Some colleges require an in-person interview with all applicants. Other colleges allow the students to request an interview if desired, and will consider it as part of the admissions file. In both situations, college interviews provide an opportunity to learn more about the college and whether or not the student would be a good fit on the campus.
If you are applying to a college that doesn’t require, but does allow for, college interviews, you should request one if:
- You feel that your application needs a personal explanation,
- You want to learn more about the college and its fit with your interests,
- You know you present well and this interview would add positively to your admissions chances.
Most students don’t “present well” for professional interviews for a very good reason: they’ve never had one before. A little preparation and practice can help almost all students be much more confident and knowledgeable in a campus interview.
Different Types of Interviews
There are several different types of college interviews:
1. On campus, one-on-one interview, most likely with an admissions professional.
This interview will probably last 30-60 minutes and be more formal and less conversational.
2. Off campus, one-on-one interview, most likely with a college alumnus
This interview will probably last 1-2 hours and will be more conversational than formal. The interviewer may take notes, but may also just try to get to know the student and answer the student’s questions about the college.
3. Group interview or informational session
An admissions officer may conduct these session, usually on-campus. Sometimes, a representative visits the local high schools to speak with several groups of students at once. This is an opportunity for students to ask questions and find out more information about the college. Interviewers rarely take notes in these sessions, but students should still try to make a good impression.
4. On campus, meeting with faculty or professor
This is a rare opportunity for a students to show a particular interest in a field or college major. Professors and faculty can answer specific questions about career options, specialized studies and classes, and anything else particularly important in that department. College faculty will usually follow up with notes to the student’s admissions files, which usually show positive interest and enthusiasm on behalf of the student.
How to Prepare for the College Interview
There are three general areas to focus on before the college interview: the school, yourself and the questions.
Knowledge of the school is important because it shows a student’s dedicated interest to that particular school. Students can prepare by reading the school website and literature, checking the college’s rankings and reviews, and researching possible majors in the area of interest.
Knowledge of yourself is obviously an important factor because students will be asked about themselves. You should know how to describe yourself positively, even weaknesses and to be able to explain anything unique or interesting about yourself.
Rehearsing and anticipating questions is a great way to practice before the interview. (Scroll down for typical interview questions.) Do not memorize answers word-for-word; you don’t want to sound robotic. If possible, ask a friend, parent, teacher or counselor to rehearse with you. If not possible, try recording yourself and watching it afterwards. Pay special attention to any hand movements, awkward body language, or pauses in your speech.
On the Day of the Interview
Students should take a notebook and pen to the interview. Taking notes during the last portion of the interview is appropriate. Students should also take copies of their transcripts, test scores, letters of recommendations and student resume just in case it is needed. Some interviewers won’t have access to the student’s entire application and having these materials will show that you are prepared and organized.
If parents or other family members drive or accompany you to the interview, they should wait outside or take a walk while the interview is conducted.
During the Interview
Nervousness is normal and interviewers know to expect that. Think of the interviewer as someone who is just trying to get to know you better and relax.
When introduced, offer a firm handshake and make eye contact. Many teenagers are uncomfortable with this part, so practice. Smile.
Be honest. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so or ask for clarification. Try to be yourself and let your true passions and strength shine through.
Questions You Might Be Asked
1. Tell me about yourself.
2. Why are you interested in this college?
3. Who in your life has influenced you?
4. Why do you want to major in _______?
5. What will you contribute (or add) to the campus community?
6. What do you do for fun in your free time?
7. What do you see yourself doing in 10 years?
8. What’s your favorite book?
9. If you could have done something differently in your past (or in high school), what would it be?
10. Do you have any questions for me? Students should always have follow-up questions about the college prepared.
More information about how to answer these questions can be found here.
This article has 20 MORE college interview questions.
Questions YOU Should Ask
Towards the end of the interview, most students are given an opportunity to ask questions of their own. By asking questions, you accomplish 3 things: you showed interest in the school, you should responsibility to be prepared and research the college, and you obtained answers that will help you decide if this college is the right fit for you.
You should ask question that are NOT answered in the school’s literature or website, such as:
1. What types of internships are available to students with my major?
2. What types of safety systems or notification systems are in place here?
3. How large are most freshmen classes? Do professors or teaching assistants teach them?
4. What does the college do to promote student/faculty cooperation?
5. How do students receive help with career plans and job placement?
6. How important is community service on campus?
7. What types of leadership opportunities are available?
After the Interview
When it is clear that the interview is over, be sure to shake the interviewer’s hand and thank them for their time. Ask for the interview’s business card so that you can send a thank you note the following day.