10 Questions You Should Be Prepared to Answer in a College Interview

    Posted August 23, 2021, 12:00 pm by Tina Brooks

    Does the idea of a college interview make your palms sweat? College interviews are not tests, and you can use the opportunity to your advantage by connecting with an interviewer and enhancing your application by providing more details. Be empowered by focusing on your goal: learning more about the college and whether it’s a good fit for you.

    Introductions

    1. Tell Me About Yourself.

    This softball question can be tricky to answer. The interviewer is seeing how you’ll handle an open-ended question. Since your answer might prompt a follow-up question, lead the interviewer toward something you want to talk about, whether it’s your favorite activity or what you did last summer. State the basics: where you’re from, what kind of school you attend, and a couple of things you care about or enjoy.

    Academics

    2. What academic subject are you most passionate about?

    Expect a few questions about academics—this is a college interview after all! If you have a passion for one subject, like biology, instead of stating the obvious (“I’m interested in how the human body works”), share an anecdote about what got you hooked, whether it was an article or a topic you encountered in one class period. And remember to be enthusiastic: every college interviewer will love to see academic passion.

    3. What high school class was most challenging?

    No one enjoys dwelling on their “soft spots,” but this lets you show you are ready for college, including taking hard classes. Focus on how you dealt with this challenge. Did you go in for extra help or get a tutor? Did you learn a lesson you can apply next time? Discuss skills you developed to cope with tough classes or teachers. And, by the way, never trash talk a teacher in an interview! It will raise questions about your maturity.

    Personality

    4. How do you spend your free time?

    Being brutally honest about your Animal Crossing addiction is probably not the best response, but saying you relax by gaming with your friends is fine. Paint a detailed picture. Do you spend time with your family or babysit younger cousins? Maybe you have a hobby like playing guitar, making jewelry, or baking. Clubs and organized school activities will easily come to mind, but the more mundane activities of your life will reveal your individuality.

    5. Where do you see yourself in ten years?

    Face it: most high school seniors have no idea where they see themselves in ten years. But reflect on what is important to you: will you be rich and famous? Beloved for your kindness? Admired for your ability to motivate others? How and where do you want to make an impact? No one is going to follow up ten years from now to see if your answer became a reality. Share your goals with a touch of humor and the recognition that plans change, but this is what’s important to you now.

    Values

    6. What would you change about your school?

    Do you have an idea that could improve learning? Do you care about the environmental impact your school creates? Are you concerned with issues of equity and diversity? Frame your answer positively by presenting a potential solution, not just laying blame on the administration. If you wouldn’t change a thing about your experiences, share what your school does right.

    7. What advice would you have for your younger self?

    What were you like as a freshman, and how do you see yourself now as a senior? Have you changed friend groups, found new interests, become a better student? Maybe you’d advise your younger self to give yourself more time to relax. Remember that the interviewer is not judging you but looking for signs that you’ve grown during high school and are ready for college in ways that can’t be assessed by looking at your transcript.

    Fit

    8. How will you contribute to our community?

    Don’t walk into an interview without doing your research: what does the college highlight on their website? If you know someone who attended the college, how do they speak about the campus culture? How do you connect to these messages? Draw on how you’ve contributed to your high school and community, whether that’s through mentorship, the arts or political activism, but don’t be afraid to branch out from what you did in the past.

    9. Why do you want to attend our college?

    You can’t be more direct than this: Why are you here? Don’t be too general in your answer: “Because I’ve heard it’s a great college … you have a strong pre-med program.” There are lots of great colleges with good rankings and strong pre-med programs. Talk about how this college makes you feel. Maybe you connect with the students you’ve met or had a great conversation with a professor. Do you feel at home on the campus, or does the location appeal to you for specific reasons? Try to be specific and personal in your response.

    Challenges

    10. How has the pandemic affected you?

    Think ahead about what you want to share to highlight your resilience. Did you benefit from spending more time with family? Did you figure out a way to make Zoom classes less terrible? In a stressful situation like an interview, your emotions may get the best of you if you address a distressing topic. Avoid sharing experiences that still upset you. Leave the interviewer feeling you are ready for college, not feeling they are worried about you.

    If you bring up mental health challenges or academic struggles, finish strong: “Initially, I found it hard to get up in the morning to log in to classes, but my sister and I started morning runs, and that got me going.” Showing insight into your problems or dark days will impress your interviewer.

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    Tina Brooks

    Tina Brooks, Ph.D., is an Associate Dean of Admissions at Pomona College in Claremont, CA. She is a former English professor and freelance journalist. When she's not reading applications, meeting with prospective students, or writing, Tina enjoys relaxing in her backyard paradise, petting her dog Milo, or walking anywhere in nature. Photo credit: Jeff Hing.

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