40 College Interview Questions Students Should Expect
The college interview gives potential students a chance to make a good first impression with an admissions counselor or alumni member — and can be an important part of the admissions process. Prepare by browsing these 40 questions you’re likely to get asked — and get tips for how to approach your answers.
- Why [insert college/university]?
A classic question. For this one, it’s important that you do your research in advance and connect the benefits of the school to your own talents. Do you love drama? See if the school has a performing arts program, a famous class or a theater troupe you’d like to be involved in that you could talk about. What about biology? Check out the school’s reputation, research studies that interest you or professors who you’d like to learn from.
- Why do you want to major in [insert major]?
If you have an anecdote about why you want to specialize in a particular area of study, this is a great time to talk about it. If you know what career you want to go into, talk about that for a bit and why you think you are suited to the field. Above all else, don’t say you decided because someone else told you to (i.e., your parents), because you just had to pick one or because it will make you money.
- Where do you hope to be in 10 years?
If you have a desired career path, you can discuss that some, but if you’re not sure what to talk about, go with what you hope to have gained from the college experience when you are an adult or the kind of person you hope to be. For example, “In 10 years, I hope to be a wiser and more empathetic person because I have interacted with people from a variety of backgrounds and learned from their experiences.”
- What have you read recently that has impacted or changed how you saw the world?
This is a great question to make sure you have thought about beforehand. Try to steer away from both popular teen books (like Harry Potter) or common high school English curriculum (like Romeo and Juliet). Be sure to pick a book (or article, blog post, tweet — as long as it’s meaningful or substantial) that you actually enjoyed and connect it to what hit home the most about it.
- Tell me about a time when you had to work as part of a team.
Try to think of something outside a basic school group project. Explain how you used your skills in a sports team, club, part-time job or your family to solve a problem or address an issue. Make sure to include what you learned from the process.
- What strengths will you bring to the university?
With this question, don’t be vague, and don’t get cliché. Say a characteristic, and be prepared with a back-up story of how you used this gift to help others. Try not to be self-deprecating or cocky — just be honest. What are you good at? How have you used it?
- If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?
With this question, it’s probably best not to go to either extreme: spending it all or giving it all away. They’re cliché and will sound insincere. Personalize it to your talents and interests. Are you passionate about social justice? Find a few nonprofits that you would donate some of the money to. Does your school lack a resource (computers, programs)? Use the money to fund a club you’d be interested in.
- What do you think about [recent current event]?
This question can quickly get touchy. Many students will use this as an opportunity to defend their political leaning, but what the university really wants to know is if you are informed and can think critically about the world around you. Feel free to express your opinions, but try not to get accusatory. Instead, connect the event to your identity and experiences or talk about an organization that you believe is doing great work to fix or address the problem.
- What extracurricular activities are you involved in?
The most important thing to remember for this question is DON’T JUST LIST! Mention what you do, but then narrow it down. Use most of your time to talk about a specific memory, what that activity has meant to you or what you’ve learned from participating in that sport/club.
- What is an area of weakness for you in school and how have you overcome it?
Think about this ahead of time, and pick a specific weakness. Be sure to detail in your answer how you have compensated for this weakness, with specific examples in mind. For example, if you are a poor essay writer, talk about how you plan ahead and ask for peer editing in order to ensure that you submit your best work. If pre-calculus isn’t your thing, explain how you sought after-school help from your teacher and raised your grade throughout the year.
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- Who do you consider a role model in your personal life?
When answering this question, it is far better if you can think of an example of someone close to you, like a parent, rather than a vague historical figure or celebrity. With personal figures, it will be easier to pull from specific examples detailing something they’ve taught you.
- What makes you different from other students?
Spend some time before the interview thinking about your unique perspective. What makes your family different from other families? What would catch other people off guard if they knew? Take this opportunity to talk about the diversity you could bring to the university, what interests you and what things you want to do with your life. Just be genuine!
- Are you looking at other schools as well? Which ones?
This can be an uncomfortable question, and you can really only answer it one way: honestly. However, if you are applying to a rival, be sure to mention it — it’s actually better and could make the school more interested in you.
- Would you like to ask me any questions?
Be sure to research the school in advance and prepare questions for your interviewer. If you can, research them on a platform like LinkedIn. However, the best questions you can ask are about the school: its climate, what their experience was like, what they would recommend new students know, etc.
- Tell me three things that aren’t on your college application.
Get creative with this question! Talk about what you love, what you’re passionate about or even a funny family anecdote. Just be yourself — your interviewer wants you to be more than just another application and is giving you a chance to stand out.
- Where do you feel at home?
Again, this answer can be whatever you want it to be. Try to stay away from your actual home, unless it’s specific (e.g., I love my living room at Christmastime), and think about a place that you feel most like yourself. Describe who you are in that space and why it makes you feel so safe.
- Give me a quick description of yourself, as if I knew nothing about you.
With this question, your interviewer doesn’t need to know your test scores, GPA or list of extracurricular activities. They want to know the things that you like to do when you aren’t doing all of that, what your family is like, what music you like. Be quick and specific!
- What subject was the hardest for you in high school?
Don’t pick a subject and complain about how the teacher was bad or the class was boring. Instead, talk more conceptually, and make sure to explain how, even though the class was hard for you, you learned specific new skills from taking it.
- Talk about a time where you had to be a leader.
