How to Nail Your College Interview

Eva Mckinzie
Published on
May 18, 2021

If you are familiar with the college application process, you probably know at least something about college interviews. Many colleges offer their applicants the opportunity to interview with either an alumni or an admissions offer. Not only is this helpful for the college when they make their acceptance decisions, but moreover it would help you fully express yourself outside of your application.

A few schools such as Georgetown and Cornell (if applying to several of their specific programs) do state that interviews are required to be admitted, and a lot of other schools such as Duke and all of the Ivy Leagues have their interview status set as ‘recommended.’

That being said, one of the first steps towards gaining admission to your dream schools is to see what they say about interviews- Are they required? Recommended? Knowing how much each school values their interviews is a great leap as it allows you to understand how much to focus on your interviews with each school.

You may be wondering, “What are they even going to ask me?” and “How can I be prepared?” Luckily for you, this Simple Studies blog article will guide you through what you need to know, and will offer you 3 tips on how to absolutely crush your interviews!

Tip #1: Know what questions to expect

A common misconception regarding college interviews has to do with what people think the interviewers will ask vs. what will actually be asked. The purpose of the college interview is not to have you elaborate on your transcript that lists A’s in all of your AP and IB classes, nor is it to give you the opportunity to discuss your 1500+ on your SAT.

The college admissions officers and interviewers can see your stats very clearly on the papers sitting in front of them; trust me, they don’t want to hear more and more about it. What they do want to accomplish during your interview, however, is getting to know you as not only a student, but as a person. This is your chance to tell colleges things that aren’t on your application. They want to learn things about you that cannot be seen just by reading your statistics!

That being said, be prepared to share lots of different things about yourself, your family, your life wherever you grew up, your aspirations, what makes you happy, and so much more that the person initially reading through your application cannot know unless they actually talk to you!

Below is a list of common questions:

  • Tell me about yourself.

  • This may seem like a pretty basic question, but the interviewer wants to hear what you want them to know about you. Use this question to tell them something unique about yourself, or something you think everyone should know about you.

  • How will you contribute to this school?

  • Colleges want to fill their incoming class with students that are there to get involved and make an impact on campus. You can and should use this question to tell the interviewer specific things you would get involved in at that school.

  • Tell me about your family and high school.

  • This question can be used to highlight some unique characteristics regarding your family or your high school experience. Think about what you would want the school’s admissions officers to know about the environment in which you grew up in, and share this with them.

  • What are your academic strengths and weaknesses?

  • This common question is used to assess how you think about yourself as a student. As said before, colleges see your GPA and SAT/ACT score, and can make some conclusions about the type of student that you are. However, there is likely SO MUCH that they don’t know about you- so tell them! Did you struggle with a certain subject through all of high school, even though it may not seem so on paper due to you getting A’s in the classes? Do you just have certain traits as a student that make getting good grades a struggle for you? And on the flip side, do you have certain traits that make it possible for you to be an outstanding student without having to struggle as much as others may have to?

  • Why do you want to go to this school?

  • This is perhaps the MOST IMPORTANT question. I’m 99.9% sure that at all of your college interviews, you’ll be asked this question. That being said, you can really stand out with your response. You MUST do your research on each and every school. Inform your interviewer of what specific aspects of the school attract you to there, and why you want to go there so badly. You want to get as specific as you can. Make it seem like it’s your dream school, even if it’s not at the top of your list! Make sure that your response highlights how much you’ve researched the school!

Tip #2: Take your preparations seriously

You probably spent a lot of time preparing for your ACT or SAT, your AP exams, and just your normal classroom tests. Why did you do this? Because you realized that your hard work would be seen by the admissions committees that would come across your application in your future.

The college interview may not seem nearly as important as the above listed things, but it truly can make you stand out and can even make the interviewer return to the school and tell everyone how memorable you were. This can only happen if you take the time to prepare.

Refer back to the above listed questions, and brainstorm ideas for what you could say. Think outside of the box! Don’t stick with what comes to mind first (well, if it’s super cool then maybe do!), but rather, think more about what you truly want the interviewer to know from your responses to their interrogations.

Again, the interview is something that, if approached correctly, can help you stand out among the thousands of other applicants. Taking the time to think through these questions, and even creating a list of possible responses, can be an amazing step towards securing your spot in the mind of the interviewer as one of the applicants that were memorable.

Also, practice speaking your responses to the questions out loud! This can be done in front of family, friends, or teachers, or you can just do it alone! Nonetheless, actually talking out loud and verbally discussing your answers will not only make you more prepared for the actual interview, but will give you the opportunity to get used to what you want to say. I, a junior, have been practicing responding to some of the commonly asked questions in hopes that it will help me in a year or so, and you should too!

Tip #3: Don’t be afraid to be yourself during the interview

Interviews can be intimidating. We’ve all been there. Even talking to your teachers about something important can be a scary endeavor. It’s no doubt that the college interview can be something you’re dreading in the days and weeks leading up to it. However, try to think of it in a more positive light- you’re getting the opportunity to show your dream schools who you are outside of the classroom, and what truly makes you who you are!

Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Speak up! Tell them about that weird characteristic you have, or about your cool experiences growing up! It will help give you a personal touch and help you stand out from thousands of other applicants that may have the same stats as you.

Tell them all about why their school is always on your mind; likely, you think about your dream school quite a bit (at least I do), so TELL the interviewer all about it! Your excitement and genuine desire to go to a certain school will show if you make sure to sell yourself to them, and it will be noted if you’re able to come up with ideas that show your unique perception of a school and of yourself.

You got this! Go nail that interview!

Read the next article in our college application guide: How to Make the Most out of Your College Visit

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