While many colleges choose their students through the written application process, a few may ask students to participate in an interview. The reasons for conducting college interviews vary from school to school. Some institutions claim to place little emphasis on the interview. For other colleges, such as Wake Forest, student interviews play an important role in the application process.
Sometimes a student’s interview will take place with the college’s admissions committee. On other occasions, an alum may conduct a student interview. The locations for interviews may vary as well. The whole process can be a little intimidating and unsettling for high school seniors.
Because each school’s criteria and goals for conducting an interview are different, it can be hard to find good advice about how to prepare. However, there are some key tips that you can use for any college interview. Following this advice will help you to be well primed so you can approach the process with confidence and poise.
Tips for Managing Your College Interviews
Step one to managing the interview process is to manage the timing. As soon as you find out that your prospective college requires or recommends interviews, get your name on the schedule. Your goal should be to complete your interview with your first choice school as soon as possible. As a former admissions officer, my advice is to try to schedule your interview with an admissions officer rather than an alum. The admissions committee is better known to admissions officers. Interview standards may differ between alumni and the admissions committee making the value of an alumni interview unpredictable.
Once you have your college interview scheduled, it’s time to get to work. Your preparation should include both researching the school and practicing answering questions (see below). During the interview, you will be asked why you want to attend that particular college. Go to the meeting prepared to discuss what you value about the school and what you can offer to that school.
Also, remember that an interview requires some give and take. Your interviewer will expect you to have some questions about the school. Choose your inquiries after you’ve had some time to investigate the school. You’ll want to ask questions that are thoughtful and sincere.
If you are interviewing with someone from admissions, you might ask what he or she looks for in an applicant. Since many schools ask students to designate a major when enrolling, you might want to ask if and how students can change majors.
Finally, approximately two weeks before the interview date, begin practicing. I’ve listed some questions an interviewer might ask below. Review these questions and carefully think about your answers. Practice answering the questions aloud, first alone and then with a family member or friend. When you feel prepared, ask a teacher, mentor, or counselor to perform a mock interview with you.
Sample College Interview Questions
1. Tell me about yourself.
2. Why do you want to attend [Name of College]?
3. What other colleges or universities have you applied to or considered?
4. Where will you go if you do not come here?
5. What would you like to major in?
6. What could you teach or contribute to the other students at [Name of College]?
7. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
8. Why should we pick you over another applicant?
9. Which of [Name of College]’s student groups/special programs interest you?
10. What do you know about [Name of College]?
11. What did you do to learn about our program?
12. Tell me about a leadership position you held in high school.
13. Tell me about an ethical dilemma you faced, and how you handled it.
14. Have you lived away from home for any length of time?
15. Have you ever traveled/lived outside of the United States? When?
16. What do you do for fun?
17. Have any of your family members attended [Name of College]?
18. Tell me about a personal challenge you had to overcome.
19. What was your favorite extracurricular activity in high school?
20. Tell me about a current event.
During your college interview, stay calm and remain self-aware. Pay attention to your body language and the response of the other people in the room. Allow the interviewer or committee to get a real sense of who you are, but don’t engage in political or religious discussions. Maintain a professional demeanor. If you feel yourself becoming nervous or losing your composure, take a moment to breathe deeply and regain your focus. And don’t forget to smile!
Remember, each step in the college application process moves you closer to your goal. Stay calm and you’ll reach the finish. For more college application tips, see our blog on how to get an edge on your application.