9 Meaningful Questions to Ask During Your College Interview
- Why You Should Ask Questions During Your College Interview
- 9 Questions to Ask During Your College Interview
- What Not to Ask in Your College Interview
- How to Calculate Your Odds of Acceptance After Your Interview
Interviews are a great way to show off your ‘soft’ skills – rather than reading off your application, a college interviewer can see for themselves that you’re warm, engaged, interesting, and a great candidate for their school. Not every college offers interviews, and an interview will likely not be the most important part of your profile, but showing your best self is still going to be helpful in securing admission to your dream school.
Throughout the interview, you’ll be responding to clear, direct questions. When, at the end, the interviewer asks you if you have any questions for them, it’s a great opportunity to, once again, provide a thoughtful and informative response. Rather than saying no, take this opportunity to make the interview a two-way street, and show off your insightfulness and thoughtfulness.
Why You Should Ask Questions During Your College Interview
Asking questions during and at the end of the interview demonstrates that you’re engaged. While you may be regarding this as another piece of your application—a “test” of you as an applicant—it’s really an opportunity for both of you: your interviewer can learn more about you, and you can learn more about the school. Asking questions not only shows that you’re involved in the conversation, but it can also help you gauge your fit with the college. After all, you don’t want to end up somewhere that’s not right for you.
9 Questions to Ask During Your College Interview
1. Why did you decide to attend this college?
If your interviewer is an alum, as many are, this question will show that you’re not only engaged in the interview but also care enough to know their story. This builds rapport, which will make your interviewer feel even more positively about you overall. People love to talk about themselves, and this question presents an opportunity for both of you since they can share their perspective and you can discover more about what kinds of students the school attracts. Bottom line, this question asks, “What makes this college stand out, and why should I choose it?” It can also help if you google your interviewer beforehand to better tailor your questions. For example, if your interviewer is younger, they may be able to give you a recent perspective on campus life, alumni networks, or post-graduation careers.
2. What advice would you give to yourself as an incoming freshman?
Someone who was once in the same boat as you probably has plenty of useful advice, and you should use this time to find out what it is. Similar to the question above, this will also help to build rapport between you and your interviewer. This will not only help you prepare now for transitioning into freshman year, but it can also provide tips on what you need to navigate your first year – a willingness to try new things, an open mind, or a balance between academics and campus involvement.
3. What’s one tradition from this college that you admired or enjoyed?
This question can give you a sense of how well you might fit in at a particular college. For example, if your interviewer describes how important homecoming is and you’re a football fan, that can indicate that this might be a good choice for you. It’s also a bit more unique than the questions above – it gives you information about this college specifically, more so than advice about freshman year or how your interviewer chose. Finally, it opens up avenues for continued conversation. If homecoming is a big deal, you might ask what that looks like, or how students get involved in planning and setup.
4. What is one thing you would change about this college?
It’s important to weigh both the pros and the cons when choosing a college, and your interviewer’s response can provide some insight that will ultimately enable you to consider all angles of a school. This will also demonstrate to the interviewer that you do your research and take your education seriously, as you’re willing to talk about the more difficult or negative aspects of your school.
If the school you’re interviewing for is at the center of a well-known issue or scandal, like Yale or Stanford in the Varsity Blues case that broke a few years ago, we do not recommend bringing that up. You may still ask this question, but asking about particular situations may leave your interviewer feeling awkward, unhappy, or put on the spot. There is a big difference between asking about something one person might change, and bringing up a specific embarrassing incident.
5. What was your favorite club or extracurricular activity and why would you recommend it?
Extracurriculars are an important facet of college life. Asking this question shows that you’re interested in getting involved in college life beyond your courses. You show that you’re open-minded, willing to try new things, and interested in what the college has to offer. You may even get some good recommendations!
Asking about classes as well as clubs or activities can be just as fruitful. Learning about what made a particular course fascinating, whether it was a great professor, a hands-on approach to learning, or simply a unique class, can help you learn about how a school operates, and what kind of instruction you can look forward to.
