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Imagine this: you sink into that comfy chair in a room off of the admissions building (or perhaps you’re clicking “join” on a Zoom call). The admissions officer’s face smiles back at you. They ask you questions about your life, and you share why you want to attend their college. 30 minutes later, the interview is over. But that discussion could significantly influence your application, and you’ll want to make the most of every minute. Here’s how to prepare:
First, it’s important to recognize that there are two main purposes for a college interview. On the admissions side, that conversation is an opportunity for them to learn about who you are in ways that don’t necessarily translate through your resume, your transcripts, your test scores, and your essays.
The admissions committee wants to know what makes you a unique candidate for admission, and this is your chance to show them. But equally as important, the interview is an opportunity for you to learn more about the school! Are there any questions you have that can’t be answered in your research? If offered admission, what would you want to know before choosing this school?
This is your opening statement. Share an “elevator pitch” (approximately 30 seconds) about what makes you unique and why you would be an ideal candidate for admission. What can you tell the interviewer that isn’t already in your written materials? Be sure to touch on your hobbies, interests, and perhaps your dream major.
Colleges want to accept applicants that they think will choose them back. In this answer, demonstrate that you have researched this school, know why it would be a good fit for you and are enthusiastic about the opportunity to attend. Your answer should touch on 2-3 courses/clubs/activities/experiences uniquely relevant to this school.
In the interview, you’ll need to walk the fine line of being proud of your accomplishments while staying humble. An excellent way to frame this answer is to emphasize that your strengths are skills you’ve honed over time. Sometimes we have innate strengths, but often our strengths are skills we’ve worked hard to master: we take notes to practice being detail-oriented, or we take on leadership roles to become strong communicators. Whatever your strengths are, try to find the story behind them and share how they became a strength.
Negative questions are trick questions. You should never talk negatively about yourself or others (or other schools) in an interview. Instead, turn this answer into a discussion of an area for growth. What is a skill or subject you want to improve on?
This answer should be a short story. You might want to explain a situation in which you’ve faced an obstacle (it could be very small, a disagreement on a group project, for example) and the steps you took to overcome it. Or, you might want to talk about a project you worked on from beginning to end. How did it feel to accomplish your goal? Make sure to explain why you are proud of this accomplishment.
Schools ask this question because your current academic investment indicates how you’ll do in a college environment. Try to think of a time you’ve learned something unexpected or thought-provoking in class. Have you learned something in a science course that could be applied to your understanding of history or politics? If there is a similar course at the school you’re interviewing for, this would be a great opportunity to tie in that knowledge and remind your interviewer how excited you are about the courses offered at their school.
This question might be asked in a variety of ways. Prepare for all of them! Think of creative ways to describe yourself. What might others see in you that is hard for you to see in yourself? This answer is a chance to demonstrate your self-awareness.
In this answer, you want to share an achievement and why it was important to the course of your life. The context is particularly useful here: say you spent a lot of time with friends. Instead, you might want to explain that you’ve been working on fostering solid friendships in the wake of the pandemic, a time that necessarily isolated you from your support system. If you did any extra coursework or learned a new skill, this is your chance to explain how you enhance your education outside the classroom.
This is one the hardest questions you’ll face in an interview. Schools ask this to learn more about how you solve problems and persevere. In this answer, you’ll want to tell a quick story about a time when you struggled or failed or thought you might not succeed. Explain the action steps you took to overcome the obstacle. Finally, share what you learned from this experience. What lessons will you take with you moving forward? Is there anything you wish you’d done differently? The more honest you are in this answer, the more your interviewer will be able to understand your personality and perspective on life.
Your role models should be those who inspire you and motivate you to achieve great things. They should be the people you admire for their work ethic, creativity, intelligence, integrity, compassion, and passion. If you look closely at these traits, they match what you want to do in life. So, ask yourself, who inspires me to become better? Who motivates me to succeed? Some examples include parents, teachers, leaders, celebrities, and athletes.
The best way to answer the question is to think about how you feel when you hear about someone else’s struggle. If you feel empathy for them, then they matter. Social issues are those that affect groups of people who share common characteristics such as race, gender, religion, nationality or sexual orientation. World problems are large-scale challenges facing humanity, like climate change, poverty, and war.
The best way to answer this question is to think about what books you already like or connect with. You can start by answering questions such as “What was my favorite book when I was a kid?” or “Which books do I still read regularly now?” Then write down any titles that come up for both types of answers.
Give something personal about yourself. This means making it clear why you liked the book, what was important to you about it, and how it made you feel. If you're comfortable doing so, add some details about yourself too.
This question requires creativity. Here are some examples to inspire you
The interview process can be daunting, but it’s a crucial part of your application. If you take the time to think about your answers and practice them in advance, you’ll be calm, cool, and collected when it comes time to sit down in that chair and face your interviewer. Remember to take a breath, and be yourself! Good luck!
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