10 Tips for Acing Your College Admissions Interview

The following piece was written by Joie Jager-Hyman. Joie has been featured in our Admissions Expert series and is a former Assistant Director of Admissions for Dartmouth College. She is the founder of her own admissions consulting service, College Prep 360.

While not every school offers interviews for admission, if the opportunity is presented to you, take it!

Before the school year starts, research your colleges’ websites to see if they offer interviews. If they do, reserve your spot as soon as possible. Even if an interview isn’t officially recommended, it can still be a great opportunity for students to demonstrate interest in the school and possibly compensate for any blemishes on their academic records. 

Whether your interviewer is a member of the admissions staff or a local alumnus, it is extremely important that you put your best foot forward. Having personally conducted scores of admissions interviews, I have compiled 10 easy tips for students to ace their interviews. The following are taken from my new book, B+ Grades, A+ College Application:

1. Bring your resume: In my experience, many interviewers will use your resume to guide the conversation for the interview and pose questions about your extracurricular activities, community service, personal interests, and so on. Discussing your resume will give you plenty to talk about and will help the time fly by.
2. Familiarize yourself with current events: Thanks to the internet, it only takes a few minutes per day to peruse national newspapers like The New York Times or to stream national news on NPR. Your interviewer will expect you to have a general understanding of major headlines, so do your daily homework.
3. Read outside of school: While you make time to brush up on current events, also take the time to read for your own enjoyment. Doing so will give interviewers a lot of insight into your intellectual curiosity—especially if you choose to read books outside the realm of “pop culture” (e.g., the Twilight series, Harry Potter).
4. Know your academic interests: Chances are your interviewer will ask about your favorite academic subject and what you might want to study in college. Think of a class you really enjoy and be prepared to elaborate (enthusiastically) on how you would like to pursue studies in that subject area. Also, do some legwork and research online how this area is taught at your interviewer’s college. If you can name a course or professor that interests you, all the better!
5. Reflect on your personal interests: Be prepared to shed light on personal interests or activities, such as photography or music. Even if you simply enjoy seeing photography in museums or playing music in your friends’ cars, be ready to talk about your passions! Your interviewer will want to know what you’ve learned from the time you’ve spent viewing or taking pictures and how you would want to pursue that activity in college.
6. Show passion for a cause: Colleges are looking to admit students who will take charge and use their educations to make a positive impact on the world. This would be a great opportunity to talk about any community service efforts on your resume, but if you’re not that involved, think about issues you care about and be prepared to discuss how you want to leverage your passion for those issues to make your mark on the world.
7. Do your research: By interviewing, you are exhibiting a serious commitment to a particular college and your interviewer will expect you to have some familiarity with his or her school. Go beyond what it is on the college’s website and chat with a current student, or read the school’s newspaper to get a sense of the major issues on campus and what the student body is like.
8. Ask three questions: An interview is as much an interviewer’s opportunity to learn about you, as it is for you to learn more about the college and see if it is a good fit. At the end of your interview, you will likely be asked if you have any questions. Be sure to ask thoughtful, qualitative questions that you can’t find the answer to online such as: “How accessible is the faculty outside the classroom?” or, “What kind of research opportunities are available to underclassmen?”
9. Writea thank-you note: In these days of e-communication, a handwritten note makes a wonderful impression on an interviewer. You can keep it brief and just mention how you enjoyed meeting him or her, making sure to include a few highlights from your conversation.
10. Practice makes perfect: While you may never have been interviewed before, you can take comfort in knowing that interviewing is a skill that you can learn through practice. Based on my tips, you now have a pretty good idea as to what interviewers will ask you, so jot down a list of questions and practice with someone you trust. Make sure you practice well in advance of your scheduled interview so that you won’t feel overwhelmed with questions!

Check out CollegePrep360 for more information.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.