Common College Interview Questions
Though an admissions interview might not make or break your application, it’s understandable that you’d be full of anticipation and butterflies. After all, you’re meeting a stranger who seemingly feels a lot like a gatekeeper. However, if you spend a little time prepping and reflecting and if you answer honestly, there’s no reason you shouldn’t feel confident about the experience.
Below are some common interview questions and thoughts on how to approach them:
Why do you want to attend this school?
This question is frequently posed by many an interviewer and you should be able to deliver a strong answer right out of the gate. The key is to employ specifics and details. While there’s certainly no need to memorize a college’s brochures, you must highlight programs, facilities and opportunities that you find attractive. Show that you’ve truly done your research and demonstrate why this particular school is a good fit for you. Answering in generalities and clichés won’t convince your interviewer that you belong at his/her alma mater.
What are your academic interests?
When it comes to this question, you needn’t worry about having a fancy answer such as quantum mechanics or Keynesian economics (though it’s perfectly fine if those are, in fact, your interests). Moreover, it’s okay if you’re undecided as to what your major will be. After all, you have yet to even begin college! However, you should be able to articulate subjects that hold appeal and excite you. Talk about disciplines that intersect with your passions. Above all, your interviewer is looking for candidates who are interested and engaged in learning.
What’s your favorite book/what book would you recommend?
Fear not; there’s no right or wrong answer to this question. Don’t respond with a title you think the interviewer wants to hear. It will definitely come across as disingenuous. And don’t simply choose an author from a list of Pulitzer Prize winners. Interviewers use this question to gauge whether or not you read outside of your school curriculum. Of course, if you discovered your favorite book as a result of an assignment it won’t be a game ender. Additionally, you want to give concrete reasons and examples as to why this particular story resonated with you. Your response will reveal how you form arguments and think critically about texts.
How will you contribute to our campus?
Sure, colleges want undergraduates who are intelligent and academically inclined. However, they also look beyond what applicants will bring to the classroom. They seek students who will contribute to the community-at-large and help make the school a vibrant place. If you’re asked this question, refrain from giving an answer filled with empty adjectives. Think about your passions and hobbies. What activities and organizations might you join? What new groups would you think about introducing to campus? In short, what flavors will you add to the community melting pot?
What are your strengths/weaknesses?
Whether you are asked about a strength or weakness (or, gulp, both), know that this question is attempting to gain insight into your character. Obviously, we all have strengths and weaknesses. There’s no need to appear overly boastful, ashamed or contrite.
No matter the strength you offer, it is imperative you back up your response with examples/scenarios. This will lend weight and credence to your answer.
With regards to your weakness, don’t respond with a strength veiled as a weakness (for example, I’m too much of a perfectionist). Interviewers will see through that veneer. They are much more likely to respond a truthful, vulnerable answer. It’s okay to own up to your shortcomings. Use this as an opportunity to demonstrate on how you’re working towards improving and overcoming them.
What are your career goals/where do you see yourself in the future?
As we stated above, don’t deliver an answer based upon what you think your interviewer would like to hear. Saying you plan on being the leading senator from your state or Hollywood’s highest-grossing producer won’t necessarily impress (and might not be terribly realistic). While it’s obviously fine to dream big, having modest goals is okay too. More importantly, understand that it’s perfectly acceptable not to have a specific plan or career track laid out. Simply be honest (we cannot stress that enough). Schools just want to see how their curriculums and programs might fit into your future plans. Finally, you should avoid listing personal goals, such as marriage, as well as the desire to acquire wealth or material goods.
Do you have any questions for me?
It’s never a good idea to tell your interviewer that you have no outstanding queries. Trust us; they won’t begin to congratulate themselves for covering all the bases. Once again, you want to demonstrate that you’ve been thinking about the school and how it will meet your needs and desires. It’s even okay if you arrive armed with questions you wrote beforehand. This will only serve to show your thoughtfulness and preparation. Remember - steer clear of general or negative questions. Instead, focus on topics related to your specific interests.
We recognize that you might be nervous as your college admission interviews approach. It’s important to realize most interviewers aren’t trying to stump you or grill you. They’re simply looking to recommend applicants that would be a good fit for the school. You should think of it the same way, as an opportunity to see if the school is a good fit for you. And, if it helps, we suggest regarding these interviews as an opportunity for conversation and a way to learn more about a prospective college.