Plan the Path’s Guide to College Interviews

As part of the college admissions process, some colleges may request you to arrange an interview. The admission interview is your opportunity to bring your application to life—to show a college who you are as a three-dimensional, vibrant person with all of your interests, personality, and passions. While not all colleges offer interviews—since bigger schools do not have the time or personnel to conduct interviews—smaller schools often recommend interviews as part of the application process. If you do have an interview, the person you’ll talk with is sometimes an admissions officer, and in other cases, your interviewer is an alumni who sends feedback to the school about their impressions of you.

There are some important things you should know about interviewing. First: The interview provides another context for the admissions committee to consider the applicant and to help round out an application that shows students only on paper. Second: Keep calm. If you go into the interview well-prepared and with a genuine interest in the school, you’ll be fine; you can trust that your natural enthusiasm and engagement will come through. Also, remember that the interview is your opportunity to evaluate the school, not just for them to evaluate you. The conversation gives you an excellent opportunity to explore your curiosities about the school with an individual who knows it well. 

To some extent, you have control over how you present yourself during the interview. Here are some tips about ensuring the best interview possible.

Find out if an interview is evaluative or informational.

If an interview is evaluative, the admissions representative is sizing you up, seeing if you’re a good fit for the school. If the interview is informational, it’s a time for you to ask questions of the admissions staff to see if YOU think the school is a good match for you. In either case, you should be prepared with questions for the interviewer. That brings me to my next point.

Before you go into any interview, you should have scoured the school’s website.

It’s imperative that you prepare for the conversation by getting to know the school as thoroughly as you can. You should know if the college has majors and minors in your area of interest. You should be familiar with anything that is unusual or special to the college, such as unusual curricula like the block system or special “themed” residence halls—the college equivalent of Hogwarts. You should know what the school’s core beliefs are; in that sense, you should always read the “mission statement” on the website. Finally, do a Google News search to see if there’s been any coverage about recent developments at the school.

Remember: Your goal is to present yourself in the best light possible.

This means: be on time, be yourself, and come prepared with a résumé and your questions about the school. Students (and parents) often ask me what the student should wear. My advice is to be comfortable. You do NOT have to dress up—no ties, no stockings, etc. Just don’t wear a ripped up T-shirt and dirty jeans. Anything that looks clean and neat is fine. Jeans and a shirt are actually fine. This is, after all, a college.

Create a good first impression.

When you meet your interviewer, make sure you shake their hand firmly and look him/her in the eye and say hello.

Prepare for the standard admissions questions.

Once inside the office, the interviewer will likely start informally: How are you? When did you get to town? How was your trip? Then come the questions. See our in-depth interview guide for details, but very generally you can always expect: Why are you interested in our school? What are you interested in studying? What should we—the admissions committee—know about you, beyond what’s on your application?

Satisfy your curiosity.

At the end of the interview, the admissions rep will ask you if you have questions for them. And, of course, you will. You must. After you prepare for the interview, think of at least three questions that are pertinent to your academic interests and your extracurricular pursuits. Ask yourself what specific questions can honestly help you discern if the school would be a good home for you and would support you in the studies you want to pursue. This is important; being prepared with thoughtful, relevant questions is a mark of your critical thinking skills and your genuine interest in attending that school.

Click Here for the Plan the Path Interviewing Guide