Prepare for Your College Interview

Some of the universities to which you are applying might offer you the opportunity to participate in a college interview. For some schools, this may even be a requirement. In either case, we recommend that you take advantage of the interview process, especially if the school will consider it as a factor in admissions.

Once you decide to meet with the university representative, you may start wondering how you should prepare for the conversation. Here, we offer you our advice on how to get ready for your interview. 

After you're done reading, don't forget to check out part 2 of the article, "Make a Great Impression in Your College Interviews!"

College Interview Tip 1: Understand Your Goals

Likely, your interviewer will want to turn your time together into a two-way conversation about your interest in the university. It is not a test for which you can memorize the correct answers. So, how do you "do well" in a college interview?

  • Provide answers that show that you have a good grasp of why you want to attend and how your attendance will benefit the university.
  • Respond to questions in a polite, clear, honest, and enthusiastic way.
  • Show your personality and interests in the course of the discussion.

Yes, we know. It sounds pretty overwhelming. But the good news is that planning and practice can go a long way towards making it a positive experience.

College Interview Tip 2: Know the University

Typically, you will participate in the college interview after you have submitted your application. The fact that you applied is a sign to the university that you have a genuine desire to attend.

So, by the time of your interview, you should already have done some pretty serious research into the university and have decided that it is a match for you. Now is the time to go back over the websites, books, and other college visit materials you have already read. Remind yourself about the highlights that affected your decision to apply, such as academic programs, student activities, or university culture.

College Interview Tip 3: Get Ready for Questions

Before your interview, put together a list of questions that you may be asked. We have collected some common ones, and you will learn about others by speaking with current college students, reading through college guidebooks, and connecting with other students and parents in the Go See Campus Community.

Then, prepare an answer to each question. Your responses should be informal; after all, this is supposed to be a conversation, not you reciting from a homework assignment. Your answers should be short enough that the college interview can have some give and take, but they should be long enough that you provide clear, relevant, and detailed responses.

Try to answer as though every question is a "WHY?" question. For example, if the question is, "What do you want to major in?", also answer "Why do you want to major in it?" When you explain "Why?", you show your interviewer the thought that you have put into your decision. You also help the interviewer turn your time together into a more natural conversation where it will be easier to show off your personality.

Common College Interview Questions:

  1. Why do you want to attend this university?
  2. What do you know about our university?
  3. What do you want out of college?
  4. How will you contribute to our campus?
  5. Is this school your first choice?
  6. What other schools are you applying to?
  7. What major(s) are you interested in?
  8. What classes do you like best /least at your high school?
  9. What extracurricular activities are you most involved in?
  10. What hobbies do you enjoy?
  11. Talk to me about your job/internship/volunteer experience.
  12. Do you have plans for after college?
  13. Tell me how you have demonstrated leadership.
  14. Tell me about yourself.
  15. How would your friends describe you?
  16. What is your greatest strength/weakness?
  17. Describe a difficult choice you had to make and how you handled it.
  18. How do you deal with stress?
  19. What book/film/television show has made the biggest impact on you?
  20. Who is the most influential person in your life?

College Interview Tip 4: Think About Your Future

It is okay if you have trouble answering questions about your future plans. For some of us, college was going to offer so many paths to explore that we just were not certain which pursuit would interest us most. If you feel the same, that's absolutely fine. Your sense of academic adventure is central to the college experience.

However, it is really important that you do your best to respond to these types of questions. If you are not able to tell an interviewer why you want to attend a university, what programs connect to your academic interests, or how you see yourself adding to the school, it may come across as though you have not put thought into your decision.

Before your college interview, think about the things that make you want to attend. Then, find ways to express your passion for those things and to show how you plan to be involved in them if accepted. If you are uncertain of which major you want to pursue, talk about which way you are leaning (and why! Again, always try to explain why.)

College Interview Preparation Tip 5: Conduct Mock Interviews

In advance of your meeting with the university representative, you can ask a friend or a parent to conduct a mock college interview. Before you begin,

  • plan a block of uninterrupted time (about the same amount of time that you expect the interview to last).
  • find a quiet space and set up two chairs where you can face one another.
  • be clear about the type of feedback you want from your mock interviewer and the role you want him/her to play.
  • get together the materials that you would bring to the interview, such as a notebook and pen and two copies of your resume (one for you and one for your interviewer).
  • if you have written your responses to common college interview questions, you can bring them to the mock interview for quick reference. Use the mock interview to practice answering questions without the aid of your written responses, since you should not bring these pages with you to the actual interview.

Consider role-playing the entire college interview. Enter the room, shake your mock interviewer's hand, and introduce yourself. Conclude the interview after time has expired or after you have gone through the questions you wanted to review. Afterward, your mock interviewer can tell you about

  • your responses (clear and understandable or vague and uncertain)
  • give-and-take (answers that are too short or too long)
  • engagement (a proper handshake, eye contact, smile)
  • speech (too quiet, too loud, or too fast)
  • posture (sitting in a way that indicates attentiveness)

As you practice, you will find ways to make your points more concisely and clearly. Run through the questions enough times that you feel comfortable with your answers but not so many that your responses sound memorized or stiff.

Go See Campus wishes you the best in your college interview. When you get a chance, let the community know about your experience, and good luck!

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