Subscribe Here!

More expert advice

College Interviews

College Interview Questions (And Answers)

Picture of Caitlin Harper
By Caitlin Harper on May, 12 2023 | 15 minute read
college interview questions

College applications have many components to it, including college interviews. In this blog, we'll share insight on the questions (and answers) students can expect to get. 

When you picture a college admissions interview, do you see a teenager sitting in an imposing, high-backed chair wearing the itchy, uncomfortable dress clothes their parents forced them into quivering under the intensely judgemental stare of a white-haired man? 

Well, I’m here to help you paint a different picture!

Collegewise counselors have over 500 collective years of experience in college admissions. In my own career as an admissions officer, I conducted admission interviews in offices, conference rooms, coffee shops, hotel lobbies, over the phone and on Zoom and Skype. From my experience, and the experiences of my colleagues, I’ll share insight on the purpose of the college interview and what you may expect when it’s your turn. You’ll be introduced to some of the most common questions, why they’re asked, and then get to watch an example answer.

After reading this blog, you’ll be prepared to present your most confident and authentic self in any college admission interview.

Why Do Colleges Conduct Interviews?

Applying to college is a very transactional process. You compile and present all of these documents, like your transcript and letters of recommendation, that are supposed to represent you but aren’t actually you. Colleges offer interviews in order to make this transactional process more personal.

Colleges offer two distinct types of interviews: informational and evaluative

  • Informational interviews are mutually beneficial for the student and the college. The focus for each party is getting to know the other and cultivating a relationship. Anything you share in an informational interview will not be taken into consideration for your admission decision.
    • Example: Colgate University

      • “A virtual conversation with a senior admission intern or Colgate alumnus is a terrific opportunity for rising or current high school seniors to learn more about Colgate in a casual one-on-one setting. Colgate Admission Conversations are non-evaluative and not required as part of the admission process."
  • Evaluative interviews will most definitely be included in the review of your application and considered as part of your admission decision. Your interviewer may be more pointed with the questions they ask, and they will likely compose a write-up or summary of your conversation afterwards that is added to your application.

    • Example: Georgetown University

      • “All first-year applicants are required to have an interview with an alumnus as part of the admissions process…The interview provides you with an opportunity to highlight particular aspects of your background and achievements and to learn more about Georgetown University from the point of view of a local alumnus….An interview report will be submitted and becomes part of the admissions file. While the interview report is used as part of the admissions committee’s consideration process, it rarely “makes or breaks” an application, and much more often than not it works in the applicant’s favor.”

I advise my Collegewise students to go into every interview with an understanding that it is evaluative, even if it’s explicitly stated that it is not. This mindset ensures they take the conversation seriously, put their best foot forward, and engage fully in all the ways it may benefit them. Whoever you’re speaking with has a deep connection to the college you’re interested in. They’re going to know who could be a great match. And even if they don’t share their opinions directly with an admission committee, the feedback and insights they gift to you could end up as compelling additions to your supplemental essays.

Which leads me to another reason why colleges offer interviews: demonstrated interest. Schools have different policies and definitions for demonstrated interest, but it is surprisingly important at a large number of selective institutions. Say you spend weeks getting to know someone on a dating app and when they finally agree to a date, they tell you they're only there for the free meal and have no interest in ever seeing you again…ouch, right? Most schools are in a position where they have to admit more students than they know are going to ultimately enroll. Because of this, they look for ways to predict a student’s interest. A student taking the time to schedule, prepare for, and participate in an interview is a great indication that they’re not “just there for the meal.” 

Finally, places with very clear cultures and missions will want to meet students to ensure they understand what they’re signing up for. The best example would be the military academies. West Point states that “the purpose of the interview is to evaluate accurately and impartially the characteristics of the candidate to determine his/her potential as a commissioned officer and his/her motivation toward service in a branch of the Armed Forces.'' And I know it might feel strange to draw this line of similarity, but you’ll find the same is true at art schools and conservatories which require interviews in conjunction with portfolio reviews or auditions.

