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Home > Student Corner > Academic Resources > How To Prepare For A College Interview

Prepared by:  Abier Hamami. RPH.CPHQ

April 2008




Most students interrogate that besides arranging school certificates, filling admission forms, writing essays, what will preparing for a college interview add up?.


Well it adds a lot. With this article we will teach students how to behave, how to answer or ask questions, and how to make use of this interview in accessing the college.



What is a college interview?

A college interview is a 30-60 minutes meeting conducted mostly between the admission committee and the applying student. Most colleges don't require an interview; however, it’s in the admission process for most reputable western colleges.

Why to have an interview?
An interview shows more than just test scores and grades. It's an exchange of information you learn about the college and the college learns about you. It is your chance to be your own advocate by talking positively about your interests and enthusiasms, and to show your personality. Problems that you may find difficult to write about in the application are often easier to discuss during the interview. For example, perhaps:

·         Want to explain why your grades slipped in a subject.

·         Any personal circumstances that affected your studies

·         You have a learning disability and need to make extra effort with every assignment.

What is the role of interview in the admission process?
The interview is just one of many factors in the admissions decision. Admission directors usually say that the interview is rarely the deciding one. However, if a borderline student was impressive, the interviewer has the authority to write a letter in support.

Are interviews formal or informal?
Interviews vary depending on the school, student, and particular situation. It could be a formal situation with an admissions officer, or a professor. Other, less formal, interview situations include group information sessions with admissions staff and current students, and high school and local college fairs.

What are the topics discussed during the interview?
Different topics are discussed during the interview such as, your academics and school, your community, your extracurricular activities, the college, and the world around you. Most of all prepared to discuss, are your interests, talents, and experiences.

The following are a list of common questions asked in an interview:

  • How would you describe your hometown?
  • What has been a controversial issue in your community?
  • What extracurricular activity has been most satisfying to you?
  • What is the most significant contribution you have made to your school?
  • Do you have any hobbies or special interests?
  • Have you been a volunteer?
  • Has school been challenging? What course has been most challenging?
  • How would you describe your school?
  • What is the range of students at your school? Where do you fit in?
  • If you could change one thing about your high school, what would it be?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Who do you admire the most, and why?
  • What would you like to change about yourself?
  • Why do you want to attend college? Why this college?
  • What academic or intellectual topics interest you?
  • How do you see yourself after graduation?
  • Why do you think you should be accepted?
  • What are your goals?
  • How does this college fit in with your interests and talents?
  • What majors are you interested in, and why?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What types of books do you enjoy reading?
  • What current event touched you most?

Also, it is good to bring a copy of your transcript and activities resume to your interview. If there is something on your transcript that might need explaining take this chance to do.

How should you answer questions?
The most important thing reviewers want to see, is the exact you with no pretending or overacting. So just be yourself and relax.

Here are some important tips in answering interviewers’ questions:

·         Listen carefully and concentrate, and don't interrupt

·         Show interest

·         Talk slowly and clearly

·         Keep your answers clear and to the point and avoid talking for too long

·         Take time if necessary before answering a question or ask for clarification if you are unsure of the meaning

·         Don't be afraid to admit if you can't answer the question

·         Concentrate on positive words, such as "enjoy" and "enthusiastic"

Is it good to ask questions?
Yes it is good. Asking questions shows that you're interested in the college and what the admissions officer has to say. But, remember do not ask for any college information that can be found elsewhere (Internet, guide books, view books), and make questions relevant.  One strategy is to prepare several important questions ahead of time and take the list with you to the interview. This allows you more to concentrate, and to impress the admission officer by your level of preparation.

The following are examples of good questions:

  • What percentage of students comes back after freshman year?
  • Can you tell me some things about ____________ program/major?
  • What makes _______ program/major a good one?
  • What campus issues are students talking about this year?
  • What is the system for matching roommates? 
  • How involved are students in extracurricular activities? Do most students stay on campus during the weekends?

What to wear in an interview?
Be formal, conservative, and respectful. But also be comfortable without looking overdressed. For example, women, nice slacks and a blouse-possibly worn with a blazer-or a simple dress are recommended. Shoes should be low to medium heels. Men should wear nice pants with a shirt, jacket, and tie. A turtleneck and sweater, or shirt and sweater are also possibilities


As a summary, the following are tips on what to do and not to do in your interview:


·         Plan to arrive at least ten minutes early.

·         Prepare and practice answers for common interview questions.

·         Dress appropriate.

·         Turn off your cell phone.

·         Greet the interviewer by title and last name. If you are given a tour of the facility, greet every person you see with courtesy and respect.

·         Shake hands firmly.

·         Wait to be offered a chair before sitting.

·         Remember posture and body language. Look interested at all times and refrain from fidgeting.

·         Stress your achievements. Remember that this is your chance to sell yourself.

·         Ask intelligent questions about the school, programs, and faculty. Show enthusiasm where appropriate.

·         Close the interview by verifying your interest in the college.


·         Reschedule the interview unless it is absolutely unavoidable.

·         Forget the interviewer's name.

·         Forget to smile!

·         Answer every question with a simple yes or no. Elaborate on your answers whenever possible.

·         Lie. Answer questions honestly and frankly.

·         Offer any negative information about yourself.

·         Forget to verbally thank the interviewer for his time and consideration.

·         Forget to promptly send a thank you note to the interviewer.



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