The College Admissions Interview

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson, we discover the basic structure of the college admissions interview, what the interviewers will be looking for, and some tips to help prepare for the interview.

Admissions Interview

Applying to a college or university can be incredibly daunting. There's the application for admission to start with, and there's probably even a few short and long essays to write as well. They may even ask for a writing sample from one of your high school papers. Then, of course, you have to get together all of your supporting material - proof of your memberships, extracurricular activities, and so on - and then probably ask a few of your teachers or counselors for a recommendation letter.

Then, after all that, the university asks you for the scariest thing of all: an in-person admissions interview! For anyone, this can be a frightening experience, especially if you've never had a job or organization interview before.

Fortunately, we are here to help. In this lesson, you will find the basic layout of most admissions interviews and some good ways to prepare for your meeting.

The Interview

Admissions interviews are becoming increasingly common, and are often mandatory at more prestigious or private institutions of higher education. They aren't necessarily designed to ask you about your grades, extracurricular activities, or level of knowledge - they have already pieced together most of this from the application material you have provided. Chances are, if they have asked you to an interview, you already meet all these qualifications.

Instead, the interview is designed to do a number of things that can't necessarily be figured out on paper. These vary greatly from university to university, but can include your personality, the company you keep, how you cope with stress, or your personal ambitions for the future. The admissions staff at the school at which you are being interviewed are incredibly knowledgeable about their school; they know the programs they offer, the level of intelligence and maturity it takes to do well at the school, and the common pitfalls that befall students. Their job is to make sure that you and the university are the 'right fit' for each other.

Questions can really run the gamut depending on what the university wants in a student. They will likely ask you about your high school experience. Questions can include:

  • Describe your high school.
  • At what does your high school excel?
  • What were your favorite courses in high school? Why?
  • Who was your favorite teacher? Why?

They will also likely ask you about your personal life. Some questions can include:

  • What do you and your friends like to do?
  • What do you do to cope after a stressful day?
  • Who would you consider your close family? Why are they so close to you?
  • What do you consider your strengths? Your weaknesses?

Finally, they will definitely ask you about your plans for the future and your reasons for applying to the school. Some questions can include:

  • Why did you choose to apply to [School X]?
  • How do you see yourself as part of the larger [School X] community?
  • If you were to graduate from [School X] today, what would your degree be in and what would you like to do with it?

These are just some basic questions that give you a sense of the type of things you may be asked in the college admissions interview. Basically, they already know you academically, now they want to meet you, the person.

Tips and Preparation

It's difficult to prepare in any structured way for the admissions interview; there are no facts and figures to be memorized, no theories to understand and be able to explain. The most important things are your answers and your comfort when delivering them. Below are some tips to help you prepare.

Do Some Research

While it's true there isn't a ton of traditional knowledge you will likely be asked about, knowledge of the school can be incredibly important. In the week or two before your interview, brush up on your knowledge of the school. What are the school's best programs? What is the school known for? What is the surrounding community like? Who are some of its famous graduates? Some of this information may seem unnecessary, but demonstrating that you are interested in the school and being a part of the school's wider community is incredibly important.

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