What a college interview is

A college interview is usually concise, to the point, and face to face meeting.A college interview is a signal that the college wants to get to know you better. It can thrill you and at the same time make you apprehensive. It gives the college a chance to provide information and answer any questions you may have. However, many colleges do not conduct a college interview before selecting students so peruse the college website or contact the admissions office to know for sure if the college you are applying to does have a college interview as part of the admission process.

The questions college interviewers ask are usually meant to help them know who you are, what your interests are, your academic and career goals, how you will contribute to the college, how well informed you are, and your viewpoint on issues. So although each college may phrase them different, interview questions for college admissions are usually in essence, the same across all colleges since they all want to know more about you.

Interview questions for college admissions

1. Can you describe yourself briefly?

This is the first of many questions college interviewers ask to know you better. Use this opportunity to talk about yourself and leave a lasting impression in their mind about you. Use examples like ‘I keeping adding numbers on car number plates to sharpen my mind’ or ‘I compete with my friends in solving puzzles’. This will be more memorable than simply saying that you like to keep challenging your mind.

What not say:

Do not talk about your academic achievements or your grades and how hard you study etc. All that information is already there in your application. 

2. Why do you want to pursue higher studies?

This question in a college interview is asked to gauge what your academic goals are and what drives you. Talk about what you want to achieve and how a college education will help that become reality. Mention how studying in college will broaden your outlook and help you to become stronger intellectually and emotionally.

What not say:

Never say you will be going to college because your parents want you to or because it is the normal course of events in one’s educational life.

3. Why do you want to pursue higher studies in this college?

You must prepare thoroughly to answer this question, as it is one of the most important interview questions for college admissions. Every college wants too know why you have chosen them so do an exhaustive research about the college and come up with valid and apt reasons for your choice. Talk about what attracts you to the college – the college’s core beliefs/mission, the program, the reputation, student culture, and campus life. Your answer should convey your keenness to attend the college.

What not say:

A big no-no is to say that you want to study at the college because of its proximity to your or your guardian’s home. Also never say you want to study there because of the college’s ranking.

4. What program do you want to major in?

If you haven’t indicated in your application about what you want to major in, this is your chance at the college interview to talk about what options you are weighing and what major you are aspiring for. And if you have already mentioned it in your application, talk about why you are drawn to that major and why you are ardent about it.

What not say:

Don’t ever say that you are pursuing a major because it has good career prospects and will give you job security.

5. What do you hope to achieve from this program?

This is naturally the next of interview questions in college to follow the previous one. Think this through and be ready to mention your career goals – e.g. law or business administration. Even if your chosen major is not directly linked to a career, then research the options and have an idea of what you may want to pursue ahead of the college interview.

What not say:

Do not say that you want to follow in the footsteps of your father or uncle. Or aspire to make good money.

6. What are your strengths?

It’s not easy to talk about your strengths without sounding pompous so you should mention your strengths with examples. To convey how disciplined you are about keeping time, e.g., mention how you are always on time in class project submissions, never late for class, etc. and mention incidents to further strengthen your answer. Such examples will be better remembered.

What not say:

Do not finish answering by listing out your strengths or simply going on about yourself.

7. What are your academic weaknesses?

Without pulling yourself down, talk about challenges you have tried to overcome. It could be e.g., ‘I’m a bit weak in Math so I studied right through my vacations to get better’. This will indicate that you identified your weakness and then dealt with it.

What not say:

Do not grandly announce that you have no weaknesses.

8. How do you utilize your spare time?

This is another of many questions college interviewers ask to know you better. Your hobbies and interests are a reflection of who you are so even if your interests aren’t linked academically, talk about it. You may be a member of a sports club, pursuing music or dance, learning a foreign language – anything that conveys how fruitfully you utilize your time.

What not say:

Do not say you like chatting with friends on the social media or generally faffing with friends.

9. If accepted, how will you contribute to this institution?

This college interview question is asked to see how much you know of the college and how well you will fit in. Prepare your answer with ample research of all the extracurricular activities at the college and what all you can participate in besides your academic pursuits. You may be a good sportsman and aspire to become part of the college team.

