Many colleges encourage you to interview with an admissions representative or alumnus as part of the college application process, either on campus or in your hometown. Admissions officers will consider the interview when evaluating your application (although they’ll be much more interested in your grades, test scores, and college essays). A few schools require interviews or have a specific process for them.
In most cases, the interview will not make or break you, but if you do arrange an interview, take it seriously. It’s a chance to show off the unique personality traits you can bring to campus, and build a personal relationship with the admissions gatekeepers. Our college interview tips will help you get prepped for the big day.
1. Bring specific questions.
Your interviewer will expect you to ask some questions about the school and talk about why you want to go there. Put some energy into coming up with creative questions with answers that cannot be easily found on the college’s website
2. Practice like a prizefighter.
Being interviewed is a skill, and it requires practice. Sit down with one of your parents, a teacher, a college counselor, or a friend and have him or her ask you their best college interview questions. Answer them honestly and seriously. Then ask your “interviewer” how you came across. You’ll also get better after each college interview, so try to arrange your schedule so that your last interviews are with the schools you care about most.
3. Prepare for common college interview questions.
Interviewers tend to ask about the same topics. If you’re prepared to answer the following interview questions, you’ll be golden.
- Why do you want to attend this college/university? (Hint: Specific examples are always key! Your interviewer wants you to be as excited as they were–and are!—about their college).
- What’s your favorite subject in high school?
- What do you want to study in college?
- What do you enjoy doing when you’re not in class?
- What are three interesting things about you that I wouldn’t know from your application?
- What’s an example of an obstacle, a failure, or a mistake that you learned from?
4. Be yourself…
Remember, the key to getting admitted (and being happy at college) is finding your best fit school. You want to be yourself so that the person interviewing you can discern what you would add to the campus community. Before your interview, think about why the school appeals to you, what you want to study, and what you might do after graduation.
5. …but be your best self.
You have many sides, so showcase the side of yourself that is professional, mature and poised. Don’t show up looking like you just peeled yourself off the couch—wear what makes you feel comfortable and and confident. Smile, and remember your interviewer wants the interview to go well too!
6. Stop worrying about the clock.
Most interviews run approximately 30 minutes to an hour. Students are sometimes told that the sign of a good interview is a long one. But on-campus interviews are usually scheduled back-to-back, and off-campus interviews are usually performed by alumni who are working professionals—so your interviewer is likely on a tight schedule. If you notice them checking the time, it’s not (necessarily) because they think you’re boring.
7. Be thankful.
Send a thank-you note. If there’s something about the interview that was helpful to you, let your interviewer know. If you connected with your interviewer over a book, common experience, or a band you’re both into, then mention it!
Otherwise, simply express your continued interest in the school and thank your interviewer for taking the time to meet with you. (Read our advice on e-mail etiquette before you hit send).