How To Ace Your College Interview

The college application process is becoming increasingly more sophisticated.

For years, it was all about numbers. Colleges only looked at students’ SAT/ACT scores and high school grades. Then, colleges started taking more interest in who their students are. So, they started considering application essays, extra-curricular activities, and community service involvement.

But, some elite colleges took their admissions even further by interviewing potential students. The interview has now become an integral part of the admissions process.

Every college has a different interview structure, but most interviews will last between 30 and 60 minutes, according to an article from the College Board. You might interview with an alumnus, an admissions officer, or even a current student. Some interviews may be formal one-on-one settings; others may be group interviews with a room full of students asking questions to a panel.

Here are some basic tips to help you prepare for your interview.

Go alone: Do not bring your parent in with you. This is not a parent-teacher conference. Having your mom answer questions on your behalf only tells colleges you’re not mature enough to be on your own.

Create a balanced dialogue: Your interviewer wants to hear about you. That’s why you’re there. But, the best interviews are balanced where you are talking just as much as your interviewer. Ask questions about specialized degree programs or student clubs/extra- curricular activities. Give your interviewer a chance to talk about what they like about the school too.

Show you’re motivated: Colleges want students who are going to come in and get involved in every club, students who are going to perform well in the classroom and eventually start great careers. Talk about your short-term and long-term goals, what you hope to do your freshman year of college, and what you want to accomplish in your career. If you can indicate that you are academically mature and see the big picture of college, your interviewer will be impressed.

Be interested in that school: Speak about how you feel that school suits your interests and career plans better than any other school. Talk about how it’s the one place you want to go. Try to know everything you possibly can about the school and its programs before your interview.

You can impress your interviewer by asking questions like, “I heard the economics club recently received national recognition and students work on real-world projects. What can I do to get involved immediately?” Rather than questions like “Do you have an economics club?”

Update your interviewer: He/she has already seen your application, but this is a great chance to talk about your current activities that might not be listed in your application. You can also elaborate on what your past activities.

Talk about how you overcame adversity: Colleges love to take personal interest in students who have faced adversity. If possible, talk about how you overcame tough situations like being heavily involved in sports, clubs/organizations, while holding a part-time job and still maintaining a great GPA.

Practice an interview: Here is a list, from the College Board, of commonly asked questions in college interviews.

  • Why do you want to attend our college?
  • What can you contribute?
  • What courses have you enjoyed most?
  • Are your grades an accurate reflection of your potential?
  • Which of your activities is most rewarding and why?
  • What has been your biggest achievement?
  • What's your opinion on the immigration debate [or other current event]?
  • How did you spend last summer?
  • What do you want to do after you graduate from college?
  • What's the most difficult situation you've faced?
  • If you could change one thing about your high school, what would it be?