The Admissions Interview: Three Factors Colleges Consider

If you are applying to a college that offers an admissions interview, you may have some trepidation (ooh, SAT word!) about the process. That's completely normal.

The good news: Go See Campus has several articles about meeting with an admissions officer or alumni representative, including "Prepare for Your College Interview" and "Make a Great Impression in Your College Interviews." Both of these pieces serve as a great starting point.

This time around, we offer details about...

  • Three factors on which many colleges focus during an admissions interview.
  • Why these factors matter.
  • A different way to prepare for your conversations.

Three Factors Colleges May Consider in an Admissions Interview

The Go See Campus website includes a list of questions you can expect during your admissions interview; see the above articles to check it out. If you look closely at the list, you may find that some themes emerge.

For example: 

  • What major(s) are you interested in?
  • What classes do you like best / least at your high school?

With these questions, the interviewer is trying to learn what you enjoy studying, why you like to learn about it, and how this interest might influence the courses you take should you be admitted. In other words, he or she is trying to learn more about you academically. 

Here is another set of questions:

  • What hobbies do you enjoy?
  • Talk to me about your job/internship/volunteer experience.

The admissions interviewer is likely asking these questions to learn more about your life outside of the classroom: your extracurricular interests.

Finally, try out these two:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • How would your friends describe you?

In asking these questions, the interviewer may be trying to learn more about you personally.

Why Interviewers May Focus on These Factors

Academics: When you discuss your scholastic interests during an admissions interview, it can indicate how you might contribute to academic life at the college. The goal of many schools is to admit students who will take advantage of the resources on campus, contribute to intellectual discussion, research, and activity, and bring their own passions and pursuits into the classroom.

Extracurricular: Go See Campus has already written about the importance of extracurricular activities. In summary, extracurricular achievements are not just about showing that you are a "well-rounded person." 

In an admissions interview, colleges care about extracurricular activity because it demonstrates ways in which you might add to campus life. Also, it can show the interviewer something about your character, leadership skills, and organizational abilities.

Personal: The great thing about an admissions interview is that there is no filter. If there is something that you do not think came through in your formal application, this is your chance to demonstrate it through the way you express yourself, the way you interact with the interviewer, and the additional information that you provide.

This is especially important if someone is a great fit with the personality or philosophy of a college but does not stand out academically or through extracurricular achievement. Also, if you have been unable to earn high grades or to pursue outside activities because of a family hardship, disability, or some other circumstance, it may be a good idea to use this time to explain.

Preparing for an Admissions Interview

There are a lot of other ways you might break down the process, but considering these three areas—academic, extracurricular, and personal—gives you a framework for getting ready for an admissions interview. 

Ask yourself:

  • Have I achieved something outstanding or admirable in these three areas?
  • What challenges have I overcome in these areas, and what does that say about me personally?
  • How do my activities in these areas make me a fit for this college? 

A little more about this last point: Knowing what a college values is important for the admission interview. It may be that the school has high academic rigor. It could be that the college prides itself on athletics, the arts, the sciences, or a diversity of extracurricular interests. Or, it may be that the college values high moral standing, faith, and perseverance. For some schools, it's "all of the above."

By thinking about your academic, extracurricular, and personal experiences, you can better highlight your fit with the college. Besides, knowing what matters to a school is not just a good way to get ready for your discussion. It's also a way of deciding whether a college is right for you.

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