If you’re going out to visit a college you’re interested in (which we highly recommend you do), it’s also a great idea to schedule an interview with a college admissions officer. These are the people who decide whether or not you get to attend their college. While it might sound intimidating, an interview with them will earn you kudos and likely answer some questions you have as well.
But it is an interview, which means they’ll be asking you some tough questions about yourself. Odds are you’ve already done a few job interviews, and this is very similar. We’ve compiled a list of common college interview questions that will pop up during your talk with the admissions officer.
With a little forethought, practice, and introspection, you can ace the interview and leave a positive impression with the interviewer. Try writing down your responses to these questions, or having a parent do a mock-interview asking these. Prepare well, and you shouldn’t have any major surprises when the day comes.
Why do you want to attend this college?
You’re obviously showing interest by attending a tour and having an interview, but why? Why this school in particular? Don’t say “because my parents want me to” or anything like that. Is it the reputable programs that interest you? Is it near home? Is the campus beautiful?
What do you see yourself doing ten years from now?
Here’s one of the rare opportunities where “I don’t know” is acceptable, provided you back it up with good reasons. Adding on “I hope to discover career opportunities while studying here” is much better than just shrugging. Of course, if you do have some idea what you’d like to do after graduation, that’s excellent as well!
What extracurricular activities were you involved with in high school?
Remember, admissions officers are much more interested in a small handful of things you were dedicated to for a long time, rather than being lightly involved in a bunch of different things. Tell them about the activities you really cared about–sports, student orgs, clubs, etc.
What are your strengths?
Ah, the classic question. Hopefully you already have three or four strengths in your pocket already. If not, really sit down and think of some. What are the things you excel at or qualities you posses?
What are your weaknesses?
And the classic follow-up questions. Be honest here, of course, but there always ways to spin this into a positive thing. For example: I can get frustrated with myself if I don’t pick up a new task/concept quickly, BUT it’s because I’m a perfectionist and like to do a quality job. Have two or three of these ready.
Who is your biggest role model?
Whether it’s somebody you know in personal life or a public figure you admire, you have to have a couple reasons as to why you look up to them. Is it their tireless hard work? Their passion? Their morality or ethical nature? Their sense of humor?
What subject challenged you the most in high school?
High school certainly wasn’t just a breeze. Some subject had to give you a little bit of grief. College won’t be a breeze either, so the interview is really looking for how you met the challenge and overcame it.
What’s your favorite TV show / movie / book?
This question might surprise you, but finding out what sort of things you enjoy in your free time is actually an excellent way to discover what kind of person you are. Always supplement your answer with the whys.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Here’s your chance to brag a little bit. Show off your greatest accomplishment because you worked hard for it! Explain why it’s so important to you too, the admissions officer should be able to hear the pride in your voice.
Of course, not all of their questions will really come in the form of a question. They’ll ask for anecdotes too–short story examples of events in your life. Typically starting with “Tell me about…”
Tell me a little about yourself.
Dreaded by some and enjoyed by others, this whole interview is about getting to know you. The person who knows you best is yourself, so this is the chance you get to describe who you are. Keep it brief, however, they’re not looking for your whole life story.
Tell me about a challenge you’ve overcome.
Similar to the hardest subject question, this is prime time to show how you solved a big problem. You’ll face quite a few challenges in college, and they want to know you can overcome those challenges with your problem-solving skills.
Tell me about you encountered conflict with someone and how you resolved it.
You meet all sorts of people in college, and you’re not going to get along with all of them. Whether it’s an annoying coworker, unhelpful lab partner, or a teacher who has different ideals than you, you’ll have to find a way to coexist peacefully.
Tell me about a time you were in a leadership position.
Colleges love leaders. By showing leadership, you’re showing a whole host of skills: you’re personable, able to delegate tasks, able to listen as well as lead, and manage tasks and problems as they come up. This will also highlight your potential to get involved in campus activities.
Tell me about your greatest experience in high school.
They’re interested in students who enjoy learning and being involved with school. Colleges want to know that you’re excited to go to college. So tell them about the thing you enjoyed most about high school–this could be a favorite memory from a club or sport, or a big project that was a lot of fun to do–whatever it is, show enthusiasm and explain why it helped you grow as a person/student.
And more often than not the interview will end with one final query: “Do you have any questions for me?” Your answer should always be “Yes!” Have four or five questions prepared, even if you only have time to ask three or so.
This is by no means and exhaustive list, but we hope it helps to prepare for your interview. Practice, practice, practice (but avoid making them sound totally rehearsed or memorized). It’s always better to over-prepare rather than under-prepare.
Now schedule that interview, practice, smile, and have a firm handshake. You’ve got this.