The college admissions journey involves several scenarios that can be stress-inducing. One of them is sitting down for a college interview, mostly because it’s something you’ve never done before. The best way to feel confident heading into this experience is to do some college interview prep.
You may be thinking, “OK, well, what does college interview prep look like?” I’m glad you asked.
How do you prepare for college interviews?
I’m a firm believer that there isn’t one “right” way to properly prepare for a college interview, mostly because everyone is different and operates on various wavelengths. What works for one person to feel confident and prepared might not work for someone else, and that’s OK.
What’s most important is you keep trying different things to get yourself to the point of feeling ready to ace your college interview.
What typically takes away a lot of stress for many students is knowing all the various details within the experience. Doing a mock interview with your college counselor or someone else with admissions experience is a great way to get a sense of what to generally expect.
The following four questions – and knowing the answers to them – will also help lower stress levels during college interview prep.
What do I wear for a college interview?
Thinking about what you should wear to a college interview is a lot harder these days because COVID-19 has made our world more virtual than ever before. So, we’ll talk about your appearance for both in-person and virtual interviews.
While going to an interview in your pajamas isn’t the best idea, it’s also not a black-tie event. Going for a business casual look is perfectly appropriate. If you’re unsure what that means (I know I was when I was a teenager), think about what you’d wear for an important presentation at school. Whatever your answer would be for that scenario is appropriate for your in-person interview.
If your interview is happening virtually, the thought process is slightly different. The “business casual” part is still the same (at least, from the waist up), but you’ll also have to be mindful of your background, ensuring that it’s appropriate for your upcoming experience.
Who will be interviewing me?
This can vary depending on the situation, but one variable is more common than the rest. Prospective students can meet with either an admissions counselor (preferably, the one assigned to your high school or region of the country), an alum, or a student employee of the admissions office.
Meeting with an alumni representative usually happens locally and not on campus. Interviewing with a student worker from the admissions office would only happen on campus. In both instances, though, they’re rare compared to speaking with an actual counselor.
Getting interviewed by an admissions rep is preferred because they’ll be reading applications and presenting applicants for the committee to make decisions on. Meeting with your dedicated rep is preferred because they’re not only familiar with your area and high school, but they’ll also likely read your application before anyone else does. Having a conversation with you will bring your file to life as they review it, allowing them to provide as much context as possible when heading into a committee meeting.
What will I be asked?
Although the types of questions you’ll get asked can vary from school to school (and even from interviewer to interviewer), there are common ones you can prepare answers for.
Here are a handful of questions I discuss with students while we do college interview prep:
- Tell me a little about yourself.
- What is your strongest/weakest point?
- What have you done to prepare for college?
- Tell me about your interests/hobbies.
- Tell me about your involvement in extracurricular activities.
- Is there anything you’d like us to know about you that there isn’t a spot for on your application?
Outside of these general questions, your interviewer will also ask specific questions about the school they represent. It’s important to do thorough research on a college before an interview so you can respond to questions such as:
- Why do you want to attend this college/university?
- What do you want to major in?
- What clubs and organizations are you interested in joining?
- What do you want to do in the future, and how do you see our college helping you achieve that?
You’ll likely get other types of specific questions that are unique to certain colleges and universities. But mostly, college interviews and the questions asked by admissions counselors have one goal in mind: to spark a conversation. They want to get to know the person behind the application. It not only helps them do their job more effectively, but it’s also more fun for them.
Can I ask questions?
Yes! A great way to demonstrate how serious you are about a school is to ask some thoughtful questions – whether it’s throughout your conversation or at the end when the interviewer explicitly gives you an opportunity.
If you have specific questions about academic/extracurricular programs or something you saw/heard on a recent tour, this is a good time to bring it up. We like to prepare our students with a handful of general questions that could bring great answers from the admissions reps they meet with. Some include:
- When you picked this school, was it an easy choice for you? (Many times, the admissions rep you meet with is also a graduate of that school. If they’re not, tailor this question to their situation.)
- What role did your college play in helping you get where you are today?
- If you had to do it all over again, would you do anything differently?
These questions help you get more information about a college and the on-campus experience beyond what’s seen on a website, tour, or information session.
There are many things to think about regarding college interviews. This opportunity is a two-way street, though. Yes, it’s a chance for admissions officers to get to know you better and see if you’d fit well on campus. But it’s also a chance for you to evaluate whether this school is worthy of staying on your list of colleges you’d consider enrolling at when the time comes.
Admissions officers aren’t looking to trick you with questions or make you stumble over your words. Interviews are fun because reading applications is more enjoyable when they’ve met and spoken with the person. They just want to have a conversation about you, the things you currently like to do, and whatever your future goals are.
So, take a deep breath, don’t put too much pressure on yourself, and remember to be you – because that’s exactly the person they want to meet.
About Us: With more than twenty years of experience, Collegewise counselors and tutors are at the forefront of the ever-evolving admissions landscape. Our work has always centered on you: the student. And just like we’ve always done, we look for ways for you to be your best self - whether it’s in the classroom, in your applications or in the right-fit college environment. Our range of tools include counseling, test prep, academic tutoring, and essay management, all with the support of our proprietary platform, leading to a 4x higher than average admissions rates.