If you’re going to college, expect to be interviewed by a college representative. It’s a vital part of the college admissions process. Why? Colleges want to get to know you: Who you are, what your goals are, and how you will contribute to the student population. They also want to see how you answer questions, how informed you are, and your views on other topics.
When my daughter was in the midst of her college search, she was interviewed by a representative of Boston University. Since this was her first choice college, she was nervous. She wanted to make a good impression and appear intelligent and confident. She prepared for some interview questions. Not all of them were asked, but it helped her go into the interview more relaxed. Although she wasn’t a top candidate according to their applicant statistics, the interview resulted in an offer of admission.
You Can Ace the College Interview with Preparation
Most high school students dread the college interview. But it doesn’t have to send you running in the opposite direction. With a little preparation and a confidence boost because of the preparation, you can ace the interview. I’m not saying that you should memorize answers to questions, but being prepared to answer these common questions will showcase your communication skills and communicate that you took the time to think and prepare for the interview.
Here is a list of 10 interview questions colleges might ask and suggestions on how to respond. They may not be exactly as worded, but they will fall into one of four categories: questions about your fit with the college, questions about your personality, questions about interests and goals, and broader questions requiring a more thoughtful response.
10 College Interview Questions and Responses
1. How would you describe yourself to someone who did not know you?
Use this question to communicate your passions and even your quirks. This makes you a “person”and not just a name on an application. Find something that makes you memorable and use it to give the interviewer a snapshot into who you are. You could answer, “I love exercising and create competitions with my friends to see who can run the furthest over a given period of time.”Or you could say, “I do my best thinking in the shower.”Be creative and make this a memorable answer. The colleges have your grades and your application. They want to know what makes you unique.
2. What do you expect to be doing ten years from now?
This is six years after you’ve graduated from college. Who knows what they will be doing ten years from now? Odds are you have no idea and haven’t even thought about it. It’s acceptable to answer, “I don’t know”, if you explain your answer. You are just out of high school and entering into college. Explain that college will shape who you are, what you pursue, and what career path you take. An honest response is always the best response.
3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Most interviewers love this question and most students answer it with little thought. Think about this question. It’s not enough to say you are a leader or you are a loyal friend. You need examples and incidents that communicate your strengths, and will help the judges understand why you believe they are strengths. When talking about a weakness, be honest. The key is to show that you are taking steps to minimize or overcome this weakness. For instance, if you are a procrastinator, explain how you are developing time management skills, goal setting, and using organization tools to correct it.
4. How would you contribute to our college community?
Be specific when answering this question. Since the question asks about the community, it should be community oriented. How will you make the college a better place? Think about how you see yourself interacting with other students on campus and how you will enhance your experience there by becoming involved in activities outside the classroom. Think outside the box on this one and find a way that your own uniqueness will contribute to the community.
5. What subject in high school did you find most challenging?
Even if you’re an excellent student, there will be subjects that challenge you. Use this opportunity to show how you tackled the challenge (tutoring, one-on-one with the teacher, study groups, etc.). This shows colleges that even if you face difficulty in a college course, you know how to get help.
6. Why do you want to attend this college?
Use this question to reveal something about yourself that they might not know. Don’t state the obvious and say—because it’s a top-tiered college, or they have majors that interest you, or your parents went there. Walk the interviewer through the thought process you took when selecting the college. This will communicate what’s important to you and show them what you value, why you want to attend their college, and what you hope to gain from an education there.
7. Who do you most admire?
When interviewers ask this question they are trying to learn something about you through the person you admire most. It says something about you so it’s important to explain your choice. It’s not enough just to give a name, you need to know something about the person and why they inspire you. Don’t be frivolous with this question, it shows what you value most in a person and how you will model your success based on that person’s admirable attributes.
8. What is your favorite book and why?
They are not looking for a book report. What they want is to learn more about who you are from the books you read, which are in an indicator of your interests, beliefs, goals, likes and dislikes. Did the book make you think differently or cause you to take action? How did you relate to a particular character or setting? It doesn’t have to be a literary classic, but you should be ready to explain why you love it.
9. How have you been a leader or displayed leadership?
Don’t list off a bunch of titles and positions. Focus on one specific leadership position and give detail to show the depth of your commitment. Cite concrete accomplishments like organizing a drive to gather toys for the Ronald McDonald House or enlisting a group of volunteers to teach senior citizens how to use social media. Remember that you don’t have to hold an office or title or elected position to be a leader. Describing how you organized something or motivated a group of people is just as impressive. Leadership isn’t communicated by titles, but by action.
10. What challenge have you overcome?
You can draw from many different types of challenges: academic, personal, work, goals, tragedy, and even an ethical dilemma. This question is designed to determine what type of problem solver you are; college is about developing critical thinking and problem solving skills. The answer to this question will help the interviewer see that you have demonstrated these abilities by overcoming a challenge.
And one last question every college will ask: Do you have any questions? (See 5 Questions You Should Ask on a College Interview.)
These questions and answers will not only set you apart from other applicants, but they will give the admissions officer a reason to put your application in the accepted pile. An added bonus is that these questions (or similar ones) will be asked on job interviews. It’s good preparation for interviewing for internships, scholarships, and future career opportunities.