College Admissions: Six Ways to Ace the College Interview

July 8, 2013, 1:35pm, Topics: college interview, interview topics, admissions interview, interview preparation

Summer and fall are popular college interview times for rising seniors, but before you head off to campus there are some important things that you should do to get ready. Remember that the goal of the meeting is for the interviewer to get a sense of who you are as an individual and how you will contribute to the university. You have one chance to “wow” them, don’t waste it!

Dress for success

Now is not the time to wear your tattered jeans, heavy metal t-shirt, skimpy shorts or low-cut blouse. You don’t need to wear a suit, but you should wear a nice pair of pants and an ironed shirt. Unless you are interviewing at an art school and want to express your personality, you want the interviewer to focus on you, not on your clothing.

Do your homework

You should spend 1-2 hours the day before your interview thoroughly perusing the college web site. Read about new buildings, professors who have won awards and student initiatives. Delve into your desired major or explore the majors offered. Make some notes on things that interest you and questions you may want to ask. Being well-versed in the university’s offerings and recent news is a way to make the interviewer feel that you are a thoughtful individual who truly wants to be at THEIR university. Mention things you saw on the tour, items you read about on the website or new articles that you encountered in your preparation.

Act the part

Interviewers are looking for mature students. When he or she comes out to greet you in the waiting room, put your hand out first, look him/her in the eye and introduce yourself. Make sure that you have a firm handshake and maintain eye contact throughout your meeting. It may sound simple, but most students don’t do one or more of these things.

You also want to sit upright in your meeting and display positive body language. Smile, lean into the conversation and present an upbeat image of yourself and your background. Leave any negative comments about your school, friends or family at home. 

Market yourself

Come prepared with three things that you want to get across about yourself in the interview; things which can’t be seen on your application. When the interviewer asks you a question, don’t give a one or two word answer; back it up with an example or a proof point. So, if you have just been asked what your best quality is and you said “determination”, then back your statement up with, “When I wanted to start a business club at my school, some students and administrators said that no one would be interested. But I put up posters, promoted speakers and three years later, we now have over 100 members.”

Ask thoughtful questions

You will ALWAYS be asked what you would like to know about the university. Make sure that you have 3-5 great questions which can’t be answered by reading the college website. Ask about the most popular extra-curricular activities on campus, a new lab facility that is under construction or internships in your field of interest.


When you leave, shake the interviewer’s hand again, thank him/her and tell them that you are very interested in being a part of the university. Then when you get home, write a thank-you note. And, if the interviewer comes to your school in the fall, make sure to stop by and say hello!