Types of College Interviews

Like so many things in college admissions, the interview experience you’re going to have totally depends on the school. Start your preparation by understanding what options are out there.

Who is the interviewer? 

  • Admissions Officer: You’re likely to meet with the person assigned to your high school or region, who will know the most about you and review your application first. If you’re not interviewing with your regional representative, it is entirely appropriate to ask the admission officer what role they may play in the review of your application. 
  • Alum: They will often live in your area so you’ll have that in common and can connect on favorite restaurants or local activities and what it may be like to go from your home to their alma mater.
  • Current student: Like talking to an older sibling or upper class student at school! They’re still going to ask you questions, but the conversation will be more informational. They’ll have great advice on how to navigate the transition to college and how to get involved.
  • Faculty member: This is a rare occurrence, but you may run into it if you’re interviewing for a specific academic program or scholarship.

How will you be interviewing?

      • In-person: Whether on campus or somewhere close to home, you’ll be sitting across from a real, live human and having a conversation. Brush your hair and your teeth!
      • Zoom: The pandemic made virtual interviews a lot more prolific. We’ve all had practice on video platforms by now, but make sure your interviewer is going to be able to see and hear you clearly.
      • Recorded videos: Many schools have opted to allow students to submit short testimonials in place of interviews, for the same goal of adding a more personal touch to an application. Some schools, like Wake Forest, will ask you to speak on a specific prompt. Others, like Brown, are open to the student’s creativity.

What are you interviewing for?

College Interview Questions (And Answers)

It’s unlikely that you’ll be told, or even be able to predict, every question that will be asked during your college interview. Colleges and individual interviewers are all going to do things slightly differently. That doesn’t mean you can’t prepare for some of the most common questions though, especially those that fall into the main topics colleges care about.

Here are those main topics, plus some example questions, background on why a college may ask these kinds of questions, and a video of yours truly giving you a sample answer from a Disney character - can you guess each one?

Open-Ended Introduction


  • Tell me about yourself

Sample answer:

Why do they ask?

First impressions are made in seconds, right? Well, this common opening to interviews allows you, the interviewee, to set the tone for the rest of the conversation. They want to get to know you quickly, at a high-level, so they can then ask related follow up questions. Make sure you introduce the most important aspects of yourself, your interests and your goals. Try not to ramble or give a monologue - remember an interview is a two-way conversation. 



  • What has been your favorite/least favorite class in high school, and why?
  • What major do you want to pursue in college, and why?
  • What classes are you taking this year? What’s your favorite?

Sample answer:

Why do they ask?

This one should be obvious. You’re going to college to learn and earn a degree in something that interests you. They want to know what you enjoy learning and what you see yourself learning more of in the future. If you’re undecided on a major, that’s okay! What wouldn’t be okay is showing no academic interest or curiosity at all.

Extracurricular Activities


  • What extracurricular activities are you involved in?
  • What do you do with your free time?
  • Tell me about your hobbies and interests.

Sample answer:

Why do they ask?

In college, you spend less time in an actual classroom than you do in high school - maybe 12 hours a week compared to 7 hours a day. How you will spend the rest of your time when you’re not in class or studying is important to your overall college experience. These questions communicate a lot about what’s important to you and where you invest your energy, but they also tell the college where you may be able to contribute to their community.

Strengths/Weaknesses or Successes/Challenges


  • What are you most proud of from your high school experience?
  • If you could change one thing about your high school experience, what would it be?
  • Tell me about a challenge you have faced and how you’ve overcome it.

Sample answer:

Why do they ask?

Now is the time to brag about yourself. Of course, there’s a difference between speaking honestly about your accomplishments and boasting in an arrogant manner. Walk that line closely. By asking these kinds of questions, colleges are trying to evaluate and understand your social and emotional intelligence. These questions get to the heart of your self-awareness and self-management. They want to know how you handle the highs and lows of life because those will happen in college, too.

