10 Tips to Help You Nail Your College Admissions Interview


For many folks, the college admissions interview is the first big interview you go through on your way to adulthood and the idea of selling yourself to the interviewer can be nerve-wracking. Still, for some top colleges, the admissions interview is an important part of the application process and you can’t avoid it if you’re hoping to land a spot in the incoming class.  

Generally, there are two types of colleges admissions interviews:

1. The Evaluative Interview

The evaluative interview is intended to help the institution assess you as a candidate for admission. The interviewer speaks with you (the potential student), takes notes, and reports their assessment back to the admissions staff.

2. The Informational Interview

The informational interview is intended to give you more information about the college you’re applying to. Some colleges hold group informational interviews in lieu of one on one sessions.

Most colleges don’t require interviews for applicants, but for those that do, it’s a good idea to think of the interview as another opportunity to show admissions staff why you’re the best candidate for a spot. So, if you have the option of getting interviewed, it’s in your best interest to do it. Here are 10 tips to help you prepare:

1. Do your research. Avoid being caught off guard by researching both the college and the interviewer beforehand. At this point, you should have a pretty good knowledge of the institution, so take this opportunity to brush up on the specifics. You should also learn about your interviewer via LinkedIn or other online platforms so that you can better anticipate their questions and understand their background.  

2. Provide detailed answers. Part of the purpose of the admissions interview is to help the institution gauge your commitment to the college. Try to give answers to the interviewer’s questions that are 1-2 minutes long. By providing specific and detailed answers, you’re showing that you’ve taken the time to do extensive research on the college and believe it is a good fit.

3. Prepare for common interview questions. Most college interviewers tend to ask the same questions about the same topics, so you can prepare your general answers beforehand. Here are some of the common questions:

  • Tell me about yourself.

  • Why do you want to attend this college/university?

  • Why do you want to go to college?

  • What do you want to study in college?

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?

  • What do you enjoy doing outside of academics?

  • Who do you most admire?

  • What’s an example of an obstacle or failure that you learned from?

  • Tell me something about you that I can’t read in your application?

4. Dress like you care. Go for a business casual look. You want to appear professional, but comfortable. Make sure your clothes are ironed or pressed and that you’re not wearing something for the first time that might not be comfortable or fit well. Try it on and lay everything out the night before to prevent any hiccups.   

5. Show your excitement. Don’t go into the interview overly stoic or reserved. The interview is your opportunity to show the interviewer your enthusiasm about attending their college. One simple way to show your eagerness is to explicitly tell the interviewer that you’re excited to be there and learn more about the college and campus community.

6. Be on time. It can’t be stressed enough the importance of showing up to the interview on time. Being late provides a bad first impression and you’ll start the interview digging yourself out of a hole. If you know you’re going to be late for any reason, contact the interviewer beforehand.

7. Bring notes. If you forget the answers to any questions you’ve practiced beforehand, having prepared notes on hand will help refresh your memory. You can also bring your resume and activities list to refer to should the interviewer ask specific questions about your extracurriculars or academics.

8. Ask your own questions. Interviewers expect you to ask questions as it shows your interest in finding out more about the college. Ask questions that show you’ve done extensive research about the school. You might ask about what its like to participate in certain school-wide events or what it’s like to choose a specific subject as a major. You could also ask the interviewer what concerns they might have about your application.

9. Follow up. If you don’t already have it, get the name and contact information for your interviewer. Send them a short (handwritten, if possible) thank you note. If there was a moment during the interview when the interviewer was especially helpful, put that in the note to make it specific and memorable. As a rule of thumb, anytime you conduct an interview or make a professional connection you’d like to maintain, send a follow-up note to show your gratitude.    

10. Be yourself. The interview is only a small part of your overall application. If you prepare well, the only thing left to do is be yourself. The interviewer will interpret your authenticity as confidence. You’ll feel less nervous and be less apt to make avoidable mistakes.