What are some common interview questions?
Below are a few questions that typically come up in an interview, as relayed to us by the former admissions officers on our team at the Admission Masters:
- Tell me about yourself. This question is designed to ease you into the conversation
- Why are you interested in this program/major?
- What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?
- Hypotheticals such as the question with which we opened this post. The key here is not to focus on WHAT you answer, but rather WHY you chose that answer. Within your explanation, try to emphasize elements of your personality.
- Questions about your leadership/extracurricular activities. Provide brief anecdotes, but remember that the answer is not as important as the reasoning. If asked to discuss a time when you had to resolve a conflict, for instance, don’t spend too much time describing the issue and who was involved. Instead, explain the steps YOU took to resolve it.
- Why do you want to come to our university? This is where your research will become very important. Review the website of each college for which you will be interviewing and put together a list of specific opportunities (major-related and extracurricular) that appeal to you. You can also check out the school’s Mission Statement (often under the “About” tab on the website) to identify aspects of the school’s unique philosophy or approach to education that resonate with you. For each aspect of the school you mention, be prepared to explain how it accommodates your goals and interests. The more well-thought out your explanation, the more apparent it will be that you have a personal investment in an education at that school — and this is something that interviewers like to hear.
- Do you have any questions for me? You should always come prepared with 3-5 questions that you can ask the interviewer about their personal experiences at the school. Avoid asking questions to which you can easily google the answer. You should also stay away from questions about the school’s ranking or your chances of admission. Examples of great questions our former admissions officers have received in the past are:
- What do you know now that you didn’t know as an incoming freshman?
- Who was your favorite professor?
- If you could go back and do something differently, what would that be?
- What would be your reservations about having me as a student at your university? This is an excellent question because it exudes self-confidence and requires the interviewer to consider the reasons they’d want you as a student.
How do I prepare for the interview process?
Beginning in as early as middle school, start having productive conversations with adults. Whether it’s your parents, family friends, or teachers, becoming comfortable conversing with authority figures will help you to build higher level conversational skills that will serve you well throughout your life. At the end of the day, adults are human beings with their own life stories — don’t be afraid to ask them questions about their life experiences, as long as you do so respectfully.
By your junior year, you should begin to develop a personal narrative and experiment with appealing ways to convey that narrative. Look at your resume and identify what your strengths are, then try to weave together a story of where your interests came from and where you want to take them in the future. Great interviewees learn from other great interviewees, so watch YouTube videos of successful interviews and take notes on what makes the interviewee memorable. You should also Google interviewing tips, and begin incorporating them into your interview preparation during your senior year.
When senior year rolls around, it’s go time! During your fall semester, you’ll be responding to interview requests from colleges and/or signing up for interviews on your own via the college’s website. Consider signing up for an on-campus interview and combining it with a college tour, particularly for schools in your Top 5. The summer before your senior year, you should begin researching the colleges (see “Why do you want to come to our university?” above). Most people aren’t excellent interviewees on the first try, but practice makes perfect! Using your personal narrative and the example questions we covered above as a starting point, do mock interviews whenever possible with teachers, friends, and parents. You can even practice in front of a mirror — record yourself and play it back so you can take notes on what you do well and what you need to improve.
How do I deal with my nervousness in the interview?
It’s natural to be nervous — even the best public speakers deal with it! But it’s up to you to take steps to moderate this reaction. The first and most important tip we can offer is to make sure you come prepared! After doing your research about each school, create a list of bullet points you want to discuss (don’t script out your responses, as this will sound forced). Practice on your own and with others, and don’t be afraid to ask for advice — this is also a great way to build or strengthen your relationships with teachers.
Leading up to the interview, make sure you get plenty of exercise (a brisk run will get those endorphins going!), eat healthy food, and catch 7-8 hours of sleep if possible — especially the night before the interview! You may have heard the phrase, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” The same applies for college interviews: we suggest business casual dress, so lose the backback or any other “giveaway” that you’re a high school student. Looking clean and presentable will give the interviewer a good first impression, and it will help you to feel more confident, too!
Remember, it’s not just about what you say, but how you say it. Throughout the interview (and in your practice sessions), SMILE and be personable — even if you don’t have the best accolades, having a great personality will say a lot about who you are as a student. Direct eye contact, a straight posture, and a firm handshake go a long way in demonstrating poise and confidence. Finally, recognize that you’ve made it one step further than other students simply by reaching the interview stage, so take this as an added boost of confidence.
Should I order that bagel?
Most interviews take place at local coffee shops or cafes, and occasionally at the alum’s office. If you are meeting your interviewer in a public setting and they ask if you’d like to order anything, you’re welcome to accept the offer. But if there is a long line or you feel awkward for any other reason, it’s perfectly okay to decline.
At the Admission Masters, we know what it takes to prepare for a successful season of college interviews.
From guiding you through the process of crafting your personal narrative to offering constructive feedback through mock interviews, we’re dedicated to helping you put your best foot forward!