What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

9 Questions You Should Never Ask In A College Interview

What’s Covered:


Everyone knows that the college interview is an opportunity for you to round out your application by showcasing sides of yourself that didn’t fully come across in your essays or activities list. What’s less well-known is that it’s also an opportunity for you to learn more about the school. 



The focus in college admissions is usually on schools deciding about you, but if you are accepted, you will eventually be making a decision about them as well. That’s why interviewers always give you a chance to ask them any questions you still have about the school, even after applying. While you definitely want to take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about the institution’s academic offerings, extracurriculars, and overall vibe, there are some questions that may be well-intentioned, but simply aren’t right for this setting.


Questions About Your Chances of Being Accepted


1. Will I get into [college name]?


Even though it may seem like your interviewer is part of the application review process, they usually aren’t. Typically, you’ll be interviewed by an alum, who has never seen your application and has no say in your admissions decision—their only role is to write a report on how your conversation went. Simply put, they don’t know the answer, so you shouldn’t ask, especially since doing so could come across as presumptuous.


What to Ask Instead: Which aspects of your high school experience do you think made you a good fit for [college name]?


With this framing, you’ll still get a clearer sense of how you stack up in the eyes of the admissions committee, which is a perfectly normal thing to be wondering about, while also learning more about the school’s overall culture and one former student’s experience there. Keep in mind, though, that there’s not just one path to acceptance, so even if your interviewer’s high school profile was completely different from yours, that doesn’t mean you won’t get in. 


2. I applied as a [subject] major. Will that help me get in?


If you ask a question like this, you may sound like you aren’t confident in your ability to get into the university on your own merit, and instead feel the need to play the “admissions game” and apply to a less competitive program just to maximize your chances of admission. In addition, you’ll be putting your interviewer in a hard position, because they won’t want to bad-mouth the university by suggesting that some programs are better than others.


What to Ask Instead: I’m interested in studying [subject]. Did you find that a good number of students were interested in that field, or was it a smaller department?


Like with the question above, this reframing will still allow you to get a clearer sense of your chances of acceptance, as hoping to study in a smaller, less popular department can give you a slight boost in the admissions process—colleges want to put together an academically diverse student body, not only accept engineering and computer science majors. 


However, by not putting your question exclusively in terms of admissions, you also demonstrate genuine interest in your intended major. The size of a department will affect your classroom experiences, relationships with professors, research opportunities, and so on. So, this question will show you are being thoughtful about what your academic endeavors in college will look like.


3. How much tuition help can I get?


Remember, your interviewer likely doesn’t work for the admissions office, and thus probably doesn’t know much about financial aid and scholarships. And even if they do, you don’t want to sidetrack the conversation by talking about the specifics of your/your family’s financial circumstances. The point of asking your interviewer questions is to demonstrate your genuine excitement about the school, not to understand the logistics of attending—questions like this should be directed to the financial aid office instead.


What to Ask Instead: Did you feel that [school] made an effort to ensure students from less affluent backgrounds could access the same resources as wealthier students?


Rather than focusing on the nuts and bolts of financial aid, center your question on how your socioeconomic status could impact your overall experience at the school. That is a more subjective question, and thus an alum is better positioned to answer it than an official representative for the school.


If you have specific opportunities you’re interested in, like study abroad or research, consider asking about the accessibility of those things in particular for lower income students. Remember that your questions should not just demonstrate your interest in the school, but also help you envision your potential future there. So, if there’s something you know for sure you want to be a part of your college experience, it’s a good idea to make sure your financial circumstances won’t get in the way.


Questions That Can Easily Be Answered With Basic Research


4. Does your college have a [subject] major/program?


You should have the answer to this question before you walk in the door for your interview. Most college websites have a complete listing of their majors and academic programs that can easily be found on their website. Plus, you likely already selected an intended major when you submitted your application. Even if you applied as undecided, you should have some sense of what departments the school has related to your areas of interest. If you ask about majors or programs, you risk looking like an unenthusiastic applicant who hasn’t done their research.


What to Ask Instead: Are there any little-known opportunities specifically for students studying [subject]?


Just because the basic information about the school’s academic programs can be easily found online doesn’t mean your interviewer doesn’t have any insight to offer you about your areas of interest. Maybe the theater department has an established internship program with the Globe Theater in London, or the Italian department plans off-campus events like hikes and pasta-making classes for students to practice speaking the language in more social settings.


Do be aware that, if your interviewer studied something completely different from your intended major, they might not have much to tell you, but it still never hurts to ask.


5. Where is your school located?


The location of the college or university you’re interviewing for is a simple fact, that may even be widely known outside the world of college admissions if the school is large or especially well-known. If you ask a basic question like this, you will likely make a poor impression on your interviewer, by showing that you don’t know even the bare minimum information about the school.


What to Ask Instead: How do you think [school] being located in [place] impacts students’ experience?


