How to Prepare for your College Interviews

27 OCT 2020

Imagine: after working tirelessly on your personal statement, supplements, activity list, SAT and ACT tests, and gathering extraneous application materials (all while maintaining and improving your grades in high school), you suddenly receive an email from your dream university requesting an interview. What’s this about? How can you prepare?

In the United States, interviews are usually not an extremely high-pressure situation, but an opportunity for you to shine as an individual beyond the application. While admissions officers have had a chance to review your accomplishments, grades, interests, and self-reflections, they use interviews to get to know who is behind the application. The interview mainly occurs for three reasons: to ensure you are who you portray yourself to be, to show you have done your research about the school, and to make sure you’re a great overall fit for the university.

How can you prepare to make sure you knock the interview out of the park? Here are some tips to help ensure you feel confident and ready for the interview.


Before the Interview

  1. Do your research!

    Spend time researching the school, its programs (especially if you have pre-selected a desired course of study), and even professors you might be interested in working with. What clubs and organizations are you excited to join? Every university has an extensive website, which at this point, you have likely perused extensively. Use the resources provided by each institution to your advantage! Pick out a course or two that you are genuinely excited about, and be prepared to talk about it!

  2. Think of sample questions and prepare answers

    If you were an admissions officer, what would you like to know about a student interested in gaining admission to a particular college? Create a list of these questions and make sure you’re comfortable with answering them.

    A few example questions include which extracurricular activities are the most important to you, which courses or teachers in your high school are your favorites, what you would change about your high school experience, and more personal questions such as how you problem solve, your biggest challenges, personal points or experiences you feel most proud of, and WHY you want to attend that particular university.

    These, of course, are only a few of the many questions you may be asked. Start brainstorming your own list.

  3. Prepare what YOU want to share

    What are you most proud of? Did you work on an independent project in high school that you’re passionate about? Is there anything you feel you didn’t get to explain as fully as desired in your application? Your interview is the last chance to let these aspects of your profile shine and come to life.

During the Interview

Just before your interview, take a few deep breaths and prepare yourself the way you would for any other high-pressure situation: a state final championship, the SAT, a calculus final, a speech, etc. Know that you have done the work in anticipation of this interview, and are as prepared as you possibly can be. Now is your time to SHINE.

While preparatory research and being engaging is important, it’s also imperative to brush up on basic conversation skills. Make sure you are speaking articulately and providing ample detail in your answers.

Hold eye contact, refrain from fidgeting with your hands, or adjusting your hair. Dress to impress! Make sure you're wearing something you’re comfortable in and won't have to adjust during the interview, but that you also look professional.

Speaking in complete sentences is also an area that many of us struggle with while in interview settings since it’s often quite conversational. Try to strike the balance between conversational and professional.

After the Interview!

The next day, we suggest emailing the interviewer and thanking them for their time and sharing their valuable time and insights on a university. If you’re able to recall a particular piece of advice, anecdote, or information from the interview, this is a great time to recall that.

Finally, take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back! Reflect on what you think you could do better in your next interview, and use this opportunity to grow for future opportunities.

Tips from the Experts

  • “This one is difficult, and many times we struggle with it in interview settings especially. What I mean by “complete thoughts” is that oftentimes when we are having a casual conversation with someone, we won’t always complete a sentence. We will start to articulate our thought on a subject and then trail off.“Remember to keep ARTICULATING and being SPECIFIC in your interviews. This is always one of the best ways to make sure you are interviewing in a way that will give the admissions officers concrete memorable stories about you, helping them to know the DETAILS of why you are the student that should be admitted to their institution,” says Brant T., Crimson Strategist.
  • Senior strategist, Brice O., advises each interviewee “to do A TON of school research and really internalize the ways in which their narrative connects. All of their interests should be complementary and they should feel confident explaining how A led to B led to C.”
  • “They are looking for someone who is a good future leader and will be a strong alumnus. Don't be afraid to be ambitious in terms of saying what you'd love to do in the future for the university. Similarly, show that you give back to a community (any of the many ones you are currently a part of). Don't just talk about what the school will give you, talk a lot about how you'll make the community more vibrant both as a current student and alumni,” says Crimson US Country Manager, Anjali B.
  • “Always signpost your answers. Like a good essay, you want to give direction as to where you are going and give a heads up. For example, if asked, "Why do you want to go to x university?" I'd recommend starting with something like "I have three reasons why...." if you have multiple responses (giving a specific number)” says Anjali B.
  • “Call upon something recent in the school’s newspaper/blog. It is great to stay relevant! Be specific about why that school is ideal for you, aside from mentioning any of its prestige. Ask questions!” says Kiki A., Crimson Interview Mentor.
  • “What’s the biggest way your [insert school name here] education helped you?” recommends Crimson Senior Strategist, Megan S.

Still Feeling Unsure?

Feeling a bit overwhelmed by interviews and feel you could use some extra practice? Feel free to reach out to one of our advisors to consider interview preparation support with one of our interview experts. If you’re already a Crimson student, reach out to your EduCo for opportunities to practice your interviewing skills.


Drea M.

Written by

Drea M.

Drea attended the Lawrenceville School and then graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder with a B.A in Journalism & Anthropology. She currently resides in San Diego. Previously, she worked at Education First, an international education company, serving as the Activities Coordinator for a diverse student population. She now works for Crimson as an Education Coordinator and Copywriter. In her free time, you can find her seeing live music, hiking, and traveling.