Questions You Can Expect on a College Interview

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Questions You Can Expect on a College Interview

College interviews can be intimidating. While pretty much every other aspect of the application process takes place from behind the safety of a computer screen, the interview requires interaction with—gulp!—another real, live human being.

But this process doesn’t have to be so scary. Preparation will help you immensely in feeling confident before your interview. So, read on to learn about the most common college interview questions and question categories—taken from real college admissions officers!

First, a little background on the interview process. As a general rule, admissions reps (and interviewers) use college interview questions to help get a sense of who you are, outside of your application.

Your answers can let interviewers see a different side of you—who you are as an individual, outside of statistics (like your GPA and grades), and even beyond the specific way you chose to frame yourself in your Common App essay—after all, 650 words can only go so far in revealing your world view.


The College Interview Questions with Best Answers

Going into the interview cold is not always a good idea, so anticipating at least what might or can be discussed is advisable. Here are four different categories of college interview questions you may find yourself answering.

   1.Your specific high school and past experience

These are the questions that relate most directly to the one thing that’s probably on your mind most often, outside of college: high school. They focus on your experiences at school—both the positive, and the negative.

In preparing to answer this type of question, it can be helpful to reflect deeply on your high school experience so far, and make a list what you’ve done (your experiences), what you’ve learned (from your experiences), and what you’d change if you could go back.

Examples of these types of questions include:

What’s the thing you did/participated in high school (academic or extracurricular) that you’re the most proud of?

If you could change one thing about your school, what would it be? Why?

If  you could talk to your 8th grade self what would you tell them?

Tip: Remember, it’s not just about answering the question—it’s about justifying your answer. If you simply state, point blank, that “X was my favorite activity in high school,” your interviewer will immediately ask you, Why? So, when you draw-up a list of your experiences, make sure to make note of what, exactly, made them great…or not so great. The more concrete you can be with your answer, the better.

    2. Your core values

These questions can focus on more philosophical topics.

Examples of these types of questions include:

What do you care about?

What brings a smile to your face and tear to your eye?

If you did not HAVE to study or work, and had all the time/money in the world, what would you like to do?

Tip: This is a question where having specific examples can come in handy. Don’t just let an interviewer know that you care about something—show them how you’ve acted on your passion.

   3. Failure—and what it taught you

The title of this section is pretty self explanatory; these questions focus on how you’ve dealt with failure in the past.

Examples of these types of questions include:

What is your favorite failure?

What is the best mistake you have made? What did you learn from the experience?

Tip: Failure can be uncomfortable to talk about, but it’s a great way for your interviewer to see how resilient you are. “Favorite failure” and “best mistake” may sound like contradictions, but what these questions are really trying to do is get you to show how you’ve grown after a setback.

   4. “Fun” questions

These questions might throw you off at first with their out-of-the-ordinary subject matter. What do kitchen items have to do with college? Well, it turns out that the goal of these questions is, above all, to see how you think on your feet.

Examples of these types of questions include:

Breakfast food: sweet or savory?

If you could be anything found in a kitchen, what would you be and why?

Love to win or hate to lose and why?

Tip: Don’t be afraid to be creative with your answer; have fun!


Final Takeaways On What Questions To Expect In A College Interview

•Be honest…

Admissions officers and interviewers want to know who you really are. If it seems like your answers are rehearsed, it’ll seem like you can’t think extemporaneously.

•…But don’t over share

While interviews are meant to give college admissions officers a bigger picture of who you are, it’s important to exercise good judgment with your answers. This probably means no swearing (even for humorous effect), no trashing another college or your own high school (or teachers), and, generally, being respectful of your interviewer.

•Focus your answers on more recent experiences

You may be tempted, especially when your interviewer broaches a more general, philosophical question, to answer from your general life experience or even detail experiences from your early childhood. That’s fine! Your life is your own to share, and it’s completely reasonable that earlier experiences can be formative in who you are at present.

However, the majority of the college admission process will focus on your high school experiences, so it’s a good idea to keep that general timeframe in mind when talking with your interviewer, too. Weaving older anecdotes into stories about how they’ve shaped who you are today is great; focusing your entire interview on how your cat ran away when you were eight years old is perhaps not the best strategy.

Lastly, remember that these are all suggestions. There’s no guarantee that your specific interviewer will ask you any of the questions listed here—though there’s a high chance that you’ll find yourself answering questions in one of the broader, above-mentioned categories.

In addition to being prepared to anticipate college interview questions you might be asked, remember to also prepare questions to ask your interviewer. Always have questions to ask!

It’s up to you how you answer in the moment. And don’t forget—it’s OK to have fun with your answers!






Jennifer Kaplan

Jennifer Kaplan

Jennifer Kaplan is a senior studying Comparative Literature and Political Science at Barnard College. She’s worked as a tutor, helping students with the Common App.