How to Prepare for a College Interview

By the time kids get to the interview, there are so many strenuous, variable parts of the operation, that they are usually just ready to assert control over what they can—namely, the essay and the interview. While we fully understand the desire to work hard at an area of the application where you can exert some effort with the objective of producing a result, unfortunately, no matter how much you put into the interview, it’s just not going to have much bearing on your admission. While essays can make or break an acceptance, interviews are also an exercise in you getting to learn about the school.

The big question

Prospective students are frequently paired up with an alum with whom they are expected to sit down for an interview. Throughout this meeting, kids will be asked a series of questions. There is no rulebook and we can’t really tell you what you will be asked, as every school and every conversation is different. Even if we did have a list of what we think they were going to ask you, we wouldn’t spend our post talking about it (more about that below).  

There is only one question for which all students should prepare. The good news is, you’ve likely already spent a ton of time answering that question through your supplement. The question you will inevitably need to prepare for is “why this school?” This question seems easy and innocuous enough, but there are ways to fall flat. Let’s say you’re interviewing with a prestigious school like Yale. Everyone knows Yale is one of the top schools in the nation. The name alone carries gravitas and unspoken reminders of the countless successful alumnae who have roamed the halls. So naturally, you should talk about how you want to go there because it’s well, Yale, right? WRONG.  

Your reasoning can’t just be “I want to go to Yale because it’s Yale.” Your objective should be to show the interviewer that you’ve not only done the research, but that you’ve done the research and the evidence you’ve found suggests you and Yale are a match made in heaven. Dial into the specifics of the school. Treat it like somewhere that’s not Yale. You need to know exactly what program you intend to pursue there and why your years of experience both academically and with extra-curriculars qualify you to study there. Identify professors, areas of study, clubs and cultural elements that support your argument. Also, like we always say, be a specialist. Don’t say you want to watch football, write for the Yale Daily News, and study religion. Present yourself as an expert in something and make a good case for why Yale will help you become a mega-expert.  

The other big question 

The only other thing we can assure you is that your interviewer is going to ask if you have any questions for them. A lot of kids get tripped up thinking they need to prepare some profound question in response. Don’t get so hyped up over this one. Stick with some basic like “what was your favorite part of your experience at x school?” Ultimately, it’s not about what you ask, or even what you say in the interview. It’s about making the other person feel like they enjoyed talking to you.

The reason why, at the top of this post, we said that if we had a list of potential interview questions we wouldn’t share them with you? This is why. Interviews in general, whether they are job interviews (ask your parents) or television interviews (ask Diane Sawyer), are about connecting with someone else. The school is already going to know about you from your resume, your GPA, and your essays. The interview is your chance to become three-dimensional. Literally. So, just try to enjoy it. And try to make the other person enjoy their time, too. If you’re genuinely interested in the school, you’ve done your research, and you know why you’re a great fit, then you’ll have plenty to discuss. Just enjoy the conversation as much you can and be sure to ask your interviewer questions about themselves (people like that).


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