It’s important to know how to prepare for college application season. During this time, many prospective students find themselves wondering: what do college admissions officers look for in an applicant?
It’s important to approach each component of your application with tact and care. From letters of recommendation and college essays to extracurricular activities and high school internships, it’s important to highlight your personal and academic strengths in each section of your application.
Overall, there are a lot of factors to consider for your college applications. If you are applying to highly-selective colleges, now is also the time to start thinking about your college interviews, as well as popular college interview questions.
In this article, we will review how to answer college interview questions. We will also provide an overview of some of the hardest college interview questions, as well as some thoughtful college interview questions to ask about the college and its specific programs.
So if you’re interested in learning more about popular college interview questions, along with their best answers, read on!
What to expect at a college interview
Not all colleges conduct college interviews. Highly-selective colleges, however, especially Ivy League colleges, will take college interviews into account during their decision-making process. This is why it’s important to know when college interviews take place and to be aware of how to answer tough questions.
College interviews are either conducted with a college admissions officer on campus or with an alumnus near you. Usually, alumni interviews take place at a local library or coffee shop. Before your interview, make sure you know the name of the person who will be interviewing you. It’s also important to make sure you know exactly where the interview will be taking place beforehand. You may even want to practice driving there and finding a parking spot the day before. This will help ease some of the day-of jitters.
In terms of what to expect during a college interview, expect to talk about yourself, your goals for the future, and your excitement about potentially attending the college you are applying to. Most interviews last between 30 minutes and an hour. You will also want to have a list of good college interview questions to ask the person interviewing you.
Good university interview questions to ask will vary depending on your specific interests, but you may choose to ask about academic programs, specific professors, and the overall college culture. Make sure your questions are thoughtful and genuine. You do not want to ask questions you can easily research on your own online.
How to prepare for a college interview
On the day of your interview, arrive early and take a moment beforehand to calm any nervousness. College interviews can feel intimidating, but it’s important to try your best and be yourself. This is why you must be on time and feel prepared.
During your interview, you do not want your answers to come across as being too scripted. Yes, you should be prepared for any challenging questions beforehand. And yes, ideally, you should have given yourself ample time to practice your answers. Mostly though, you
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should try your best to become comfortable with the process of talking about yourself.
This is why, ultimately, the most important question to prepare for is the: “tell me about yourself” interview question. The second most important question to prepare for will be the: “why this university” interview question. Once you’ve reflected thoughtfully on these questions and your answers, you are well on your way to having a successful college interview!
List of popular college interview questions
In this section, we will provide a comprehensive college interview questions list as well as college interview questions and answers examples. Review each question carefully and take a moment to reflect on your answers. Listed below are 20 popular college interview questions to help you get started.
Hopefully, these college interview questions and answers will help you feel more prepared for your college interviews!
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why are you interested in attending this college?
- What do you want to major in? Why?
- What are your personal and academic strengths?
- What are your personal and academic weaknesses?
- Tell me about a time you demonstrated leadership abilities.
- Tell me about a book you’ve read recently and describe how it changed the way you think.
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- What does success mean to you?
- Do you have plans and goals for after you graduate college?
- What are your plans for the summer?
- What do you hope your career looks like in 10 years?
- What extracurricular activities are you interested in pursuing during college?
- What are your thoughts about [a recent current event]?
- Do you have a role model? Who are they and what do you admire about them?
- What other schools are you applying to? Which is your first choice?
- Do you have any questions for me?
- What are your plans for the summer?
- How would you contribute to the college and life on campus?
- If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would you choose and why?
- Tell me about an accomplishment you are really proud of.
Sample answers to popular college interview questions
College interview question #1:
“Tell me about yourself.”
Why they ask this question:
This is the most important question to prepare for. Even if you aren’t asked this question specifically, you will likely be able to use your answer to respond to other questions. College admissions officers and alumni want to get to know who you are as a person and what you are passionate about.
This open-ended question allows you to display your sense of passion and creativity while directing the conversation. Start by sharing interesting and unique details about yourself. Try to be memorable and stand out!
“I am a passionate musician who plays four instruments: piano, guitar, banjo, and mandolin. I started playing the piano when I was four and began writing my own songs at age 12. I really admire lyricists such as Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. I love the story-telling aspects of folk and blues music and hope to take lots of music, creative writing, and public speaking courses while I attend college so that I can grow into a capable and confident performer.”
College interview question #2:
“What do you want to major in and why?”
Why they ask this question:
Colleges want to admit motivated and passionate students. That said, not all incoming college freshmen will know what they want to study. That’s okay! If that’s the case, talk about a few majors you are currently considering. The person interviewing you might even have some good advice and insight for you.
“I’m not sure what I want to major in yet. I have a lot of interests and I’m not sure how to narrow them down. Hopefully, after taking a few courses and talking to my professors and advisor I will be able to make a thoughtful, well-informed decision. Right now, I am interested in potentially majoring in Political Science or Secondary Education. Mostly, I am really interested in social justice and making a difference. Of course, there are lots of ways to make a difference…As a skilled public speaker, a career in politics seems appealing. That said, I am also passionate about teaching and believe in addressing social issues through education.”
College interview question #3:
“What other schools are you applying to? Which is your first choice?”
Why they ask this question:
Not all interviewers will ask this question. That said, it is an important question to prepare for. Demonstrated interest is often an admissions factor at highly-selective colleges.
College admissions officers want to gauge how serious you are about attending and whether or not you are applying to any rival schools. They want to know how much of a priority they are before they decide how much of a priority you are.
“I applied to five other schools: Amherst, Bowdoin, Colby, Hamilton, and Colgate. Obviously, these are all top-notch schools and I would be excited to attend any of them. There are specific details about each school I am interested in, but as a student who is applying for financial aid, my first choice will partly be determined by the cost of tuition.”
Questions to ask during your college interview
After reviewing and practicing university interview questions and answers, you’ll want to start brainstorming for college interview questions to ask the person interviewing you. You want to ask thoughtful, genuine, and specific questions.
You do not want to ask questions you can easily research on your own. Demonstrate your overall passion and interest in the school by having a thoughtful list of college interview questions to ask prepared and ready to go.
Some questions you might ask include:
- What did you study and how do you think the school prepared you for your career?
- Do you have any advice for me as an incoming freshman?
- I am passionate about writing and teaching. Do undergraduate students work at the writing center? What can you tell me about working at the university’s writing center?
- I am a prospective business major. What companies does the university partner with for student internships?
- As a prospective Political Science major, what can you tell me about the professors in the department?
- Based on my academic interests and passions, are there any resources on campus you think I should be aware of? Are there any professors you think I could benefit from connecting with early during my college career?
Steps to take after your college interview
Preparing for and completing a college interview is a lot of work. You’ve likely studied up on answers to university interview questions and have read lots of examples of college interview questions with the best answers. Your work, however, isn’t over yet!
Always write a thank-you note to the person who conducted your interview. This shows that you are a serious, thoughtful, and committed student. Many students send thank-you emails but handwritten notes also make a good touch.
Express your gratitude and thank them for their time and effort. Personalize the note by including a few specific details. Not only will they appreciate receiving the thank-you note, but it will also help them remember the interview more clearly afterward.
Key takeaways and moving forward
College interviews can help further personalize and distinguish your college application. Highly-selective colleges, especially Ivy League colleges, receive an abundance of well-qualified applicants, so it’s important to take every opportunity to stand out and make a lasting impression. If you feel like you could benefit from professional, one-on-one guidance about your college interviews, or any other aspect of your college applications, reach out to learn more about our services.