Do you have an admission interview coming up? If so, it is a good idea to review our admission interview tips in depth so you feel comfortable and confident with your admission interview. After all this could be your first high-stakes interview! As you already know, admission interviews are an important step in the admission process.
You want to ace admission interviews, but the most important part of the interview is to make sure you convey your best self. At Campus to Career Crossroads, we know many admissions and alumni interviewers throughout the country, so let us give you some insider’s admission interview tips.
We will provide a comprehensive list of admission interview tips and common interview questions so you have an idea of what to expect and how to prepare. We have also added some pointers from high school and current college student guests, Aditi and Neev, who contributed with their personal interview experiences.
What Happens During a College Interview?
When you have a college interview, you may meet with someone in person or online. They are most likely a representative from the admission office, an alum of the college, or a current student. In lieu of an in-person interview, you may submit a video or complete a Zoom interview. (Many colleges are continuing online interviews to provide greater availability to applicants.)
Intuitively, you probably already know that an interviewer will question you. They will ask you fairly obvious questions such as “Why do you want to attend this school?” They may ask fairly traditional questions but may also get creative with their questions, so be prepared.
However, do not expect the college interview to be one-sided. You should be prepared to lend your own questions to the conversation and help carry the conversation. An effective interview is always a conversation rather than a question and answer session. An interviewer will want to have a conversation with you rather than firing questions at you.
How Do You Land a College Interview?
Great question! Not all colleges require or have the capacity to conduct college interviews.
You may be selected for an interview at highly selective colleges such as Stanford or you may seek out an interview at a school like Wake Forest. Either way this is a golden opportunity to enhance your application profile with a one-on-one interview!
As you visit colleges or finalize your college list, be sure to find out whether interviewing possibilities exist. Some colleges may provide an opportunity to interview and some do not.
11 Admissions Interview Tips: How to Prepare for a College Interview
So, how to prepare for a college interview? When you prepare for an interview, it is a good idea to follow general interview steps just as you would with any interview. Let’s dig into some top tips.
Tip 1: Research the college and your interviewer.
Obviously, it is important to know as much as possible about the college. If possible, visit the college at least once, if not a few times. Know as much as possible about the academic program you are considering, activities on campus, campus culture, groups and organizations, residence halls, admission requirements, athletics, internship and career opportunities, and more. Not doing in-depth research can give the interviewer the impression that you are not fully invested in the school.
Not only should you research the college, consider researching more about your interviewer, if possible. Know more about the interviewer — do research on LinkedIn, ask the college more about your interviewer, and do research on their company profile.
Tip 2: Practice answers to common interview questions.
Whether you practice interview questions with a teacher, parent, a professional, or practice by yourself, it is important to consider your answers to common college interview questions. (We will go over sample questions in another section later on.) Nevertheless, practice the answers aloud and recreate the interview as much as you can, even dressing for the part.
Also, consider your goals and figure out how you will communicate your goals to an interviewer.
Here is Aditi’s tip for interviewees: “I practiced a lot of questions the week before my interview, but I ran through each question the night before, which kept many of my answers fresh in my head,” she said.
Tip 3: Plan your interview attire in advance.
You absolutely want to dress your best for your interview, which means business professional dress. (Think suit and tie or dress!) This means a matching suit jacket and pants, coordinating socks and dress shoes. It is also acceptable to wear a knee-length dress or skirt but avoid a too-low-cut top. Whenever possible, it is acceptable to express yourself through your clothing, but always dress to impress.
We will talk about online interviews in tip five – yes, you may have a Zoom interview! Always wear solid colors for online interviews. Stripes and patterned clothing can be very distracting!
Neev says planning your interview attire is an overlooked part of the interview process. He said, “I would make sure to look presentable whether interviewing virtually or in-person. The way you present yourself can say a lot about your personality and who you are. In addition, if your interview is virtual, make sure your room is clean! Choose a neutral background with not much behind it. You will look more presentable.”
Tip 4: Practice your handshake.
You never get another chance to make a first impression! The handshake is such an important part of the interview process. Your handshake should be firm but not too grippy and you want to match the grip pressure of your interviewer. Practice shaking hands with a friend, a practice interviewer, your older brother, and anyone else who will shake hands with you!
Tip 5: Prepare for an online interview.
Preparing for an online interview is completely different from an in-person interview. For one thing, one of the most important things you can do is to make sure you are visible to the interviewer. You do not want to sit in a dark room — the interviewer will want to see you! Furthermore, most other admission interview tips still apply, including business professional attire, arriving to the interview early (yes, even if it is on your computer!), practicing interview questions, and saying “thank you” at the end. Make sure you also test your tech ahead of time so you know for sure that your computer is not almost dead or your internet is on the fritz.
“Preparing for these types of interviews can be tough,” Neev said. “My best advice is to treat it like a conversation. Not only are you being interviewed but think about it as you are interviewing them as well. Whether it’s for a college, club, or job, the decision should go both ways as to whether there is a fit.”
Take a look at some excellent online admission interview tips from Case Western Reserve University.
Tip 6: Arrive early.
Always, always arrive at an interview early. Arrive early, preferably at least fifteen minutes before your scheduled interview. Make sure you know where you are going. If you meet on campus, it can be confusing to find parking, find your interview location and more. If you need to do a practice run ahead of time, go for it.
Tip 7: Think like the interviewer.
What might the interviewer want to hear from you? Beyond the questions they ask you, they want to make sure you’re a good match for the college in terms of academics, campus culture, and career services. They are looking for someone who meets the characteristics of what they perceive to be “the right fit” for the college, as well as a bright, enthusiastic, and engaged individual — you.
