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Can You Answer These 13 Common College Interview Questions?

01 AUG 2022

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:


Why are College Interviews Important?

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?

13 Common College Interview Questions You Need To Prepare For

1. Who are you?

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.

2. Why this school?

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.

3. What are your strengths?

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.

4. What are your weaknesses?

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?

5. What is your proudest accomplishment?

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.

6. What is the most interesting class you’ve taken, and why?

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.

7. How would your teachers/classmates/friends/family describe you?

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.

8. How did you spend your last summer?

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.

9. What is the most difficult situation you’ve faced and how did you handle it?

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.

10. Who is your role model?

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.

11. What is a social issue or world problem that’s important to you?

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.

12. What’s a book you read recently that you enjoyed or particularly connected with?

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.

13. If you could have dinner with anyone (past, present, real, or fictional), who would it be and why?

This question requires creativity. Here are some examples to inspire you

  • If I could go back in time, I'd want to meet Steve Jobs for two reasons. First, he was one of the most influential people in the history of technology. Second, he was one of my heroes when I was growing up. He believed in making things better. His influence has had a huge impact on me, both personally and professionally.
  • I would like to dine with Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Richard Branson, for different reasons. Steve Jobs was one of the greatest entrepreneurs ever and helped develop the computer revolution. He had an incredible vision and he showed us what is possible when you create something from scratch. If I could meet him today, I'd ask him how he did it and how we can do it too. Bill Gates has done great things by helping millions of people around the world access education, health care and information. And Richard Branson is fascinating. His philosophy is to help others live better lives through entrepreneurship and innovation. He has been able to turn his dreams into reality and I'm fascinated by how he made his dream come true.
  • If I had to choose one person from history for dinner, it would be Abraham Lincoln, because he was a great man. He was kind, honest, strong, and brave. He fought against slavery and helped end the Civil War. In addition, he was a president who cared about his country and the citizens of America.
  • If I could have dinner with someone from my past, it would probably be Thomas Edison. He was one of the greatest inventors of all time, yet he was also a great visionary who believed that technology should be used for the betterment of humanity. I think we need more visionaries like him today.

Additional tips to help with your College Interviews

  • At the end of the interview, you’ll have an opportunity to ask the interviewer questions about the school. The questions you ask the interviewer are as important as the questions they ask of you. Make sure to prepare 2-3 questions in advance.
  • Remember to be polite and friendly. Admissions officers want you to be someone they could see succeeding at their school. Be sure to thank them for their time and consideration of your application.
  • Be confident, clear, and concise. Try not to run off on tangents or share unnecessary details in your stories.
  • The more you practice, the better you’ll perform. Ask friends and family members to lead you through mock interviews to get comfortable with the process.
  • If you’re not sure how to answer a question, it is always okay to say “That’s a great question, do you mind if I take a second to think about it?” Your interviewer will say yes.

Final Thoughts

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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