While you don’t want to ask a factual, easily google-able question, the school’s location will help shape your time in college. Asking about your interviewer’s experiences in this particular town or city will both demonstrate you’re thinking comprehensively about your future at the school, and provide you with valuable information about the atmosphere on campus. Asking this question could be especially wise if you’ve applied to a range of colleges and are still unsure whether an urban, suburban, or rural environment would be right for you.


6. When do admissions decisions come out?


This information may have already been given to you via email after you submitted your application, or the date might not have been determined yet. Either way, your interviewer isn’t the person to ask—while this isn’t an inherently bad question, it’s better suited for a quick email to the admissions office, because your interviewer probably doesn’t know.


What to Ask Instead: What made you choose [school] over your other options?


Being nervous about receiving your decision is normal, but remember that if you’re accepted, the ball will then be in your court, as you’ll need to make a decision about whether or not you’re going to attend. Especially if you don’t have a clear top-choice school, hearing about your interviewer’s thought process after they were accepted will be more useful to you than focusing on just the decision-making timeline.


Specifically Non-Academic Questions 


Before we get into the questions, it’s important to note that this is the most nuanced category of off-limits questions. We don’t want to suggest that you can only ask academic questions, as demonstrating your personality and broader fit with the school is one of the main points of the interview. However, there are some questions that simply stray too far from the scope of what’s appropriate for a college interview.


7. Is there a huge party scene?


During your college interview, you want to portray yourself as a serious, dedicated student, not someone whose main motivation for attending college is partying. Plus, many college parties involve underage drinking and drug use—you don’t want to insinuate to your interviewer that you want to be around or participate in those activities. Speaking more generally, this is a perfectly reasonable thing to be wondering about, but it’s a question you should save for upperclassmen friends you make once arriving on campus.


What to Ask Instead: Are students as engaged extracurricularly and socially as they are academically, or are most people mainly focused on their studies?


Academic work will be a major part of your life at any institution, but some colleges are known for having closer knit communities that encourage students to make connections outside the classroom, while others have more competitive, ambitious learning environments. Getting a sense of a school’s overall vibe will do more to help you envision your life there than learning about just the party scene. And, if the party scene is relevant to the broader campus culture, this question still gives your interviewer the room to discuss that if they want—if they bring it up on their own, that won’t reflect poorly on you.


8. Did you ever meet [famous alum]?


Remember, the point of your interview is to show your genuine, personal interest in the school. Especially if you’re interviewing at a highly prestigious institution, this kind of question could make your reasons for wanting to attend seem shallow and only related to the school’s reputation.


What to Ask Instead: Has the alumni network been an asset to you, during your time at [school] and in the years since?


Ideally, your college won’t just be a place where you spend four years, but a life-long community. Asking more broadly about how invested alums remain in the institution, rather than focusing on just a single, well-known alum, will show your interviewer that you are already thinking big-picture about how the school could become part of your overall identity.


9. Would being in [extracurricular group] make me popular?


Admissions officers want to accept students who are genuinely passionate about both their academic and their extracurricular involvements—one of the main purposes of the interview is to see whether your eyes truly “light up” when talking about your goals for college. So, you don’t want to suggest that your interest in the school, or some particular offering there, is driven by a desire for social status.


What to Ask Instead: During your time on campus, what were some events or projects that [extracurricular group] spearheaded?


Referencing a specific extracurricular is a good idea, as that shows you have done broader research on the school, beyond the academic offerings alone. You just want to frame your question around the impact of that extracurricular on the broader campus community, not the popularity of its members, to show that you are engaged and looking to make your mark on the school.


If relevant, you could even connect this question to your high school activities, by saying something like “I’m currently involved in [extracurricular], and this year have been in charge of [project]. Would there be opportunities for me to do something similar through [college extracurricular group]?” Doing so will help build a concrete bridge between yourself and the school, which is the whole point of the college application process as a whole.


Questions You Should Ask


Hopefully, our examples of alternative questions, which get at the same general idea in a more thoughtful, professional way, gave you a sense of what college interview questions should look like. Of course, there are plenty of other good questions out there, such as ones related to your particular interests, or to something you heard about the school from a friend or during an information session.


Overall, your questions should demonstrate that you are genuinely eager to learn more about how the school would allow you to thrive both academically and personally, without straying into areas that an alum either wouldn’t know about or wouldn’t feel comfortable discussing. Even though you’re the one asking the questions during this section of the interview, your goal should still be to enhance your candidacy and portray yourself as a serious, passionate applicant.


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.

Short Bio
Adrian is a current senior at Dartmouth College, originally from Seattle, WA. At Dartmouth, she studies philosophy and neuroscience, and has been involved with research in the philosophy department, sexual assault prevention on campus, and mentorship programs for first year students. She spent her junior fall studying abroad at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.