know you. It is not a test of academic knowledge. It’s a way to help the admissions officer learn about you as an individual.
College interviewers encourage students to be well prepared for their interviews; this is a great opportunity for you to stand out. And there’s absolutely no reason for you not to be ready and confident if you follow the college interview advice that I outline below.
10 BITS OF TRIED AND TESTED COLLEGE INTERVIEW ADVICE
- Give yourself time to prepare in advance. Print out directions to the place where you’re going for the interview. Write down your questions. Get good sleep the night before, and eat sensibly on the day. You don’t want to arrive hungry or overly full, so eat a healthy breakfast or lunch.
- Do some research about the school. Most interviewers will want to know why you’re interested in their school. If at all possible, tour the school before interviewing.
- Present yourself to make a good impression. The way you dress for a college interview should be neat and conservative. Arrive a little before the appointed time. Be polite and smile, and DO turn your phone off! Never swear or use inappropriate jokes.
- Be enthusiastic. When you meet your interviewer, shake hands and maintain eye contact. If you are with your parent(s) or a friend, introduce them to the interviewer. Make sure your parents understand that they are not to accompany you into the interview room. If your parent wants to be in the waiting room when your meeting ends so they can ask a question or two, that’s OK. Don’t have a family discussion in the presence of the interviewer. Don’t roll your eyes at something your parent says. That will only show how immature you are, even if you think it’s the most stupid thing you ever heard.
- Bring along a resume. When asked questions about your high school experience, a well-presented resume can allow you to showcase your achievements and abilities without having to talk in a way that sounds braggadocios.
- Anticipate the questions you’ll be asked. Studying the lists of questions that I’ve provided for you below will give you confidence.
- Try to avoid one-word answers. You should not think of a college interview as a test, but rather as a conversation. The interviewer wants to get to know you, so practice answering questions in a way that opens up the dialogue.
- Be ready with questions of your own. Again, I cover this in the lists of questions below. When you ask thoughtful questions, it shows that you are really interested in the college. It also subtly sends the message that you are checking them out as much as they’re checking you out. The idea that you have options positions you as a valuable addition worthy of pursuing.
- Don’t spend a lot of time presenting information the interviewer already has. Your application includes your grades, GPA and SAT results. The college interview is for you to show them the real and wonderful person behind the application form.
- Don’t forget to follow up. Try to get your interviewer’s business card, or at least the correct spelling of their name and their best contact information. You want to be able to send them a thankyou note afterward. You can do this by email, but a handwritten note will make you really stand out.
NERVOUS? DEVELOP YOUR OWN “CALMING ROUTINE”
This is not just good advice for your college interview. You can always use this in the future for any occasions that make you anxious.
What are a few things you love to do? Go to the gym? Spend time with your friends at the mall? Go hiking or cycling? Every time you’re about to do one of those favorite activities, go through the same easy-to-repeat routine. You might do some stretching exercises, listen to a favorite song, have a piece of fruit or a stick of gum. Your routine can be anything, but make it identical every time.
Then when you are nervous right before your college interview (or any other stressful occasion for that matter), do your calming routine just as if you were heading off to do something you really love. It actually tricks your brain into anticipating something good and calms you down. Try it! A lot of people find that it works like a charm.
COLLEGE INTERVIEW SAMPLE QUESTIONS
Here are some questions you might be asked. Do not memorize answers to these questions. Instead, reflect on the points you would like to make. Think about what the interviewer should know about you, things that might not be apparent on the application, and then think about how you would answer the questions so you can make these points.
Always be yourself. If you try to be something you’re not it will come across loud and clear. Have a conversation with the interviewer. Get to know the interviewer, be responsive and maintain eye contact. When in doubt, be honest. If you’re feeling nervous, it’s OK to say so.
The simplest and best college interview advice anyone can give you is … BE PREPARED!
Be prepared to talk about your high school experience
Think about words to describe your school and its academic offerings.
- Tell me about your high school. Are there things you would change if you had the opportunity?
- What have you enjoyed most about your high school years?
- What courses are you taking this year?
- Have any of your courses challenged you? Which ones? How?
- Which courses do you dislike? Why?
- How do you respond to academic competition or pressure?
- How are you involved outside the classroom?
- What achievements have given you satisfaction?
- What programs and activities do you consider essential and why?
- What activities have you found the most satisfying? Why?
- What things do you do well? What are your talents?
Be prepared to talk about college
- What are you looking forward to most about college?
- What are you looking forward to least about college?
- What are you interested in studying in college?
- Are there any courses/electives that you are interested in studying even though you are not planning to major in that area?
- If you could pick one college activity to participate in, what would it be and why?
- How did you first hear about our college?
- What do you see yourself doing after graduation from college? What do you want to accomplish in the years ahead?
- What are you looking for in a college?
- What do you find most interesting about XXX College? Why do you want to enroll here?
- What would you add to life at XXX College?
Be prepared to talk about yourself
- What would you consider to be your strengths? What strengths would you most like to develop?
- What would you consider to be your weaknesses?
- Is this your first interview?
- If you had an extra hour in the day, what would you do?
- Do you have any brothers and sisters? Are you the first to go through the college search process?
- If I could meet your teachers and classmates and ask them to describe you, what would they say?
- What three adjectives would your best friend use to describe you?
- What do you do for relaxation? For fun?
- How do you spend your summers?
- Do you have a favorite book? What books have you read lately? Is there any book, article or creative work that has had an impact on you?
- Do you have a favorite movie?
- Do you have a favorite magazine?
- What do you like best about yourself?
- How would you describe your family? Your community?
- Is there an author, activity or field you have explored in depth?
- Have you had any stimulating intellectual experiences recently?
Be prepared for tough questions
- What other colleges are you considering? This is a tough question to answer. If the college is your first choice, say so.
- Is there anything else I should know about you? The interview is a good time to introduce ticklish subjects. It is a good time to tell your story, to explain dips in performance or to discuss a learning disability. Always explain the steps you have taken to compensate and how you plan to cope in college.
Be prepared to talk about current events
- What issues concern you?
Be prepared to ask questions
- Do you have any questions about XXX College that I may answer?
Always be prepared with at least three questions. Ask intelligent questions. Do not ask questions that you can read the answers to in the view book or on the Internet. You can ask about recent developments on campus, specific majors or even why the interviewer likes the school. You can ask what is distinctive about their school.
COLLEGE INTERVIEW CHECKLIST
Here’s a list of things you should consider bringing with you to the interview.
- Directions to the interview, and a campus map
- A notebook and pen
- Portfolio (art and design students)
- Performance video (performing arts students)
- Sports video (student-athletes)
- A list of any AP exams you plan to take in the spring
- A short list of questions you want to ask
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY:
- An umbrella
- Comb or hairbrush
- Headache pain reliever
- A bottle of water and a snack
ONE FINAL PIECE OF COLLEGE INTERVIEW ADVICE
You’ve been YOU for your whole life, and no one else is exactly the same. You bring a unique mix of gifts and experience and personality. Let your interviewer see that.
I wish you all the best for your interview. If you found this blog post helpful in preparing yourself, I’d love to hear from you! Drop me a note in the comments section below.