How to Answer Common College Interview Questions
This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Robert Crystal in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.
It can be hard not knowing what to expect when going into your college interview. Don’t worry too much, however, as the person asking you all the questions will likely be an alum of the school. This is a great opportunity for you to learn more about the college while also sharing a bit about yourself. To help you prepare for the interview, this article goes over common questions and good practices for answering them.
What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?
You need to be as genuine as possible here. Don’t use a cliché, such as saying that you’re a perfectionist. That’s not a weakness; it’s just a way to not be negative or point out an actual shortcoming. We all have weaknesses, and you don’t need to be shy about addressing yours.
Framing is important. Instead of merely stating where you come up short, talk about how you’re trying to combat your weakness. If you say that you can be emotionally insensitive, explain how you’re taking steps to address this.
Be truthful. Come at this question with a good amount of self-awareness. Interviewers will see that you’ve spent time taking stock of what you’re good at and what you’re bad at, which will show that you’re an emotionally mature person. If you talk about how you’re working to improve yourself, they’ll respect this. Demonstrate that you want to better yourself and that you know exactly what areas to focus on first.
There are so many things you can list as your strongest quality, and whatever you choose has many implications. More than learning how you view yourself, your interviewer wants to know how reflective and humble you are.
Even though they’re asking you to brag about yourself, how you answer this question will say a great deal about how much empathy and humility you have. You want to be in touch with yourself and to come across as self-aware, emotionally mature, and forward-thinking. Try to reflect on yourself; introspection is incredibly valuable here. Don’t just give an answer that you think the interviewer is going to love—they’ll likely see right through it.
Why This School?
This is a common essay question and interviewers like to ask it too. Do your research beforehand so you can figure out exactly what you want to say. Think about what you like about this school, the major research positions that you want to get, the department that you’re applying for, and so on.
The college and your interviewer will want to see that you’ve delved into all of this. They need to know that your priorities are in line with theirs and that you’ll fit in well with their particular campus environment. Fit is crucial here.
Show that you’re invested in the school and that you think that there’s a real connection between yourself and the place where you want to go. You probably have a list of specific reasons, so tap into that. Consider writing them out beforehand so you can have something to refer to as you prep for the interview. It will give you material to draw on when you’re facing these questions.
Good reasons for wanting to attend a particular university include that you know people who’ve gone there and that they all spoke highly of it. You can also name specific academic opportunities and how they fit in with your goals. If the school is strong in extracurricular activities, talk about how your past experiences make you want to pursue similar opportunities at this college. Show that you’ve thought about all of this, and your interviewer will be able to see your interest.