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How to Ace the College Interview

Colleges use admission interviews to learn more about you and your potential fit in their college community. They also use interviews to gauge your apparent interest level in enrolling. Although it might sound stressful, most students say that the interview was more relaxed than they expected it to be. Many students even enjoy their interviews!

To prepare for a successful interview, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Aim to create a pleasant conversation, not a string of rigid answers. Your interviewer doesn’t want to trick or test you – rather, they want to have an enjoyable conversation with you. Practice talking about your main academic interests, favorite activities, and personal goals and values in friendly, natural, conversational language.
  2. Anticipate being asked about your favorite academic subjects in high school; your major activities outside the classroom; your possible college major (or at least what you’re interested in studying); how you see yourself getting involved at this college; and why you’re applying to this school. 
  3. Expect follow up questions. For example, if you share that you’ve done Math Olympiad for four years and worked your way up to team captain in 11th grade, expect the interviewer to ask what you found most challenging, rewarding, or surprising about that experience. 
  4. Prepare several illustrative stories about yourself and your personal motivations. Don’t wait to be asked for this exact information, but seize any reasonable opportunity to elaborate on yourself. For example, if you became interested in scientific research because of a great AP biology teacher and from witnessing your grandfather battle cancer, you must offer this up. Then, connect the dots by explaining that you’re attracted to this college’s impressive undergraduate science research mentorships – or whatever the case may be. 
  5. Your overall enthusiasm and level of knowledge about the college will be noted. Explain specifically what attracts you to this college. Yes, this entails you doing research and note-taking before the interview! If you’ve visited campus, share what you liked. You must talk about getting involved in both academic opportunities and student clubs and organizations. Colleges prefer students who will make an impact in multiple ways. 
  6. Ask questions of your interviewer that show your genuine interest in them as a person, and in their college. If they are an alumni, you can ask about their own student experience. If they work for the college, you can ask why they choose to work there and what they enjoy about the students and campus traditions. 
  7. Whether you are Zooming or interviewing in person, remember to make eye contact and present yourself in clothing that conveys respect for them and the situation. Sweatpants or jeans and t-shirts are generally too casual. There’s no harm in being a little bit over-dressed – it will show that you took the experience seriously.
  8. At the conclusion of the interview, thank the interviewer for their time and if you enjoyed the conversation with them, please feel free to say so!
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