College interviews are a means for the admissions committee to know about you, your interests and how well do you fit in their program cohort. It also allows students to learn more about the school that they are interested in joining. College interview may be taken by an admissions committee member, a person from the outreach team or even an alum residing in your city.
Although most colleges either do not require interviews or are interview-optional, if your target college does offer the provision, we recommend that you go for it. This has two major advantages. Firstly, it demonstrates your interest and secondly, it makes you more impactful as compared to other non-interviewing candidates.
While preparing for a college interview, there are few things that you should keep in mind. Do not be overly abrasive or uninterested. Be ready to face any questions with utmost sincerity and freedom. Better yet, you can improve your skills by getting familiar with some of the commonly asked questions during interviews. Here are some questions that you might get asked during college interviews, some tricky, some a breeze.
1. Tell me about yourself
Once the preliminary greetings are over, this is commonly the first question that’s asked. It is basically meant to put you at ease, but in our experience this can be the hardest of questions for some interviewees, as they may be uncomfortable to speak about themselves. Common concerns are whether I should repeat what’s written in the CV or not, whether I should talk about my family or not, should I talk about my present work or not and so on and so forth. We recommend that students answer this question in an engaging way. Smile and be confident in telling the interviewer about your unique skills. You could mention what you are good at and what you can offer the college if you get selected. Try not to repeat what is already there on your CV. Bare accomplishments and grades do not define a person and the underlying purpose of this question is to break the ice.
2. Mention three adjectives that best describe you
Your answer should fit not only your personality, but also the intended goals of the program that you wish to apply to. Do not use fancy words. This is not a vocab question. Creative, ambitious, conscientious may work well for game design but not for business. Similarly, motivated, analytical, innovative are more relevant to data analytics than to literature. It is also important to elaborate and support these adjectives with examples.
3. Why this college?
Some don’ts first: Do not mention the size, location and accomplishments of the college. It sets up a wrong tone during the whole interview process. Do not say a friend, colleague or relative gave a positive recommendation. Instead, try talking about specific research by a professor and how you would like to contribute to it if given the opportunity or you could also mention a club that you would like to participate in as you are extremely passionate about the cause it’s working for.
4. What is the most recent book you have read?
Start with the title and its author. Say what’s it about and what did you like most about it. It could be the concept or a character that you really identify with. As long as you can convincingly present your reasoning, you could choose any title be it romance, fiction, humor or spiritual. The real reason behind the question is to know how well you can summarize, analyse and present the information after reading the book. When discussing make sure that your listener is fully engaged.
5. Tell me about some challenges you have faced and how you overcame them?
Colleges prefer students who have gone through hardships and made it across. It proves that the individual has perseverance and can overcome obstacles in pursuit of goals. The challenges you have faced do not need to be extreme. You can talk about a personal loss like a grandparent’s death at the time of your board exams or facing an ethical dilemma at your school or college and how you stood up for the right cause. It’s all up to you, but focus more on what you did to overcome that specific challenge.
6. What are your strengths?
This question is a variant of the three-adjective question. You can answer it on similar lines. But remember not to be brash or arrogant about your strengths.
7. What are your weaknesses?
Being too honest here can turn out to be one’s downfall when taking part in the interview. Here you should talk about things that you can improve. You could say that you are someone who is a planner and could be more spontaneous or you are someone who is too honest and could be more tactful. Also, prepare some examples beforehand on what works for you and what does not.
8. What if you were present in a historical period and when will it be?
This question is your chance to demonstrate your knowledge and creative capabilities. It does not matter whether you want to be cool or not. What matters is why you want to live there. Talk about it as if you are trying to solve cultural problems back then. You could make a point to prove your strengths through this answer. For instance, to substantiate leadership and team-building skills you could say that you want to live in the 20th century and lead a battalion of soldiers in the freedom struggle.
9. What major do you want to study?
The purpose of the question is to figure out whether the student is focused and has researched well about their target program. You could give a clear concise answer only if you are very sure. Many students, especially at the undergrad level, would like to keep their options open. In that case it is perfectly okay to say that you do not want to declare it yet and would like to take your time, explore and then decide.
10. Who is your inspiration?
Talk about the person who influences you. It could be a film personality, politician, business magnate or songwriter, take your pick. It could also be a professor or alum from the university who you follow actively on the social media. You could also give a very personal reply and name someone from your family. It works well if you can relate a story or two on why you admire them. Answering this question shows what kind of person you are aspiring to be in the future. So, choose carefully.
11. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Colleges love goal-oriented students. Start by mentioning your long-term goals beyond school and college. Respond to the question with the thought of working for an organization or leading a driven team of young achievers to make it big. This answer should blend your strengths, your major and how the school figures in your plans. Make it as detailed and explicit as possible.
12. What are your interests outside of school?
Your answer does not have to be limited to extracurricular activities. Moreover, the answer should show your character and personality when taking part in these interests. For example, say that you practice the guitar every day or are a member of your society’s conservation club.
13. What makes you unique?
With this question the interviewer is trying to know what you would bring to the table if accepted. You should answer such questions by describing your skills, qualities and experiences. For example – ‘What makes me unique are my genuineness and ability to convince people. At school (or college) I was a peoples person and regularly solicited sponsorships for our event (or club) by visiting various organizations’ or ‘What makes me unique is 3 years of my experience volunteering with the best of climate change and sustainable energy organizations in my area. My work involved writing, designing, presenting my ideas and even sales. I think I can really contribute to your program.’ Remember that your profile may not be all that unique, but that is where showcasing matters. Make it sound convincing and speak with confidence and passion.
14. Talk about your project experience in high school.
It is a question asked by most colleges. Answering it with conviction and putting in specific details can help increase your chances of getting accepted. You could describe your project like – ‘I love to things that are hands-on. So I chose a project that involved robotics. I had to learn and write code in Python which was the challenging part. After a number of attempts, I got it right. To see it working was a fulfilling experience.’ Make it an engaging conversation.
15. Do you have any questions for me?
Do not let this question go unanswered. Asking questions related to college shows your curiosity and drive. It may also help you gain insights that you may not have. If you are being interviewed by an alum you could ask about their program experience and tips to do well at class, you could also ask what efforts they did to get placed. If someone from the admissions committee is interviewing you, you could ask about volunteer work or on-campus earn and learn opportunities that are in consonance with your goals. Make sure not to ask common questions that can be easily found on google. The interviewer is a person and everyone likes to appear smart. Show them that their advice is valuable.