Always strive to make you interview conversational. It will be less stressful on you having a conversation instead of waiting for the next question to be asked.
Aditi’s interviewer was an undergrad student. “When I would address classes or general areas of school, I would make it relatable. This helped to keep the interview conversational.”
Tip 8: Be your best self.
Two consistent admission interview tips we frequently hear from admissions interviewers are for students “to be prepared with key talking points” and “to be yourself.”
What topics excites you? When do you shine? Do you seem happiest when talking about your academic or extracurricular interests? Your interest in wildlife biology? Whatever it is, make sure it comes through in your interview. You never want to seem lackluster in your interview. Make sure you answer the questions the interviewer shoots your way, but when possible, steer the direction of the conversation toward your passions (and hopefully the school you plan to attend is one of those passions).
One way to ensure you are presenting your best self is to know three talking points in these areas:
- Academic successes
- Extracurricular achievements
- Personal interests or passions
Neev’s advice stands the test of time. He said, “Many students and people will go into interviews trying too hard to be someone else. At the end of the day, a school or company is going to like you for you and they can tell when you’re faking it. Be yourself!”
Tip 9: Bring your résumé.
One more thing — do not forget your résumé! It is one of the most overlooked admissions interview tips. An alumni interviewer may not have detailed access to your entire application, so be sure to bring along a résumé. Make sure it is up to the standards put forth by leading human resources professionals such as the résumé tips provided by Society of Human Resource Professionals.
Are you feeling pressed for time and need to update your résumé quickly for an upcoming interview? No problem! You can transition your Common App activity descriptions into résumé bullet points!
Aditi also suggested taking ten minutes prior to the interview to list and plan the sequence of what you want addressed in the interview.
Tip 10: Close the interview on a powerful note.
Just like if you really want a job, you would tell the interviewer that you really want the job. This is the same situation — you can tell the interviewer that you really want to attend the college and [insert reason here]. Maybe it is that you believe it is a really good fit, that you like the research opportunities available, or the track record of current students and alumni. Whatever the reason, state the reasons that you really want to attend. Make sure to close with a great handshake.
Tip 11: Thank the interviewer.
Finally, thank the interviewer for putting time into your interview. They take time out of their day to interview you, so it is a good idea to show how grateful you are for the opportunity. This will be the cherry on the top of the interview. It is also so important to craft a well-written thank you note and send it to the interviewer. This is a must-do — it is not optional!
Also, be sure to ask for their email address if you do not have it in the correspondence leading up the interview. If you have follow-up questions, you can ask them later on too.
If you want to go the extra mile, mailing a thank you card with some personal branding will certainly stand out. You will likely need to have interviewed with an admissions official, not an alum, to make a make your efforts count.
Twenty Common College Interview Questions (and Some Not so Common)
The interviewers will likely start out with a few easy questions to get you comfortable. For example, they may start out with questions about your specific interests. It could include easy questions like, “What is your favorite class in high school?” or “What did you think of the residence halls at X University?”
- Why do you want to attend our college or university?
- What will you contribute to the college or university?
- How does your best friend describe you?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What are your favorite activities in school or your extracurricular activities?
- What was the last book you read and what did you think about it?
- What do you plan to do after you graduate from college?
- If you had a thousand dollars to give away, what would you do with it?
- What is your opinion on a current event that is of interest to you or that you feel passionate about?
- What would you do to change your community or school?
- What is your school like? Describe the people and academic life there.
- Why did you choose the major you are considering?
- How would you feel about changing your major later on?
- What aspects of future careers interest you least?
- What’s the most important thing I need to know about you?
They might also switch it up and ask questions you are not expecting, such as:
- What superhuman ability would you like to have?
- What deceased famous individual would you like to interview?
- Which literary character would you choose to become?
- Which country would you like to visit?
- What is the first thing you would do if you were an alien who just landed in the middle of your town?
- If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be and why?
Eight Questions to Ask the Interviewer
What types of questions might you want to ask the interviewer? Some might be revealed in the course of normal conversation, but let’s take a look at a few prepared suggestions.
- What type of student would thrive at the university?
- What are three critical attributes that a student will need to succeed at this college or university?
- Are classes competitive or collaborative?
- How would you describe the research environment?
- What was your experience like at the university? Favorite memory? Best tradition? Club you enjoyed?
- How would you describe the student body on campus?
- What was your favorite/hardest class/most memorable professor on campus?
- Is there anything further that I could explain about my activities or background?
Do College Interview Prep to Prepare for College Interviews
Whatever you do, do not “wing” your college interviews. You need to take them as seriously as you would an important job interview.
But preparing for college interviews does not have to be scary or stressful. If you are not sure how to handle the interview, Campus to Career Crossroads can help you. We will provide personalized interview prep, stage mock interviews with our experienced team, share additional admission interview tips, and help you navigate tricky questions well in advance of the big interview.
Schedule some time with us and we will help you excel with your college interviews!
Do all colleges offer interviews?
No. While all colleges would like to know their applicants through interviews, it is not feasible to have the staffing and time to interview all applicants. Admissions officials spend a lot of time traveling extensively and then reading applications.
Should I interview if I get a chance?
Absolutely! Admissions interviews can enhance your chances of being accepted. Similar to some aspects of the admissions evaluation process, they will not guarantee you admissions but certainly can help your application efforts.
What happens after my interview?
Most interviewers will complete an evaluation form and send it to the admissions office. This becomes part of your application. While it is not the sole deciding factor, each college weighs the interview evaluation differently in their admissions decisions.