For students preparing for college admission interviews, it’s key to begin in the proper mindset. Yes, you want to promote yourself and articulate clearly why you deserve a spot. But if that’s what you focus on, the interview may feel like a series of landmines with endless opportunities to fail. Instead, you need to frame the experience as an opportunity to learn what the school can offer you in terms of your goals and needs for your future growth.
Highlight Your Unique Strengths & Skills
Preparing for a college admissions interview must commence with an assessment of your key strengths. I’m sure you’ve written these countless times on your college applications, but try to piece together the true narrative of your accomplishments so far and how they will lead you to this next phase of your life.
More specifically, what skills have you learned that you hope to strengthen? What content areas must you learn to fill in the gaps? Know the ins and outs of your strengths and weaknesses and how the school at which you are interviewing will meet these. Don’t just think about the courses you’ve taken or the clubs you’re in. Think about the specific skills that you have, and those you don’t. Are you great at coming up with ideas but fall short in breaking them down into manageable steps in order to articulate a clear plan of action? Do you love working in groups because you are a leader and enjoy facilitating coordination among your peers, or do you prefer to fall seamlessly into the efforts of a larger team?
This level of introspection is necessary in order to frame your interview in the most mature and confident way. Every college knows you’re interviewing at multiple schools. But why are they special? What can they do for you? How can they make you into your best future self?
Now, once you’ve attempted to consider what has led you to this point and what attributes of yours you most hope to hone, write a series of questions that you would hope to ask your interviewer, in terms of how the specific school – its facilities, its curriculum, and its pedagogy – will help you reach the future you see for yourself. Consider aspects that may seem secondary to the curriculum, such as class-size, opportunities for mentorship and internships, and student-professor ratios. The school may have the most beautiful shining facilities, but if those are difficult to access and do not provide you with opportunities outside of the school, that’s something you’re going to have to fight harder for when you actually set foot on campus. Consider accessibility to all aspects of what you hope to achieve in your future as key elements of your brief college experience.
Preparation is Key
Remember, just as no two colleges are alike, neither are any two interviewers alike. They range from the very friendly to the coolly reserved. Yet an interview is much more than a custom; it is the best opportunity for you to get to know the college and for the college to gain insights about you. Along with your school records, test scores, activities, and evaluations, the interview can distinguish you from the crowd and give you individual identity. Here are some hints to make your interviewing experience pleasant and to decrease your anxiety:
- Schedule the appointment well in advance; many colleges will require several months advance notice during the most sought-after times, usually September to December of the senior year.
- Schedule your first choice last. Practice your interview techniques at colleges that are far down on your list of preferred choices and leave your first choice colleges until last.
- This should be obvious: never fail to keep an appointment. If you absolutely must cancel, be sure to call regarding the cancellation.
- Bring a copy of your latest high school transcript and test scores to present to the interviewer if requested.
- Give credit where credit is due. If your school is the reason you have done well, say so. If a subject is your favorite because of a superior teacher, pay him or her the compliment.
- Be honest; say what you mean and mean what you say. Honesty pays.
Be Confident, but Humble
After you have deeply considered what your needs are, what your strengths are, what your weaknesses are, and what the school specifically has to offer to fill in those gaps, enter that interview room with heaps of humility. Yes, they want everything you have to offer, but confidence can’t overshadow the fact that you still have much to learn. Present yourself as someone who knows they have a bright future and envisions taking every opportunity at your disposal to achieve it. You will shine somewhere. Your goal is to show them that they are the school where that transformation will be brightest.
Common Interview Questions
Now, are you ready to consider what you may be asked? Here are the most common questions:
- How did you first hear about our college?
- What are your career goals (long-range and short-range)?
- What accomplishments have you achieved or activities have you participated in that have a particular effect on you and your life?
- What might you be interested in as a future profession?
- What are your academic strengths and weaknesses?
- What is the most significant contribution you have made to your school?
- How do you spend your leisure time?
- What teacher impressed you the most in the past year?
- What three books have impressed you most in the past year?
- What were the three most important events in your lifetime?
- What decisions have you most regretted? Why?
- What are your priorities in selecting a college?
- How familiar are you with this college and its programs?
- Where do you see yourself in four years?
- What problems are the most critical for the U.S. in the next five years?
- Who has been the greatest influence in your life?
And the most important:
Do you have any questions for us?
You should! Here are some suggestions (it’s a huge list, so pick a few, and tailor them to your goals and interests!):
- What activities and services are available to help students get settled (academically and socially) during their first year?
- How big are the classes?
- What do students do on weekends?
- How many of your graduates go on to graduate school? Can you tell me about the placement record of graduates with major companies?
- How successful have graduates from my intended major been in getting jobs in their own or related academic areas?
- What athletic teams and clubs are the most popular here?
- How large are your freshman introductory classes?
- If majoring in an area requiring certification, licensing, etc., will the program qualify me for entrance into the profession and prepare me for state or national certifying examinations?
- What attention is the college presently paying to campus safety?
- Where do students study?
- What percentage of students remain on campus on the weekends?
- What services are available to students (for example, general or career counseling, free health care, tutoring if needed, help finding off-campus employment during the school year or the summer, junior year abroad)?
- Are the professors and other instructors accessible? Are their office hours posted?
- Are all freshmen assigned to an academic advisor?
In the end, the best way to prepare for college admission interviews is to know yourself, with confidence – what you want, what you need, and what steps it will take to get you there. Remember that the person you are speaking with is only a small part of the process of your admission to the school, but they may give you insights that will inform your decisions within your collegiate experience for many years to come. Grant them that access to your goals and allow them to provide you with inspiration you might not have expected to find.
About the Author
Alexandra Berube is the Managing Director and founder of Boston Tutoring Services. She is a Massachusetts-certified teacher with a Master’s Degree in Education from Lesley University, and a Bachelor’s degree in English and Child Development from Sarah Lawrence College. Boston Tutoring Services, LLC. is a private in-home and online tutoring & college admissions company that offers one-on-one instruction for K-12 students. They also offer Admission Consulting Services, including Essay Coaching and Interview Coaching.