Note: You only have to share what you’re comfortable with. Please don’t feel pressured to divulge your deepest secrets or adversities.

Demonstrated Interest


  • Why are you interested in _____ College/University?
  • What are you looking for from your future college experience?
  • How did you hear about us, and what made you interested in applying/attending?

Sample answer:


Why do they ask?

This is probably the most important question you’re going to be asked in your interview. Just like you are ultimately hoping for that acceptance letter, colleges are also looking for students who know them, understand them, and want to be part of their community. “I want you to want me,” as Cheap Trick professed in their classic rock song from the 80s. Many students have to leave their expression of interest up to a short supplemental essay in their application or the subjective opinion of the admission committee. Take the opportunity provided by an interview and come in with well-researched and personal reasons why you’re there having the conversation in the first place.

Quirky Questions


  • If you were an animal/utensil/fictional character/etc., what would you be and why?
  • If you were going to give a TED Talk, what would it be on?
  • What’s the first song you would play your college roommate as a way of introducing yourself?

Sample answer:

Why do they ask?

Your interviewer is human, and they’re probably doing a lot of these interviews. Asking a quirky question helps keep the conversation fun and interesting. You don’t need to channel your stand-up comedian side or drop a deep philosophical revelation. You just need to be reflective, think about the question critically and creatively, and answer sincerely. Usually your first instinct, the thing that immediately comes to mind, is the best answer.

Your Turn


  • Do you have any questions for me?

Why do they ask?

The answer to this question should always be “yes”. Every good interview is a two-way street. Sure, the majority of the time will be focused on you. But you’ll leave your interviewer with a positive impression if you show interest in them, their experiences and the knowledge they bring to the table. Be prepared to ask about the things that matter to you most. It may be a specific academic program, how students are prepared for a future career, transportation options into the nearby city, or whether the food on-campus is actually edible. Colleges love curious students!

Check out this Collegewise blog for 5 Questions to Ask Your College Interviewer.


What to Do if Things "Go Wrong" in a College Interview

Maybe it’s nerves. Maybe you get stumped by a question you weren’t expecting. Maybe your phone rings loudly and everyone in the coffee shop hears your Taylor Swift ringtone. Maybe you get distracted by the interviewer’s really cool socks and don’t hear the question they ask you. So many things can “go wrong” during an interview. The best thing you can do in these moments is take a breath and politely ask for a reset. 

Remember that your interviewer is human. They’re not out to get you or make your interview experience terrible. Asking them to repeat a question is entirely normal. Stating that you need a moment to consider your answer shows that you’re taking it seriously. Being able to laugh at yourself or an awkward moment demonstrates confidence and humility. If you stay grounded and true to yourself, nothing can really “go wrong” in your interview.

The College Interview Follow-up

At Collegewise, we believe the admissions process allows for growth and development of good humans as much as it is a means to an end of getting into college. And the life lessons here, after you’ve finished your college interview, are to show gratitude and cultivate relationships. Your interviewer gave of themself to benefit you. Send them an email to say thank you and highlight a specific example of what you learned from them or took away from the conversation. By following up, you’re not just being polite. You’re also reminding your interviewer who you are and what you’re all about, increasing the likelihood of them including positive feedback in your admission review and responding promptly if/when you reach out with more questions. As Collegewise founder, Kevin McMullin, says, “It’s so easy to say thank you, and you’d be surprised how often it comes back to you.”

Congratulations! You did it! You made it through your college admission interview. You can mop up your sweat and put your favorite grungy hoodie back on. What you shouldn’t do is fret over what you did or didn’t say. You were your most awesome authentic self, and that’s exactly who the college wants you to be.


Blog CTAs (7)

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 family. And just like we’ve always done, we look for ways for your student to be their best self - whether in the classroom, the applications, or in the right-fit college environment. Our range of counselingtest prepacademic tutoring, and essay management, all with the support of our proprietary platform, lead to 4x higher than average admissions rates. 


Recommended Articles

Subscribe to Email Updates