Acing College Admissions Interviews

Part 1 of a 2-Part Series

Many universities, especially those that are highly selective, offer college admissions interviews as part of the application process. Often the meeting is with either an alumnus or a staff member from the admissions office. An interview is a chance to show you are highly interested in that school. It is also allows you to put a face and voice behind your application, and talk about your accomplishments, passions, and plans. In short, it’s another way to differentiate yourself from other applicants.

How to prepare for your college admissions interview

Preparation is the key to a successful college interview. Most high school students aren’t used to selling themselves and have difficulty talking about themselves in a positive, engaging manner. Therefore, it’s essential to do a good bit of self-reflection before an interview. At HelloCollege, we give students a comprehensive list of self-reflective questions to answer, and this prepares them to confidently address whatever topics might come up in the interview.

Interview tips for college admissions:

  1. Craft a “Tell me about yourself” statement
    This ought to be a less-than-a-minute introductory summary that gets to the heart of who you are and what you want out of your college experience. It isn’t something you memorize—use it to nail down precisely what you want to say about yourself. You don’t need to tell your life story or go into great detail about any single thing. The object is to concisely focus on your interests, accomplishments, and goals to create a platform for discussion.
  2. Why this school?
    You’ll inevitably get this question. Most students tend to be overly general and generic. Students also talk about the beauty of the campus or the ranking of the school. This shouldn’t be the focus in your discussion; instead, pick topics about specific programs or activities that will enhance your educational experience and career path. For example, “At Northwestern, I’ll get the opportunity to study engineering and continue with my passion for music in one program with dual degrees.”
  3. Have a list of questions to ask
    Having a list of questions ready shows that you’re serious and engaged. Ask questions that aren’t on the website, such as: “What types of students are most successful at this college? How active are the alumni in career networking? How has the campus changed over the years?” If it’s an interview with an alumnus, ask about that person’s experience on campus. College is a happy time for most people, and allowing the alumnus to reflect on that period creates a positive vibe in the interview.
  4. Be mindful of your body language
    Body language is critical in an interview. You can say all the right words, but if your body language isn’t favorable, you run the risk of leaving a poor impression. Be sure to make eye contact, project your voice, sit up straight, not cross your arms (it makes you look closed off), and slightly lean into conversations to emphasize a point or to show interest in the interviewer’s discussion. Nod your head in agreement, and don’t forget to smile.
  5. Don’t speak in a derogatory manner about anyone or anything
    It’s okay to touch on difficult topics, but your presentation is vital. Steer clear of negative verbiage and take a softer approach. Choose phrases such as “It was a challenge” versus “I am not good at…” If you did poorly in a math class, don’t say, “The teacher didn’t give me a chance.” Blaming other people never goes over well. Instead, say something like, “The class was a challenge, and if I had it to do over again, I would have sought extra help earlier in the semester.”
  6. Relax
    Try to relax. Most admission interviews are discussions that develop organically based on your activities, experiences, and plans for the future. Interviewers typically are aware that you’re a young adult and probably haven’t had much experience in interviewing—they don’t expect you to be perfect.


If you have questions, or want to learn more, contact the team at HelloCollege.


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Kevin Krebs

Kevin Krebs