Preparing for a College Interview

Below is the text from a great article by Audrey Kahane that was originally posted on

Whether you are making a college list or completing your applications, being introspective is an important step in the college admissions process. When preparing for an interview, think about who you are and what you’re looking for in a college. Try to start your essays before any interview so that you have articulated your thoughts and are more ready to talk about yourself.

Once you have a name, Google the interviewer. If you know something about the person, it can help you feel more comfortable going into the meeting. You also may be able to discover interests you have in common, and that can help you create a bond in the meeting. For example, if you are interviewing with an alumna who serves on the board of directors of an orchestra and you love classical music, there’s a potentially interesting topic of conversation.

Be enthusiastic. If you’re not interested in your own life story, nobody else will be. Always go in with some ideas and experiences you want to convey. If you have a funny story about getting lost in a foreign city that illustrates your resourcefulness, look for a place to bring it into the discussion. Think about any memorable experiences when you were a camp counselor or the time you traveled with your school jazz band to a competition. But don’t force it. The conversation has to feel natural.

Intellectual curiosity is a great quality to convey in an interview. It you love learning about history, you might talk about your favorite program on the History Channel. Think about what’s going on in the world so that you can give an informed opinion.

If the interviewer asks what you would add to the college, this is an opportunity to discuss ways that you’ve contributed in high school while addressing what you would bring to the college community. Instead of just saying you were student government vice president, describe what you did as vice president. What specific projects or accomplishments can you share?

Be prepared to say why you’re interested in this school, since that is a common question. You want to have specific reasons for applying, not a generic, “Wharton is a prestigious school that will give me opportunities to succeed.” What is unique about that school’s programs and why are they such a perfect match for you? This is an opportunity to show you’ve done your research.

If the interviewer asks what you plan to study and you don’t know what you want to major in, it’s fine to say that you’re not sure and you’re looking forward to taking courses in subjects you haven’t been exposed to in high school, or to say that you love science and are considering biology or neuroscience.

If you’re talking to an alumni interviewer, ask about his or her experience at the college. What other schools did you consider and why did you choose this school? What was your favorite class? What was the best thing about your time here? How did going to this school impact your career or your life? People love talking about themselves, so when you ask about your interviewer’s experience, he or she will probably feel more positive about you. Remember that during every phase of the college admissions process, the goal is not to impress but to create a bond with the person on the other side of the desk.

Make sure you have researched the college and have several questions that show you are serious about the school. While it’s fine to ask what students do on weekends, remember that interviewers want to know that you’re interested in academics, so be sure to include a question or two about programs that sound interesting.

In addition to showing that you’re interested in the school, asking questions and creating a dialogue can help you feel more in control during an interview. It’s also more enjoyable for the interviewer not to have to keep constantly asking questions.

By the end of the interview, be sure you have communicated why you are right for this college and why this college is right for you. That’s what you want the interviewer to take away from the meeting.

Ask for a business card and promptly send a note thanking the interviewer. If there was something specific you discussed about why you’re a good match for the school, or some personal interest that you shared, this is an opportunity to remind the interviewer.