How to stand out during a college interview

Many of you will have the option to do a college interview. Some of you will be required to do them. It’s an excellent way to demonstrate to the admissions counselor or the alumni interviewer that you are confident, capable, and able to articulate your thoughts clearly and concisely. Is it scary? Absolutely! The stakes are high when discussing admissions to college, being awarded a scholarship valued at thousands of dollars, and speaking to someone who is a stranger. Here’s the good news- no one knows you better than YOU!

The college interview is the time to discuss your interest in attending their school. That means doing your research! Don’t just skim through the website; examine it! Review the school’s mission statement. Can you integrate that into your conversation and how it’s meaningful? Check out the acceptance rate, the retention rate (the number of freshmen that return the following year to be sophomores), and the graduation rate. Yes, indeed, that’s a lot of information. This information is arming you with data to see if you are the best fit for the school. Remember, you can be interviewing them as they are interviewing you. The fit must be on both sides. Read that again. Both sides are interviewing each other. Do your research and see how you fit into the school. You must review your application package and the materials you’ve submitted. The interviewer will have thoroughly reviewed these.

So you’ve done your research, and interview day is here. Wearing a suit is unnecessary; Nothing should be wrinkled or messy.   Paper and pen are okay; the interviewer may state something and ask if you may write that down- perfect time to glance at notes.

Conduct three mock interviews focused on the questions commonly asked by the universities. The mock interview allows you to feel comfortable and prepared but not rehearsed. Sounding natural comes with practice, practice, and more practice! Practice with your parents, friends, and college counselor. Talking about yourself is likely something you don’t have much experience doing, so the more opportunities you have, the more natural you will become. What’s important in the interview is for the interviewer to be able to remember you. Have answers that will set you apart from your peers. Can this be scary? Of course! You will feel confident and prepared for any question with practice and preparation.

Questions to Prepare For:

  • Tell me about yourself – 3 things maximum. Any more than that, you are likely to forget something, get flustered, and get off course.
  • What is your favorite book? Why?
  • What is one thing you would change about your school? Why?
  • What are some of your academic achievements?
  • What are some academic areas that need to be strengthened?
  • Who is a role model in your life, and why?
  • What are some academic goals you hope to accomplish in college?
  • How would you contribute to our college community?
  • How will school X assist you in the next phase of your life?
  • What extracurricular activities have you participated in? Here’s something to remember. It’s not the number of your activities but the quality that counts. Why are you passionate about them?

The interviewer will likely ask, “What can I tell you about our college?” This is a great opportunity to show that you have researched the school and ask questions about something that interests you. Perhaps you want to start a club soccer team? Do you want to participate in research you learned about online? You would like to be an RA at some point and would like to know how that works.

What have you done in high school so far that you are most proud of? Here’s your chance to share something that might not be on your transcript or application. Maybe you started a new organization at your school, revived the school paper, helped your parents with your younger siblings, and now understand what a big task is. Whatever you decide to speak about, make sure it’s important to you, not something you think will impress the interviewer. Admissions representatives want to know you, not what you think they want to hear.

Here are some helpful tips and questions to ask the interviewer:

  • Research your interviewer. What was their major? Where are they from? Do you have mutual friends/activities in common? They are likely alumni of the school, so ask about their experience and what resonates most with them when looking back on their college years.
  • Is there anything they would have done differently? Think outside the box with questions you won’t find on the school’s website.
  • What did they love most about this college that others did not have?
  • What didn’t the school do well (and it’s perfectly ok to ask that)?
  • What type of student succeeds at this university?
  • What is the best way to prepare for college life?

Here’s my favorite – what makes you proud to work for this university? 

When students prepare well in advance, students will sound relaxed and confident to be the next member of the class of 2027. If you need help, contact me at Admissions Untangled!

Gerene Keesler

Gerene Keesler

Enthusiastic, Student Affairs and College Counseling professional providing over 20+ years of superior customer service and academic advising, admissions, and career coaching.

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