7. What is student activism like here?
This type of question demonstrates that you’re a community member who wants the opportunity to participate in making change. College campuses can vary considerably with regard to activism, so it’s important to find one that complements your level of involvement. If you don’t plan to get involved, don’t ask the question just for the sake of asking. If you do, try following up with specifics – how do students get involved, and are there any common causes? How much does the college support this, or professors? This is another question where asking follow-ups really shows how serious you are, and how much you care.
Similar to the question above, this can be modified to reflect your particular interests. Maybe you want to know what environmentalism looks like on campus, or artistic expression, or civic engagement. Tailor this question to what you want to know so that you can learn more about what’s relevant to you, as well as demonstrating where your interests lie.
Avoid asking what sports culture is like, as that is something you can find elsewhere, and tends to be more about partying than actual engagement. For this question, focus on academic or extracurricular passions.
7. Are there any common challenges students face here, and how do successful students overcome them?
Rather than showing that you’re weak or anxious, this question demonstrates that you’re a take-charge person and want to resolve issues before they get the better of you. Chances are, many students face challenges, but the ones who conquer them take advantage of what the college has to offer.
8. Can you tell me about the ABC or XYZ programs?
Asking a question specific to the course of study you are intending to pursue is one of the best types of questions since it demonstrates that you’re contemplating your specific college path. For instance, if your interviewer mentions a study abroad program that’s of interest to you, you might ask them to elaborate on it or review the procedures for participating in it. Do be aware that colleges are big places, and your interviewer may not have personal experience with the things you’re interested in, but it never hurts to ask—they also might have friends who were involved.
9. If it were up to you, what would you emphasize to draw students to this college?
This is a great way of driving at both what makes the college unique, and what the interviewer thinks is most important. In this way, you’re both getting information about the school and continuing to build rapport with your interviewer. It can also help you learn about underappreciated aspects of the institution.
What Not to Ask in Your College Interview
There are plenty of variations of good questions to ask in your college interview – many beyond the examples listed above. This does not mean, however, that all questions are good questions. The goal is to present yourself as engaged, knowledgeable, and thoughtful, as well as showcasing other great qualities along the way. The wrong questions can do the opposite, making you seem unprepared or even ignorant. We have a post that goes into more depth about what not to ask, but here are some broad categories to avoid.
Questions pertaining to your odds of getting in. Your interviewer probably doesn’t know, for one. It’s also not an appropriate forum to ask this question.
Questions with obvious or easily obtained answers. If you can find the answer online, it’s not an good question to ask. One example of this type of question is “Does this college offer X major?” You can easily find out on the college website.
Questions that are inappropriate. You should avoid asking questions completely unrelated to your education, such as those concerning the party scene or drinking culture. Again, this isn’t the proper forum, and you can discuss this kind of thing with former students outside of an interview. It gives a poor impression of you as a student to take this opportunity to ask about partying or substances.
Keep in mind, you also don’t want to bombard your interviewer with questions. On the other hand, even if you think you bombed the interview, you should still ask questions. We all tend to be overly critical of our performances in interviews, so you never know how you actually did. And even if the interview did go poorly, asking good questions may help salvage things by showing your interviewer that you are serious about the school.
How to Calculate Your Odds of Acceptance After Your Interview
For many students, the interview is the part of the college applications process that causes them the most stress. But in reality, it’s unlikely to be the determining factor in your admissions decision.
Since your interview is unlikely to swing things one way or another, you may be wondering how the other, more crucial aspects of your application stack up at your dream schools. To answer that question, check out CollegeVine’s free chancing engine. It takes into account just about every element of your application (other than your interview, letters of recommendation, essays, which aren’t quantifiable), including your grades, course rigor, test scores (if you have them), and extracurriculars, to give you personalized odds of acceptance at all of your top choice schools.