Tips on Nailing the College Interview

Tips on Nailing the College Interview

Jody Sanford Sweeney
Associate Director of College Counseling
William Penn Charter School

Do any of your summer college visits include an admissions interview? Don’t let your nerves get in the way! These tips will prepare you for the conversation anytime - summer, fall or winter.

Know what’s available to you: Learn what interview options the college offers: on campus; regional alumni interview; at the prospect and/or applicant stage; or, no interviews. The opportunity varies by institution and the admissions web page will share the institution’s policy.

What to expect:
Admissions officers and alumni interviewers enjoy getting to know students. They will try to put you at ease and learn about you, while giving you information about the college. Conversations can take on a “life of their own.” You may connect over a mutual interest and the conversation could take off.

To have a purposeful conversation that makes an impact, consider these 10 questions: 

1) What attracts you to this particular college? (Tell your interviewer how you became aware of the school and how you determined it would be a good place for you to research and visit.)  

2) Are you interested in any particular majors? How did you become interested? (Elaborate on labs/projects/books/papers. It’s okay to be “multi-interested!”)  

3) How do you see yourself spending time outside the classroom? (Research a few clubs and activities at the school prior to the interview. Share what you’re involved in, and what you hope to try that would be new to you.)

4) What have you liked about your high school experience? What would you improve if you had the opportunity to do it again? (Mention attributes and initiatives of which you are proud and areas you wish could be enhanced or different.) 

5) What book(s) have you read recently? Either for class or for fun. (Be prepared to share both and why they resonated with you.) 

6) Is there a current issue that you follow in which you've engaged? (Explain how you became interested, what have you done to support your interests, and why it is important to you. For example, is there an ethical component to the issue that challenges you?)

7) What do you hope to gain from college outside of the degree? (Think beyond “checking college off the list” to get to “point x, y, or z.” What kind of citizen do you want to become in your communities and how college life, ideally, can shape your character.)

8) Share an anecdote describing a leadership role. How did it take shape? How do you lead? (The setting could be a community or school activity, sports team, classroom, group project, home, extended family, job or service.)  

9) If you had an entire day free, what would you do? (It’s likely been a long time since you’ve had an entire day “free.” Be authentic and don’t strive to impress. Simply, what would you love to do?)  

10) Is there anything about you that would surprise me? (Have fun with this question but keep it classy!)

The interviewer’s goal: Do you have a good reason for wanting to attend this college? Do you have a talent or attribute that would make their college more interesting? Are you a person who will actively engage in productive ways while on campus?

Come ready with questions to which you can’t easily find answers on the admissions web site. Ask: 

a) About research opportunities and summer grants to support your intellectual interests. 
b) What the "hot button" issues are on campus. (College news sources are good material for this.) 
c) If there are any particular areas of campus life the college is trying to improve. 
d) How the students engage with the community surrounding the campus. 
e) How the community creates an environment of wellness, balance, and fun. 

Before the interview, follow these basic steps: 

a) Call the admissions office to make an appointment or schedule it online well before your visit.  
b) Choose your attire prior to the day - go for “special dress” and nothing distracting.
c) Have the GPS college address at the ready. 
d) Take a healthy (and delicious) snack for the car ride. 
e) Always introduce yourself by firmly shaking hands and making eye contact. Be confident!
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