What are your chances of acceptance?

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


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

How Much Do College Interviews Matter?

What’s Covered: 


College interviews are arguably one of the more anxiety-inducing parts of the college application process. Many students believe that if they have a lukewarm or poor interview, they’ll ruin their chances of getting in. In reality, though, college admissions committees give less weight to the interview than commonly believed. The interview typically only counts for around 5% of your total application. 


That said, there’s no part of the application that doesn’t matter, which means that you should take your interview seriously and prepare for it well. A good interview won’t get you an automatic acceptance, but a truly bad one might keep you out. The best way to go into your interview with confidence is to understand what’s at stake. In other words, the question isn’t “Does my college interview matter?” but rather “Why does my college interview matter?” 


The Point of College Interviews 


You can only learn so much about a person in the thirty minutes—or even hour—allotted for an interview. Thus, the point of an interview isn’t to provide admissions officers with an exhaustive or deep understanding of your life, interests, or values. Most likely, this isn’t even the type of information they’re looking to gain from interviewing you. Instead, these are the kinds of topics you should be covering in your personal statement and Common App, and they’ll likely come up in your teacher’s recommendation letters as well. 


However, an interviewer can still learn a significant amount about you in a short amount of time—things like your personality and character, your ability to engage in conversation and answer questions, and your decorum and self-presentation, to name just a few. Your college interview, unlike any other part of the application process, is your opportunity to make your application come alive—to put a face and audible voice to your name. 


The very fact that many universities devote time, money, and other resources to organizing and conducting student interviews implies that these interviews are important. The application process is designed to show admissions committees the real you. Imagine how helpful it is to an admissions officer to receive input from your interviewer—someone who has spoken to you in the flesh. While interviews are unlikely to drastically change an admissions committee’s evaluation of your application, they can help underscore or add nuance to information already conveyed in other areas.


The interview is also a great opportunity to distinguish yourself as an applicant to a competitive school. Though you can work hard to achieve perfect grades and fantastic standardized test scores, thousands of students across the country will also have these feathers in their caps. If you want to show admissions officers that you are especially excited about their school, and a good fit for its community, one sure way to do this is to express these things in an interview—let them see your eyes light up, so to speak.


Required, Optional, and Nonexistent: Availability of Interviews 


As you are applying to college, you’ll notice that every school has its own application requirements. Interviews are no exception. Depending on the school you’re applying to, interview policies will vary greatly. 


In terms of who will conduct your interview, you could be paired with anyone from an admissions officer to an alum to a current student. Additionally, you may not meet your interviewer in person, as virtual interviews are becoming increasingly common for a number of reasons, including that they’re easier to schedule, less location-centric, and more accommodating of public health regulations, as well as applicant and interviewer comfort. Rest assured that virtual interviews don’t have any greater or lesser impact on your application—they’re simply more convenient in certain circumstances.


Regarding whether or not you’ll receive an interview, while some colleges require an interview as part of their application process, interviews are optional at the vast majority of schools. That said, an interview may be required for admission into particular programs or to qualify for certain scholarships. 


If an interview is optional, you should take advantage of the opportunity and schedule one if possible, or be sure to accept the offer if you are contacted by an interviewer. As mentioned above, an interview is a golden opportunity to distinguish yourself from other candidates who are equally as qualified as you. Conversely, if you turn down or ignore the opportunity to both learn more about a school and showcase your desire to attend, it could be read as expressing a lack of interest in the school. 


If you’re not offered an interview at a school that does offer some interviews, don’t fret. Rest assured that you will not be penalized for this. Usually, this occurs because a college simply doesn’t have the resources to interview every single applicant. It’s no commentary on the strength of your application.


If the responsibility is on you to schedule the interview, make sure you’re aware of that policy early on. Admissions websites usually have a section dedicated to interviews that says explicitly that you need to request one. Even if the school isn’t ultimately able to interview you, expressing the interest demonstrates your genuine enthusiasm about attending.


Finally, be aware some schools will offer limited interviews or no interviews at all—Vanderbilt University and Johns Hopkins are two highly selective institutions that don’t conduct any interviews as part of their application processes. If you’re applying to a school that doesn’t conduct interviews, you don’t need to do anything different in terms of the rest of your application. Just make sure you’re aware of that policy, so you don’t waste energy waiting for an interview offer that isn’t coming.


Interviews: They Work Both Ways 


Your interview matters—your performance, decorum, and self-presentation will all speak volumes about how qualified you are to go to your school of choice. But there’s another reason why your interview is so important. Just as it’s an opportunity for a school to decide if you are right for its community, it’s also an opportunity for you to decide if a school can offer you what you want in a college. 


The interview provides you with a chance to ask someone who’s closely connected to a school any questions you haven’t been able to answer through your online research, campus visits, etc. There are good and bad questions, of course—a good rule of thumb is that good questions should both be informative for you and show the interviewer you’re genuinely interested in their school, and be appropriate for a professional-esque setting.


Additionally, preparing some thoughtful questions for your interviewer in advance can be another way of emphasizing your fit for the school. Good questions should show your interviewer that you’ve done your research on the school and thought about how you’ll fit into its community. Ideally, your questions, just as much as your responses, will help paint a clearer picture of yourself as a student at that school in your interviewer’s mind.


What You Can Do to Prepare 


The best way to set yourself up for success in your interview is to make sure that you enter it confident and prepared. Think of it as an opportunity to strengthen your application rather than a potential pitfall. 


Practice and preparation are the two things that will build your confidence in the build-up to your interview. Before your interview, research the school in depth, and go in armed with a list of things about the university that excite you, confuse you, worry you, and pique your interest. Is there a department in which you think you want to study? A club you want to join? A class you want to take? Make a list of these kinds of offerings and think about what kinds of questions might provide you with a natural opportunity to bring them up.


However, you don’t want to be reading directly from any notes, or reciting something you’ve memorized word for word. One of the primary things interviewers are evaluating is your genuine enthusiasm about the school, which is difficult to convey if your responses feel stiff and/or overly rehearsed. The only part of the interview where it’s okay to read from notes is when you’re asking your questions for the interviewer, although even then ideally you’ll be able to just go from memory.


If you’re feeling any fears or nervousness before an interview, it’s a good idea to do a dry run with a teacher at school, an older sibling who has been through the college application process, or another family member. Practice answering questions, especially common ones, intelligently and with direct, succinct responses. The more you practice carrying on a conversation that is more formal than your everyday discussions, the more prepared you’ll feel for your interview when the day arrives. 


Final Thoughts 


Remember to stay calm throughout the entire interview. No part of the application process is designed to trip you up or ruin your chances of being accepted. Rather, each component positions you to showcase a different aspect of yourself. In your interview, let your personality and true enthusiasm for the school shine!


How to Calculate Your Odds of Acceptance


Since the interview is unlikely to be the determining factor for your application, 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 applicable), and extracurriculars, to give you personalized odds of acceptance at all of your top choice schools.

Short Bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.