9 Questions You Can Never Ask In A College Interview
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After you’ve submitted your application to a college or university, you may receive an email inviting you to complete an interview for admission. If you find yourself in this position, you have been given a special opportunity to showcase your personality, accomplishments, passions, and goals to a university representative and prove that you are a good fit for that institution.
While a college interview is a great opportunity that you should take advantage of, you usually shouldn’t take it as an indication of where you stand in the admissions process. Some schools offer interviews to all of their candidates, whereas some colleges don’t offer interviews at all. Only in rare cases will the most qualified applicants receive an interview; this usually happens when the university does not have enough resources to give every applicant an interview.
Still not sure what being offered a college interview means? Our previous post on whether being offered a college interview means anything may provide some clarity.
Before your college interview, you should take some time to gather your thoughts and prepare. Be sure to practice your elevator pitch and come up with answers to the most common interview questions ahead of time. You don’t want to sound too rehearsed during your interview, so don’t memorize any responses—just think of some basic points to hit while giving an answer.
For help crafting an elevator pitch, see What’s An Elevator Pitch, and Why Should A High Schooler Write One? For more information on interview preparation, check out our guide on How to Prepare for Your College Interview.
In addition to answering questions about yourself, you will also get a brief opportunity during the interview to ask your interviewer any questions about the college or university. You should remember that you are still being interviewed when you ask these questions, so it’s important to think of insightful and thoughtful questions ahead of time so you’re not put on the spot during the interview.
When you’re thinking of questions to ask your interviewer, however, there are some topics and questions that you should definitely stay away from. In this post, we’ll cover nine questions that you should never ask in an interview and explain what makes them (and questions like them) inappropriate for a college interview setting.
Questions About Your Chances of Gaining Admission
- Will I Get Into [College Name]?
Even though it may seem like your interviewer is part of the application review process, he or she is usually not. Oftentimes, you’ll be interviewed by a university alumnus or other university representative who has never seen your application and has no say in your admissions decision other than what they report back to the university. Simply put, they don’t know the answer, so you shouldn’t ask. You may also seem presumptuous for asking.
- What Intended Major Would Give Me the Best Chance of Getting Admitted?
If you ask a question like this, you may make it seem like you can’t get accepted to the university on your own merit and accomplishments. Instead, you feel the need to play the “admissions game” and gain admission through a less competitive program. In addition, you may put your interviewer in a hard position, because they will likely not want to bad-mouth the university by suggesting that some programs are better than others.
- How Much Tuition Help Can I Get?
Again, your interviewer is likely not a part of the admissions process, and probably doesn’t know much about financial aid and scholarships. The interview is supposed to focus on your qualifications as a candidate, so focus on questions that deal with your interests and accomplishments rather than the logistics of attending the university.
Questions Whose Answers Can Easily Be Found Through Basic Research
- Does Your College Offer [name] Major/Program?
You should have the answer to this question before you walk in the door for your interview. For starters, many college websites and online college resources have a complete listing of their academic programs and degree options, so you can easily access this information before the interview. Secondly, you should have already selected an intended major when you submitted your application to that college. If you ask about majors and programs at the university, you risk looking like an unenthusiastic applicant who hasn’t done their research.
- Where Is Your School Located?
Presumably, the location of the college or university you’re interviewing for was a factor in your decision to apply. If you’re wondering why you should worry about school location before you apply to college, read The Pros and Cons of Attending College Close vs. Far From Home. If you ask a basic question like this, you are leaving an unfavorable impression on the interviewer by showing that you have spent little time preparing for the opportunity you’ve been given.
- When Do Admissions Decisions Come Out?
This information was probably given to you after you hit “submit” on your application, either in the form of a “thank you for applying” page or in a confirmation email sent to you as soon as you applied. If all else fails, a simple Google search or quick look on the university website would easily give you the decision date, so it’s not worth asking this during your college interview. Besides, your interviewer probably has nothing to do with the application process, so he or she may not know the decision date.
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. The interview process is all about demonstrating your personality and fit, as well as your motivations and capacities. Connecting with your interviewer is almost as important as conducting a strictly delineated and professional interview. With that said, these questions should be seen as the evil counterpart of general topics are usually okay to broach.
- Is There a Huge Party Scene?
When you’re in your college interview, you want to stress that your primary motivation for attending that university is to learn, not goof around and party. If you ask about the party atmosphere on the campus, you don’t seem like a serious candidate who is ready to work hard. 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. Still, social life is an important part of determining your fit at a given university. While you don’t want to stress the party scene, it can always be a good idea to ask about what students do in their free time.
- Are Sports a Big Deal on Campus?
Granted, many colleges and universities have a reputation for their excellent sports teams or campus culture that revolves around sports. If this is the case with the university you are interviewing with, it is okay to mention it during the interview. However, you don’t want to make it seem like the sports culture is the only reason you want to attend that university. Keep your questions focused on academics so you come across as a bound and determined applicant. That being said, if your interviewer is genuinely interested in sports, a quick tangent can help you to connect with them in an authentic and light-hearted way.
- What is the social make-up of [Extracurricular] on campus?
Your interviewer is likely an alumnus who attended that university many years ago. Not only are they unlikely to remember every extracurricular that was offered at the university, but things may have changed at the university since they graduated. For these reasons, your interviewer is not the right person to ask about specifics of extracurricular involvement. However, if your interviewer is an alumnus, feel free to ask him or her questions like, “what were some popular extracurriculars while you were a student” or “what activities were you involved in?”. Your interviewer will likely be happy to share, and you can use their response to get a feel for the campus culture. It won’t hurt to tie these questions in to your own interests. While they might not have insights as to who the president of photography club is, it can help to initiate a question about their past EC involvement by introducing some of your interests.
Bringing It All Together
Before your interview, make sure you take some time to think of some thoughtful questions to ask your interviewer. Think carefully about whether the questions you plan to ask are related to academics, indicate that you have done your research, and paint you as a serious applicant. Also be sure that you are asking questions that an alumnus or another university representative would know the answer to and be comfortable answering.
If you ask good questions during your interview, you will have shown your interviewer (and indirectly, the admissions committee) that you are a qualified applicant with a genuine interest in attending their university.
All that said, this post is designed to provide you with a blueprint for prudent and cautious interview preparation. Interviews are also an opportunity for you to assess the school and its fit for you. To walk the line between asking appropriate questions and genuinely assessing your fit at a school, check out this post on how to take advantage of the interview process.
For more information about college interviews and how to handle them, check out the following blog posts: