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)

Top 10 Tips for Your College Interview

What’s Covered:


Many top colleges provide optional interviews for potential students as part of the application process. Interviews, whether in person or virtual, help colleges better understand the person behind the transcript and test scores while gauging the interest the applicant has in their institution. Although the interview plays only a small role in admissions decisions, students are encouraged to treat it as seriously as every other part of their application.


Since interviews can be a source of stress and confusion for high schoolers applying to college, we want to help alleviate some of the concerns you might have with your interview. Keep reading to find out our top 10 tips!


10 College Interview Tips


1. Research the School


You’ll want to research the school you’re speaking with before you sit for a college interview so that you can speak specifically to the college and how it relates to your interests and aspirations. For example, if you’re interested in a school’s engineering program, prepare to talk about the specific aspects of the school that you find attractive—such as the program’s stellar reputation, the outcomes of graduates, a new lab, or distinguished faculty—and how you plan to utilize/connect with them.


2. Prepare Your Own Questions


Contrary to some students’ beliefs, college interviews are not a one-way street. You are expected to ask your interviewer questions about the school just as much as they will ask about you. As you research the school, be mindful of anything you’d like to learn more about. Some students are unprepared for this, which can come off as either hasty or pretentious.


Have a prepared list of questions you’d like to ask your interviewer. Keep in mind that these questions should show that you have done your due diligence already, so avoid questions whose answers are readily available on the internet or elsewhere, questions about your chances of admission, and non-academic questions.


3. Anticipate Common Interview Questions


While most interviews will consist of some unique questions that you can’t anticipate in advance, many will also have at least one or two common interview questions that are easy to prepare for when you consider them ahead of time. Before your interview, review a list of commonly asked college interview questions and have your responses ready.


These might include staple questions like:


  • Why are you interested in this college?
  • What are your academic strengths?
  • What do you plan to be doing 10 years from now?
  • What are you involved in outside of school?


Having preplanned answers to common questions like “Tell me about yourself” can help alleviate anxiety over the interview and ensure you convey the characteristics and qualities you want to highlight.


4. Practice


No matter how much time you spend researching a college and preparing for possible interview questions, there is no substitute for actual practice. When it comes to practicing for an interview, there are several different approaches, but the more realistic you can make it, the better prepared you’ll be.


Of course, it’s still helpful to practice your responses to common interview questions aloud in front of the mirror, but what’s even more helpful is to have a friend, parent, or mentor act as the interviewer from start to finish. Having a mock interview in advance can help calm your nerves about the actual interview when the time comes.


5. Arrive Early


There’s truth in the expression “if you’re not early, you’re late”. To put your best foot forward, it’s a good idea to arrive for your interview with time to spare. In the case of a virtual interview, this means being in a distraction-free place with reliable internet, having your computer fully charged (or, even better, plugged in), being appropriately dressed, and being prepared to put your best foot forward 10 to 15 minutes in advance of your interview.


Make sure to use the restroom, get a cup of water, and take a few deep breaths to calm your nerves ahead of time. This way you’ll be in the right mindset for your interview and not rushing or stressed about the possibility of being late.


6. Be Your (Best) Self


Your interviewer wants to get to know you as an individual, so it’s important to relax enough that your personality and voice can shine through. That being said, this isn’t the time to elaborate on your affinity for salacious humor or your tightly held political views, unless either is also evidenced through extracurricular or academic involvement.


It’s better to keep to the aspects of yourself that are relevant to your college application. Who are you as a student, a friend, and a member of the community? Be yourself, and be personable, but don’t let your guard down so much that you may offend or deter your interviewer.


7. Dress Up, But Comfortably


Lots of students want to know what to wear on the day of the college interview. This depends on a few factors, such as the setting of your interview and the stipulations of the college, if any are given. For example, the MIT interviews are specifically casual and students are encouraged to wear attire appropriate to the setting, which is usually a coffee shop or library.


Business casual is a good guideline for how to dress for a college interview—that is a blend of traditional business attire and casual clothing. You want to look polished but comfortable and avoid anything that your interviewer will find distracting or inappropriate, such as jeans, shorts, and too-short dresses and skirts. When in doubt, it’s better to err on the side of too formal, rather than too casual.


8. Don’t Look At Your Watch


During your interview, keep your attention focused on the interviewer and the conversation. Looking at your watch, the clock, or simply gazing off into the distance can make it seem like you’re in a hurry to get the process over or you aren’t focused on the task at hand. One sign of a great interview is when the conversation moves along so smoothly that you don’t even notice the passage of time.


Before your interview begins, set your phone to silent, or better yet, turn it off to keep from being tempted to look at it. Similarly, if you wear a smartwatch, turn off its notifications to make it easier to avoid looking at. You should also turn your computer to Do Not Disturb to ensure you don’t get any notifications or sounds popping up in the middle of your conversation.


9. Try Not to Worry


The college interview is not as important as most students think. Of course, you should take the interview seriously and prepare diligently for it, but you don’t need to stress about it. A good interview may give you a small boost, but a bad interview won’t harm your application that much (unless it’s truly horrible, like you say something offensive or wildly inappropriate).


The goal of the interview is really just to put a face to your application and to get to know you as a person. There’s no pressure to be the most impressive candidate ever—simply aim to have an interesting and engaging conversation with your interviewer.


10. Send a Thank-You Note


After your interview, follow up with a thank-you email to express both gratitude to your interviewer and your interest in the school. Leave a good impression by sending your email in a timely fashion—usually within 24 hours—so they’ll remember you, and add in specific details from the interview so it doesn’t feel formulaic.


This isn’t an essay, so keep your thank-you note concise—a few short sentences or paragraphs are sufficient.


How to Calculate Your Odds of Acceptance After Your Interview


While many students get more stressed out about the interview than any other part of their application—as it’s their only opportunity to present their candidacy face-to-face—in reality, the interview plays only a small role in the admissions process.


If you’re wondering how the other aspects of your application stack up at your dream school(s), check out CollegeVine’s free chancing engine, which takes into account just about every element of your application other than your interview, from your grades and course rigor to your extracurriculars. Since your interview is unlikely to swing your candidacy one way or another, our chancing engine can give you a great sense of where you stand as you wait for your offers of acceptance to start rolling in.

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.