So you’ve finished submitting your college application materials and are super excited to be done.
But then you get an email about an interview and start to panic.
No worries, we’re here to help with this complete guide to the college admissions interview process.
Which colleges offer interviews?
Not every school will reach out to you with an offer for an interview. I do know that the four ivy league schools I applied to, as well as Tufts, had alums reach out to me to coordinate interviews. Northwestern offered interview slots online, but didn’t directly reach out. So do some research to see if interviews will be offered or are required as part of the application process.
How should I respond to the interview request?
If the alum (or admissions counselor) reached out to you directly via email, you may have a bit of anxiety regarding how to respond. I know I did!
Most importantly: remember your manners. Unless otherwise stated, address the person by “Ms.” or “Mr.” followed by their last name. Express how you’re grateful they reached out and express why you’re interested in attending their university.
If you are unable to make the day or time they requested, briefly explain your situation (you have a prior commitment), apologize for the inconvenience, and offer a few other times you’re available as alternatives.
Make sure to check over the email for any typos or grammatical errors. You don’t want to get started on the wrong foot. Then, hit the “SEND” button with confidence.
If the college doesn’t reach out to me for an interview, should I reach out to them?
In most cases, for colleges that recommend (and not require) interviews, we encourage you to set up interviews with the colleges you are most interested in attending. It’s a way for colleges to gauge your interest in the school and by setting up the interview you’re showing that you are proactive and indeed interested. Who knows? It could be the deciding factor between you and one of your peers who looks similar on paper, but did not have an inteview (or had a bad one).
Where will the interview be held?
Where the interview will be held varies greatly between the college, who is conducting the interview, and the distance between you and the interviewer. The interviews conducted by alums might be held in a public place, such as a coffee shop or library. Some might be held over the phone or via video chat, and if conducted by admissions, will most likely be at the university admissions office .
What should I expect?
If you’re meeting with an alum, try to get a sense of who they are via their LinkedIn profile. The more you know, the more pointed questions you can ask about their experience at the university. Plus, if they have a picture on their profile you’ll know who you’ll be looking for if you’re meeting in a public place.
And, if you’re meeting with a college admissions counselor, you should look them up on the college website to get a sense of their background and experience. You need just enough information to show you’ve done your homework. No need to track them down on Facebook and come armed with a bunch of personal details. Now that would be weird.
Most importantly: don’t be late! And make sure you dress for success. Better to be too formal than too casual in this type of situation. No need for a full out interview suit, but definitely not jeans either.
The interview typically lasts between 30 minutes and an hour. This is your chance to show who you are as a person so take your time to represent yourself thoughtfully.
What questions will I be asked?
The number one question you should prepare to answer is: “Why do you want to attend (school name)?” This should be a different answer for every school. That’s the point of this question: they want to see that you’ve done your research. Just make sure the answer is appropriate (i.e.: don’t say “I want to come because my friend Joey goes here”).
Get in depth. Is the school especially known for a certain field? Is the campus unique in some way? Does it have an outstanding career center?
There will be questions about college in general. “What do you hope to get out of college?” “How do you think college will help prepare you for your future career?”
You will also probably be asked questions about your high school career in general. “What’s your favorite c