How to stand out in a college interview

Interviewing is one of the final steps students will take toward college application success. It's also one of the most daunting. Whereas the essay gives you the opportunity to write and revise endlessly, the interview is a one-time deal. You've got to make it count. Here are some tips that will help your children (or you) stand out and shine in a college admissions interview.

Know your school

You've already done the school research, now you just need to review everything. Perhaps not surprisingly, we suggest you start reviewing prior to the day of the meeting. Just as we would never recommend cramming for the SATs on the way to the testing center, we do not recommend cramming for your interview either — it will only make you more nervous during an already nerve-wracking experience.

Know yourself

Remember, this interview is about you, not how many school facts you've memorized. During your prep time, consider not only how you fit into the school's academic and social atmosphere, but also how you've come to be the charming and inquisitive person you are today.

Arrive early

It goes without saying that you must arrive to your interview on time. I strongly recommend taking it one step further, though, by arriving early. Gather your thoughts, sip on some water to safeguard against future cottonmouth, and take this time to remind yourself of the basics: Shake hand firmly, look the interviewer in the eye, smile on occasion, and show your enthusiasm for the school.


Again, this interview is all about you. Relax. Be yourself. You're prepared. The interviewer is trying to get to know you. With that in mind, do not hesitate to elaborate. It's always best to speak in complete sentences — you know that. But it's even better to speak in many complete sentences. You must explain yourself. You think you'd be a great fit at a particular school, but why? You really liked a particular class or book in high school, but why? If you're constantly asking yourself "why," the interviewer won't have to; plus, you'll come off as twice more self-aware than the poor sap before you that could only muster enough courage to respond with an awkward "because."

Ask questions

Consider your interviewer. You'll want to ask the interviewer a few informed questions for three fairly obvious reasons. The first is that it'll reinforce that active curiosity you've been talking so much about. The second is that, to some degrees you're interviewing the school. There will be questions or concerns that, for as much as you delved into the school's website, have gone unaddressed. If you feel you've got all the information you could ever need, I still recommend asking at least a few follow-up questions. Finally, remember that this is a conversation you're having with an actual person. This person wants you to ask questions, not only about the school itself but also about the interviewer personally. That's just how pleasant conversations work.

Mock interviews

Practice makes perfect. Whether it is with a friend, parent or teacher mock interviews can be an extremely helpful tool in your interview preparation. Sure, you'll know the answers to your mock-interviewer's questions because you've done your homework but responding out-loud can be a challenge all its own.

Here are our top 25 most frequently asked interview questions. If you prepare and practice your answers to these questions, you should be well on your way to acing the college admissions interview.

Top 25 college admissions interview questions:

1. Why do you want to go to college?

2. Why do you want to come to NAME OF COLLEGE?  (Be sure to answer this question for each school at which you plan to interview.)

3. How do you make a difference in your high school community and how do you envision yourself making an impact at NAME OF COLLEGE? (Be sure to answer this question for each school at which you plan to interview).

4. What inspires you intellectually?

5. What was your most challenging course in high school?  Why?

6. Which authors, books, or articles have had a profound effect on you?

7. What would you change about your high school if you had the chance? What do you enjoy about your school?

8. How have you changed or grown through high school?

9. What things do you do well and find most satisfying? What are your strengths and talents?

10. Which weaknesses would you like to improve?

11. Are you satisfied with your accomplishments so far?

12. How do you respond to academic competition and pressure?

13. How would you describe your family? Your community?

14. What was the biggest obstacle you have faced so far in your life and how did you get through it?

15. What three adjectives would your best friend use to describe you? Why?

16. What do you plan to study in college? Why?

17. What do you like to do for fun?   

18. How do you spend your summers?

19. What do you hope to do with your college education after graduation?

20. If you could take a year off, how would you spend it?

21. How do you define success?

22. Tell a joke.

23. What makes you unique?

24. In this week’s news, which issue(s) have you been most concerned about?

25. Do you have any heroes or heroines? Who are they and why do you admire them?

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