Most college interview questions are meant to help you and the interviewer find out if the college is a good match for you. Rarely will you get a question that puts you on the spot or tries to make you feel stupid. Remember, the college is trying to make a good impression too. Use the interview to show off your personality in ways that aren’t possible on the application.
Below are some typical questions and some suggestions for answering them. When you’ve mastered them, check out these 20 more interview questions. Also be sure to avoid these 10 common interview mistakes. If you’re wondering what to wear, here are some tips for men and women.
1. Tell me about yourself.
This question seems easier than it is. How do you reduce your whole life to a few sentences? And it’s hard to avoid commonplace answers like “I’m friendly” or “I’m a good student.” Of course you want to demonstrate that you’re friendly and studious, but try also to say something memorable here that really makes you different from other college applicants. Can you hold your breath longer than anyone in your school? Do you have a huge collection of Pez dispensers? Do you have unusual cravings for sushi?
2. Why are you interested in our college?
Be specific when answering this, and show that you’ve done your research. Also, avoid answers like “I want to make a lot of money” or “Graduates of your college get good job placement.” You want to highlight your intellectual interests, not your materialistic desires. What specifically about the college distinguishes it from other schools you’re considering?
3. What can I tell you about our college?
You can almost guarantee that your interviewer will provide an opportunity for you to ask questions. Make sure you have some, and make sure your questions are thoughtful and specific to the particular college. Avoid questions like “when is the application deadline?” or “how many majors do you have?” This information is both uninteresting and readily available on the school’s webpage. Come up with some probing and focused questions: “What would graduates of your college say was the most valuable thing about their four years here?” “I read that you offer a major in interdisciplinary studies. Could you tell me more about that?”
4. Who in your life has most influenced you?
There are other variations of this question: Who’s your hero? What historical or fictional character would you most like to be like? This can be an awkward question if you haven’t thought about it, so spend a few minutes considering how you would answer. Identify a few real, historical, and fictional characters you admire, and be prepared to articulate WHY you admire them.
5. Why do you want to major in?
Realize that you don’t need to have decided upon a major when you apply to college, and your interviewer will not be disappointed if you say you have many interests and you need to take more classes before choosing a major. However, if you have identified a potential major, be prepared to explain why. Avoid saying that you want to major in something because you’ll make a lot of money — your passion for a subject will make you a good college student, not your greed.
6. What will you contribute to our campus community?
You’ll want to be specific when answering this question. An answer like “I’m hard-working” is rather bland and generic. Think about what it is that makes you uniquely you. What exactly will you bring to diversify the college’s community?
7. Tell me about a challenge that you overcame.
This question is designed to see what kind of problem solver you are. When confronted with a challenge, how do you handle the situation? College will be full of challenges, so the college wants to make sure they enroll students who can handle them.
8. What do you do for fun in your free time?
“Hangin’ out and chillin'” is a weak answer for this question. College life obviously isn’t all work, so the admissions folks want students who will do interesting and productive things even when they aren’t studying. Do you write? hike? play tennis? Use a question such as this one to show that you are well-rounded with a variety of interests.
9. What do you see yourself doing 10 years from now?
You don’t need to pretend that you have your life figured out if you get a question like this. Very few students entering college could accurately predict their future professions. However, your interviewer does want to see that you think ahead.
10. Does your high school record accurately reflect your effort and ability?
In the interview or on your application, you often have an opportunity to explain a bad grade or a bad semester. Be careful with this issue — you don’t want to come across as a whiner or as someone who blames others for a low grade. However, if you really did have extenuating circumstances, let the college know.
11. Recommend a good book to me.
The interviewer is trying to accomplish a few things with this question. First, the question asks whether or not you’ve actually read much. Second, it asks you to apply some critical skills as you articulate why a book is worth reading. And finally, your interviewer might get a good book recommendation!
12. If you could do one thing in high school differently, what would it be?
A question like this can turn sour if you make the mistake of dwelling on things you regret. Try to put a positive spin on it. Perhaps you’ve always wondered if you would have enjoyed acting or music. Maybe you would have liked to give the student newspaper a try. Maybe, in retrospect, studying Chinese might have been more in line with your career goals than Spanish. A good answer shows that you didn’t have the time in high school to explore everything that is of interest to you.