How to Prepare for College Interviews
Now that many college application deadlines have passed, it is time for many of you to prepare for the college admissions interview. The college interview is often met with uncertainty and, occasionally, downright fear. I’ve had my fair share of students express no desire to interview with colleges, yet these fears are almost always unwarranted. Keep in mind, the college interview is an opportunity for the school to get to know you better and vice-versa. Think of it as a supplement to your college application, allowing the admissions office to put a voice to your application.
It is important to note that not all schools conduct interviews (large state schools simply have too many applicants), and not all schools who do will interview every applicant. However, granted the opportunity, you should accept any offer to interview with a school. Doing so is a fantastic way to demonstrate interest and has the potential to add another dimension to your college application. Here are some college interview questions you should be prepared to answer in a competent and compelling manner.
1. "Tell me a bit about yourself."
I remember a couple of my college interviewers asking this question. It’s an excellent way to introduce yourself and open up the conversation on your terms. I spoke about my background and upbringing, but you can discuss anything you’d like, provided that it is a substantive answer addressing key points you want to share. Highlight specific aspects of yourself and try to avoid generalizing or rambling with your response.
2. "Why do you want to attend this school?"
If you wrote a “Why Us” supplement for the school you are interviewing with, this is a prime opportunity to communicate your passion and depth of knowledge on why this school is a perfect fit. You should have at least three distinct reasons that reflect why you want to attend their institution. Show that you have done your homework and are knowledgeable about how the school’s offerings can help you reach your goals.
3. "Why do you want to major in ________?"
College is, first and foremost, an academic experience. Whether you know what you want to major in or not, be prepared to discuss your academic interests and/or ambitions. If you know what you want to major in, talk to the interviewer about that subject with depth and passion. If you are still unsure about your major, consider talking about various academic interests and why they appeal to you.
4. "What do you plan to contribute to this school?"
Here is your opportunity to demonstrate how your unique skills and qualities will manifest themselves on campus. Think about the ways you want to get involved (activities, clubs, community service, sports, etc.) and share how your past experiences will allow you to add to the dynamic of their college community.
5. "Who has influenced you the most?" / "Who is your hero?"
There are a number of different directions in which you could answer this question, but remember to provide a response that reveals more about your character. You could speak about someone close to you: a relative, friend, or teacher. You could also speak about someone you haven’t met, real or fictional, who has had a profound impact on you.
6. "What is your greatest weakness?"
Answering this question can be tricky, especially if you haven’t thought about a response prior to being asked. Self-awareness reveals maturity, and acknowledging your weaknesses can go a long way towards your growth. Try to recall a moment when you experienced failure and then explain how you overcame it or are working to overcome it. Alternatively, you could think about something you want to be better at and use that as your topic.
7. "What do you in your free time?"
Remember, there can be plenty of free time in college. This is the opportunity to talk about your passions outside of the classroom. Identify specific activities or hobbies that you enjoy and explain why. Consider what those activities reflect about your personality, and let that guide you in answering this question.
8. "Do you have any questions for me?"
Generally, this will be the final question of the interview, and it’s a chance to reverse the roles a bit. Have one or two questions prepared to ask your interviewer. Here are a few examples: What was your favorite thing about attending ______? What do you wish were improved about your experience at ______? What advice would you give to an incoming freshman at ______?
Preparation, confidence, and enthusiasm are the keys to a successful college interview. Of course, there are a number of other questions that could be asked, but if you’ve done your homework, you should be equipped to handle any of them. If you don’t have an immediate answer to any question, take a moment to reflect on it and then answer as genuinely as possible. By the end of the interview, it should be clear that you would make an excellent addition to their campus. At the end of the day, the school wants to put a face to the candidate from the application. So relax, be your best self, and showcase all the remarkable experiences that have led you to this point!
Jon G. is originally from Houston, Texas. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Harvard University and is currently one of the resident English gurus at Elite Prep Los Angeles. Nothing makes him more proud and pumped up than watching his students succeed. When it comes to hitting the books, Jon recommends starting early and studying in increments to avoid burnout. He's a huge basketball fan, loves green tea, and his favorite vocabulary word is "seditious."