3 Kinds of Questions Your College Interviewer Doesn’t Want to Hear
Want personalized (and free) advice while applying to college?
We’re building a free college guidance platform for high school students like you! This means we’ll let you know exactly what and when you should be focusing on things like extracurriculars, college essays, standardized tests, and more. Sign up now to get early access to our platform and get guidance applying to college!
You’ve made it through three quarters of your college interview—fielded every question about your interests, made a case for your stellar academic standing, and tried as hard as possible to avoid the words “like” and “um.” And then, just as your interviewer is about to wrap up, he or she asks you the hardest question of all: “Do you have any questions for me?”
It’s no secret that interviewers love asking their interviewees this question. So, in order to prepare well for your college interview, you should almost certainly outline a few questions beforehand to respond with when the time comes.
Claiming that you have no questions for your interviewer can certainly look bad. After all, the most engaged applicants often come across as the most promising potential students. Despite this, there are a few types of questions that you should avoid asking. Read on.
What You Shouldn’t Ask Your Interviewer:
- The very basics of the school or program.
Though this may seem obvious, you will be surprised at how easily you will overlook macro-scale aspects of a school. If the answer to a question is crucial to your decision to apply to a school, it is an example of a “thing you should know.” These are the types of questions that you should have asked yourself (and answered) before deciding to apply to a school. For example, questions like, “Does the school offer my intended major?” and “Does the university require me to apply to a specific program or sub-school for my intended major?”
Since the college admissions process demands that you keep so many details, deadlines, and requirements in order, it can be easy to forget to do this type of basic research on a specific school. This serves as our reminder to you: Amidst all of the detail-oriented research you conduct about a college, don’t forget to take a step back and consider the broader picture as well.
- Things you could know.
Slightly different from the above category, the types of questions that ask about things you “could know” are different in their significance to your application. The answers to these questions may not make or break your decision to apply to a school, but they can still be answered by doing research on your own.
You’ll be surprised at how many questions you can answer by reading a college’s website and admissions literature. Virtually every college provides its applicants with detailed information about the school on its webpage, ranging from student testimonials, FAQs about student life, and information about how to apply. Not to mention, slightly deeper research will often reveal even richer information; you may find yourself on the website of a student-run organization or reading a sample syllabus from a class that has been previously offered.
On one hand, the depth and breadth of knowledge that is available to you online is astounding, exciting, and helpful. Many of your burning questions about a college can be answered from the comfort of your own home, and because of this, you’ll be able to quickly get a sense of whether a not it could be worth pursuing admission at a certain college.
On the other hand, it will be largely expected that you will have read through this information by the time you make it an interview for a school. Asking your interviewers a question that anyone (including you) could answer is not only a waste of time, but it maybe noted by your interviewers and count against you. Many schools weigh a student’s demonstrated interest as they make admissions decisions; in those scenarios, your failure to read the literature they generously provide you with and painstakingly update each year can make for a bad impression.
Still, don’t get too worried about this category of question. Students who attempt to avoid asking anything they could possibly know might end up not asking anything at all. After all, maybe there was one article buried deep on the school website that you should have read. If you begin to feel like this, take a deep breath — while you should come prepared, you’re not expected to know every single detail about the program to which you’re applying. If you’re unsure how to decide whether or not a question falls into this category, there’s an easy trick to make the question come off as genuine and important: keep the phrasing subjective. For example, if you’re curious as to how the advising process works at the school but unsure if you should already know about it, ask the interviewer how they experienced or felt about the advising process. As they detail their personal story (which, don’t worry, you shouldn’t already know) you’ll likely have your general questions answered as well.
- Things your interviewer won’t know.
You should be cognizant of the limits of your interviewer’s knowledge and experience when asking questions during your interview. Though it can be tempting to grill your interviewer about the admissions process or the status of your application, these are questions that they likely won’t be able or allowed to answer. To avoid coming off as pushy or nosy, it’s best to steer clear of these topics. It’s best to keep your questions focused on the school itself. Any knowledge that your interviewer might have regarding the application process still won’t make a difference in the end — though asking about them certainly might make things worse.
Wrapping Things Up:
The categories above will help you to guide your line of questioning in a way that furthers the interviewer’s impression of you as a knowledgeable, well informed, and serious candidate. As you draft potential questions for your interview, you should be able to recognize and steer clear of these categories. That being said, the blank space surrounding these categories is replete with interesting and effective questions. When thinking up questions, feel free to ask yourself their inverse as a mode of brainstorming. For example, “what could I not be expected to know about the english major at this school?” If you respect the process and do your due diligence in terms of prior research, none of this should be a problem for you. Still, there are some questions that fall outside these topics that are still dangerous to ask. Most of these questions paint you in a negative light and demonstrate an ignorance of social convention. If you’re concerned about tripping over any of these questions, check out this article detailing other topics to avoid.
Finally, if you’re looking for some guidance as to what topics you should pursue, check out this guide to coming up with great questions for your interviewer.