What not say:

Don’t be sketchy in your reply of how you will contribute to making it a better place for students etc.

10. Which other colleges have you applied to?

This question at the college interview can be awkward but it’s best to respond honestly. Even if you have applied to a rival college, mention it without hesitation – who knows, they may find you even more interesting.

What not say:

Don’t beat round the bush and pretend that you haven’t applied anywhere else.

11. Given a chance, what would you improve in your high school?

Your answer will help the college understand your ability to see a problem and think it through with a workable solution. Be precise in mentioning the problem and giving the solution. Your clarity of thought should come through.

What not say:

Don’t malign your high school by finding fault and saying ungracious things about it.

12. What do you see yourself doing ten years from now?

As a college applicant you may not have thought so far into the future and like most interview questions in college, this one is asked to size you up and understand how inspired you are. So be honest and talk about not just your academic and career goals but also what you dream of doing in life – you may want to help the blind or set up alumni clubs at all the institutions you studied. 

What not say:

Do not blandly say that you see yourself well entrenched in your career and contributing positively to the world.

13. Have there been any challenging events in life that you overcame?

If you have been faced with life-changing situations, talk about it specifically and how you dealt with it. If you have been fortunate in having it smooth sailing, you can still talk elaborately about a challenging problem you overcame – e.g., learning to swim even though you suffered from hydrophobia.

In doing so you will have conveyed your persistence in dealing with a problem and overcoming it.

What not say:

Do not underplay your striving to overcome a challenge however insignificant it may feel.

14. What motivates you?

This question at a college interview asks you what drives you and keeps you going. So reply honestly and with passion – it could be the major that you want to pursue, or looking forward to working in a particular company or simply finding every opportunity to keeping raising the bar and excelling in what you do.

What not say:

Don’t say I want to own a few Lamborghinis one day - do not talk about material things being motivational factors.

15. Who has inspired you? Whom do you admire?

By asking this question at the college interview, they want to understand your values and priorities so mention in detail what you admire and have found inspiring in people. It could be your parents constant endeavor for excellence – talk about it in detail. 

What not say:

Don’t mention a popular entertainment star who’s popularity is like a flash in the pan.

16. Which is your favorite book?

This question at the college interview aims to check if you’ve just listed reading as a hobby and to understand what your reading interests are. Talk about a book that has inspired you or a character in the book that you have an affinity with and how it has shaped your values and the way you think.

What not say:

Don’t just name the title of a book and stop there.

17. How are you unique?

This question at the college interview is another way of asking you what’s special about you. Each of us is unique and has events that have shaped us into who we are. So think this one through of how you project yourself as being different from others. Use incidents from your life to showcase your unique qualities.  

What not say:

Don’t grin and get awkward and say it’s for others to say.

18. Do you want to ask us anything?

By asking this question at the college interview, the college gives you a chance to know more about the college. So do ample research and ask questions that will impact you as a student. It could be about life on the campus for an international student – e.g., the food and lifestyle on campus.  

What not say:

Don’t ask questions that you can find answers to on the college website or the Internet.

Things NOT TO DO for a college interview

Do not learn your answers by heart. In doing so, you’ll land up sounding bland and boring 

Do not under dress or overdress. Simply ensure that you are turned put appropriately and look professional and neat

Turn you cellphone off. Being interrupted at a college interview by a shrill cellphone can send wrong signals to the interviewer about your seriousness

Do not take your parents to the interview. Even if you feel tense and intimidated about the college interview, you must go in alone – leave your parents in the waiting room

Do not be shy and awkward. Answer every question confidently

Do not be unenthusiastic. Even if you aren’t keen about the college, give the college interview your best.

Do not miss on following up. Send the college a thank you letter after the college interview and subsequently follow up to know where you stand.

Watch this video of a college interview at Cambridge University:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUwN6GI-0EQ

Watch this video of a mock college interview at Oxford University:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FstDtDntCo

Watch this video of a general college interview at Trinity College Cambridge:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3lYdO0XYL4

Watch this video of students share their perspectives on the college interview at Yale University:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EoVGFthcO2s

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