How to Ace Your College Interview

College InterviewA good college interview can be a great opportunity to offset weaknesses in other areas of your credentials. But watch it, because it can also backfire if you’re not well prepared to answer some of the most common college interview questions you’ll surely be asked.

Before reviewing these typical college interview questions and answers, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the interview in the first place.


Is the College Interview Really Important?

According to a recent study conducted by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), there seems to be a of consensus on just how important the interview is.

While 11% of colleges feel the interview is of considerable importance, 25% feel it’s moderately important, 34% consider it to be of limited importance, and 30% think it’s of no importance at all. Clearly, colleges have a difference of opinion as to how much weight to assign to the interview when making admission decisions. 

Would a Personal Interview Be Right For Me?

To be sure, that all depends on what you’re like. The personal college interview can be a meaningful experience, and an important part of your decision process. It serves not only to establish and reinforce your credentials, but to learn firsthand more facts about the school. At the least, it should be a productive exchange of information between you and the college. However, while an interview gives you the opportunity to present yourself in a personable manner, it could also be a potential pitfall for those students who lack the proper social skills.

Consequently, you should seek a personal interview if you’re an attractive candidate and an interview will help spotlight your personality.. However, you should avoid one if you’re not, and there’s a likelihood that the interview will diminish your chances of admission.

In other words, if you’re articulate, can show some good personal insight, and are a person who’s generally at ease speaking to someone in a position of authority, then by all means you should interview in every college in which you have a strong interest. On the other hand, if you’re terribly shy, withdrawn, and panicky in the presence of an authority figure, or just simply too arrogant and overbearing, then you might consider skipping the interview when you can. Of course, if a college requires the personal interview, you’ll need to comply.

How Do I Schedule a College Interview?

Call the admission offices of the colleges you plan to visit at least 3 to 4 weeks in advance. Ask to have information about the college mailed to you, including a course schedule and activity calendar. In addition, request a written confirmation of your interview appointment date and time. You should inquire whether you need to bring a resume or unofficial copy of your high school transcripts and test scores for your interview.

Arrive for the interview at least 15 minutes early. At this point, it is important for parents to remember that while colleges are interested in the relationship of parent and child, and encourage parent’s questions, it is the student who should take the lead. Greet the interviewer with a firm handshake, and introduce your parents to the interviewer. After a brief introduction, the parent will be asked to wait in another room. Parents are never present during the actual interview. Typically, the interview will last from 30 to 40 minutes.  

What is the Interviewer Looking for?

The interviewer will be evaluating you as a “total” person. This means they’re trying to ascertain everything they can about you, such as your values, intellectual curiosity, motivation, energy level, and even your sense of humor. They’ll focus particularly on your defined personal and educational goals. It’s important to show preparedness, determination, and a strong academic interest. Also, try to demonstrate your enthusiasm and self-confidence, without going overboard. Keep your tone friendly, sincere, and conversational at all times. The interviewer expects that you have a certain level of knowledge about the school. Questions such as whether the college has a business program, or whether the school requires SAT scores are unacceptable at this stage. You should know these basic facts beforehand from the school’s own literature.  

What Kind of College Interview Questions Will They Ask?

Below are samples of some typical questions you may expect:

    • Why are you interested in this college?
    • How much research have you done on this school?
    • Describe one of the best books you’ve ever read.
    • What are your academic/career goals?
    • How long have you had these goals?
    • What are your favorite subjects and why?
    • What do you like doing outside of class?
    • Describe your favorite teacher.
    • If you were the principal of your high school, what important changes would you make?
    • Do your test scores accurately reflect your abilities?
    • Do you have any favorite hobbies?
    • Have you earned any varsity letters?
    • How much time do you dedicate to homework or studying each night?
    • Give me a situation in which you failed, and how did you handle it?
    • List three adjectives that best describe you.
    • What activities would you like to pursue if you attended this school?
    • What other schools are you applying for?
    • Describe your best friend, and why is he/she your best friend?
    • What important contribution have you made to your school?
    • What type of extracurricular activities at school interest you?
    • What have you done recently to help another person?
    • Are you happy with your accomplishments in life so far?
    • What are your hardest/easiest subjects?
  • Are there any questions you would like to ask?


What Type of Questions Should I Ask?

Remember, the interview is an exchange of information between you and the college. This is your best opportunity to learn more about the school. So use this time wisely, and ask pertinent questions. Here are the general type of questions to ask:


  • What distinguishes this university from others? 
  • What are this university’s strengths and weaknesses? 
  • What are some common complaints students have about this school? 
  • What kind of personal qualities do students at this school tend
    to have. How Could I tell if I would fit in?


  • How many students are assigned to a dorm room? 
  • Are the bathrooms public or private? 
  • How are roommates chosen? 
  • How will my financial aid package change after my freshman year? 
  • How would an private scholarship affect my aid package? 
  • What percentage of classes are taught by graduate students? 
  • What’s the average freshman class size? 
  • Are there courses that are hard to get into? 
  • What is your student/faculty ratio?


The college interview could be your moment to shine. But do your homework first, don’t be caught unprepared!  



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