For this story, the subtler, the better. You can talk about a time that you led your family or recognized a need in your student organization and offered to fix it. Leadership qualities are often found in small acts of service rather than large public speeches or a fancy event that you pulled off. Instead, talk about how you stepped up in a specific difficult situation.
- If you could describe your role within your family/friend group, how would you describe it?
If you get this question, think about the good qualities you bring to these groups. Stay away from words with multiple connotations. If you’re the “crazy” one in your family, wording it like “I bring spontaneity to my family” can sound more positive and give your interviewer a better impression.
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- If you had a free day without homework or school, how would you spend it?
If you get a question like this, it’s important to be specific. Even if you would use part of the day to sleep, make sure to include other activities that you enjoy. This question is essentially a chance to show the interviewer your interests and hobbies that might not fit on a typical college application, like cooking with your mom or painting.
- If you could explain one weakness in your college application, what would you pick and why?
This question is an opportunity to explain in person the weaknesses in your application that are the product of something outside of your control, like a family member’s passing or test anxiety. One thing to be sure of while answering is that your explanation owns your own role in the issue. Don’t throw yourself a pity party or fail to accept personal responsibility.
- How are you planning on spending your summer?
This is another opportunity to talk about something that won’t be on your college application. Feel free to talk about vacations, jobs or even mission trips you’re planning on. Even if you aren’t sure yet, it’s OK to outline your options and hopes. Your interviewer is just trying to figure out who you are and what you like to do.
- What’s one of your talents?
What do you feel really great at? What is a joy to do? Is it a sport or instrument? Is it singing or playing chess? Talk about it! Your interviewer will be able to sense your passion and happiness. You’re always fun to talk to when you’re talking about something you enjoy.
- What does being successful look like to you?
This might be obvious, but “making a lot of money” is probably not the best answer. Talk about the person you’d like to become and the things you’d like to accomplish, but try to stay away from cliché or vague answers.
- If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would you choose?
Spend some time thinking about your answer to questions like this before your interview. You’ll get bonus points if you choose someone who isn’t a stereotypical answer to this question (like a former president). To go the extra mile, try thinking of a few questions that you’d like to ask your chosen person to help explain why you’ve made that choice.
- If you were dealing with [current event at university] what would you do?
This is why it’s important to do your research on the school before your interview — not just on statistics, but on what’s going on in the university at large. Being able to comment on current events regarding the university will show that you cared enough to spend time doing your research.
- What was a favorite high school experience of yours?
From prom to a school musical, any significant moment will work for this — just make sure to connect it to an aspect of your personal growth or explain why it was so significant to you.
- Tell me about something you’ve accomplished in high school that you are really proud of.
If your school has a large senior exit project, this is a great place to talk about it, especially if you were able to tailor it to your interests. If not, talk about an event you led, an initiative you pioneered at your school or even a personal achievement in athletics/extracurriculars that you are proud of.
- What is the most important skill you will walk away from high school with?
For this question, don’t say something vague like “empathy.” Instead, say something like “learning to communicate with others,” and give a concrete example of a time when you didn’t have this skill and how you learned from it the importance of said skill.
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- If you could change one thing about your current school environment, what would it be?
The key to answering this question is spending more time talking about your proposed solution than complaining about the problem you choose. Additionally, choose a true issue, rather than something that won’t ever be changed. For example, choose needing more student council funding over something like the school day being long.
- Why should we admit you to [college/university]?
This question can feel uncomfortable and narcissistic, but don’t be afraid! Highlight three areas: your grades, your extracurricular activities and who you are as a person that reflects the values of the university at large.
- What was your New Year’s Resolution this year?
This shows your interviewer what areas of improvement you’re focused on and also your diligence in setting and keeping goals. If you didn’t make a resolution, answer, “I didn’t have one this year, but something I’m continually focused on growing in is [insert topic here].”
- In the classroom, what type of student are you?
Don’t be ashamed to own up, even if you’re the constant note scribbler or question asker. Being honest will help the interviewer know more about your personality and learning style.
- What do you think are the characteristics of a great leader?
When answering this question, it would be wise to draw on an example of a leader you admire in order to keep your answer concise and structured. Name characteristics you think make them a great leader.
- If you were the Dean of [college/university] what would you change?
Another question where you need to have done your research! Just like what you’d change about your high school, make sure you don’t spend too much time complaining about the problem, and focus more on solving the issue.
- Do you keep a journal? If not, how do you tend to process large events?
How you process can say a lot about the way your brain works. Whether you talk about internally or externally processing through an activity, detail how you make decisions and know that the interviewer isn’t looking for one right or wrong answer.
- Have you ever had to do something that was the right thing but made you unpopular? If so, what was it and how did you do it?
Try to think of an example before you get to the interview so you aren’t scrambling. Don’t point fingers or get upset retelling the story, simply explain what happened and focus on the solution over the problem.
- How have you bounced back from an academic mistake?
The people who thrive in college are those who can learn from their mistakes to do better the next time. Specify a mistake you made, and then explain how you implemented a strategy so it wouldn’t happen again.
- What specifically about [college/university] convinced you to apply?
This is a good opportunity to talk about your campus tour, if you have been on one, and connect with the interviewer about places on campus or the school’s reputation since he/she is probably a fan of their alma mater. Above all else, be honest and be yourself during your interviews. The college application process can be stressful, but at the end of the day, you’ll end up at the perfect home for you!
Kayla Rutledge is a college student who spends most of her time writing, singing for her church and eating quesadillas.
Posted by Kayla Rutledge
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