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15 Major College Interview Questions to Prepare For

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Interviews may not be the most important aspect of the college application process, but they shouldn’t be overlooked. Some schools, such as big public universities, don’t offer or consider them, while those that perform a holistic review of candidates do take them into account.



Interviews are unlikely to make up for weak components of an application, but they can boost a borderline candidate. They can also hurt your candidacy if you come off as abrasive or uninvolved.


Wondering how to best prepare for your college interview? Here are common questions you may be asked, along with tips for formulating your response.


15 College Interview Questions


1. Tell me about yourself.


For this prompt, you’ll want to emphasize unique interests and goals and how you’ve engaged in and out of the classroom. Try to tie your interests to the college; for example, if you’re a musician, describe a music-based extracurricular you’d like to pursue.


Avoid topics unrelated to your education or extracurriculars that don’t inform the college about what kind of student you’ll be and how you’ll fit in. For example, you should steer clear of discussing relationships or friendships.



2. What are three adjectives that describe you?


Make sure you come up with three adjectives; otherwise you’re not actually answering the question. Avoid generic ones like intelligent and ambitious, as well as words you wouldn’t use in everyday language, such as effervescent. Strike a balance that shows that you have a good vocabulary without showing off. “Perseverant” is a good example of this.



3. Why do you want to attend this college?


Again, avoid generic attributes, such as the size, location, and prestige of the college. Instead, focus on specific attributes, including programs and activities. You might, for instance, discuss how the school has a strong international studies major and study abroad program.



4. What’s a book you’ve read recently?


Choose one with some literary merit if you select a novel; it’s best to steer clear of chick lit, thrillers, romance, and other genre fiction. Don’t just name the book; describe it as well. The interviewer wants to know that you engage in intellectual activities like reading and are able to process and present the information in a meaningful, engaging way.



5. Describe a challenge you’ve overcome. How did you do it?


Colleges want students who have faced obstacles and persevered. This shows strength, informing them that you will be able to confront and overcome challenges in college.


You don’t need to have faced a life-threatening ordeal (though if you have, this is a good time to explain); you could also discuss a difficult class, a personal challenge (nothing TMI, though; don’t talk about a breakup, but you could discuss an illness in the family). Remember to focus more on what you did to confront the challenge than the incident itself, while still providing a short synopsis of the issue so that the interviewer understands the context.



6. What are your biggest strengths?


It’s okay to brag a little here, just try to avoid coming off as conceited. Once again, steer clear of generic response such as noting that you’re intelligent and hardworking. Instead, focus on unique attributes–ones that show how you’ll be a good student. This is similar to the three-adjectives question; you probably won’t get both questions in one interview.



7. What are your biggest weaknesses?


There’s a such thing as too honest—you want to avoid saying you have trouble showing up on time, for instance. Alternatively, you might discuss a weakness you’re working on improving. This is an honest response that shows how you’ve overcome challenges and work hard to prevent them from getting the better of you. Come prepared with examples and anecdotes to illustrate your response. For example, you might discuss how you overcommitted to too many extracurriculars in the past but have been improving your prioritization and organization skills so that you can tackle all your responsibilities.



8. If you could live in a historical period other than this one, when would it be?


This is an opportunity to show off your creativity—as well as your knowledge of history. The why is more important than the what here. In other words, it doesn’t so much matter to the interviewer that the 1960s seem cool to you as why they do. You might, for example, explain that you want the opportunity to effect change like the college students at Berkeley in the 60s did.

9. What is your prospective major and why?


Your interviewer wants to see that you take your education and future seriously. The major you choose isn’t set in stone, but you should be able to present a well-reasoned, thoughtful response. That will indicate that you’re aware of your strengths and have direction.



10. Who is your role model?


The person who inspires you reveals a lot about your values and what you aspire to be and do. You should choose someone who has influenced your goals, like a mentor.



11. Where do you want to be in 10 years?


Colleges want students who are ambitious. You should describe your goals beyond academic ambitions, but incorporate your career into your response as well. Be detailed and explore why you hope to do these things. For example, if you want to be a doctor, don’t just say you want to be in your residency in 10 years: go into the specialty, why you’re choosing that path, and what leads you there.



12. What do you like to do outside of school?


Your response doesn’t need to be limited to application-worthy extracurriculars here; instead, convey your personality through your activities. Try to steer clear of bland or typical response such as spending time with your friends and family. Instead, you might discuss how you play piano, even if you don’t perform, or run daily, even if you don’t compete.



13. What makes you unique?


You should approach this question in a similar way to the adjectives and strengths questions. Don’t attempt a joke response unless you can immediately follow it up with a real one. Try to offer a strength that’s something you don’t see in a lot of other people.



14. What’s one project or experience you particularly enjoyed in high school?


This question helps colleges show whether you’ll fit in at the college. Focus on the story here—what was the project, how did you approach it, why did you do what you did, and what makes it memorable?



15. Do you have any questions for me?


Don’t leave this question unanswered. It shows the interviewer that you’re curious and engaged. If you can develop questions during the interview, this is the best-case scenario; that shows you’re interested and paying attention. Still, you should come prepared with a few questions to ask just in case.



Tips for Your College Interview


Research the college. Your interviewer will notice if you don’t seem to know much about the school. You don’t want to, for example, ask questions that have answers easily found on the website.



Practice. Practice your responses to these common questions with a family member, teacher, or friend, and ask for feedback. Don’t practice so much that you sound over-rehearsed, but do it just enough times so that you’re comfortable and know the main points you want to hit.



Arrive early. Try to get there 15-20 minutes early, accounting for traffic or delays in public transit. If you’re late, you’ll come across as rude and bad at planning, which doesn’t make you look good as an admissions candidate.



Follow up with a thank-you note or email. This is good etiquette that demonstrates both that you’re polite and invested in the college.


Have questions about your college interview? Join our free CollegeVine community forums to get advice from peers and admissions experts.

Short Bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.