Conquering the College Admissions Interview

Every year students and parents alike stress about impending interviews. 

  • “Will I make a good impression?”
  • “Will the interview help or hurt my admissions chances?”
  • “Will I have all the answers?”
  • “Will I ask the right questions?”

Here are our tips to not only interview well but to have fun doing it.

1.  Approach the interview as a conversation not a confrontation.  The college interview is a chance for the interviewer (be it an alum, an admissions representative, or a student) to get to know you better and answer any questions you might have about the institution they represent.  They are not crafting questions to try to stump you but rather to better understand you, your interests, strengths, and even weaknesses…all of this is GOOD. 

2.  Know whether the interview is evaluative or informational.  Different schools use the interview in different ways.  For some schools, it is merely a means to answer questions of the applicants, for others it is an integral part of their holistic review.  Knowing how a school uses their interview can be really helpful.

3.  Don’t expect to know all of the questions or have all of the answers.  Every interview is different and they should be. Rather than trying to guess potential questions work to organize your thoughts around certain topics that will surely come up.   Here at Coastal we look at four such topics and help our students organize their brains around them.


Think through such things as your favorite (and maybe even least favorite) class or subject, the type of learner you are and the best learning environment for you, the best assignment you’ve ever had, and your biggest academic struggle.  You also might consider how your teachers might describe you and whether or not your transcript is an accurate description of you as a student (if not, why not).

Extracurricular Activities:

Zero in on the activities or experiences that have been most significant to you (these should also be near the top of your resume and activities sections of different applications).  What have you spent the majority of time doing outside of class: these can be formal and informal activities, they might also be work or volunteer related.  If you’ve not been overly involved, what has prevented you from doing so and how do you plan to change in college?

Family, Morals, Values:

Interviewers will want to know where you come from, how you were raised and what is important to you.  Think about whom in your family you’re most like or who has influenced you the most.  How do you define success, what adjectives best describe you, what current event are you most closely following?

Why Us:

Spend some time really working through why the school you’re interviewing with is the right school for you.  How will you contribute to the school community (what will you get involved in), what has stood out in your research and/or on your visit, how will we help you reach your goals?  You might also consider questions like, do you have an idea of what you might want to major in or what most influenced you to apply to our school?

Having worked through these topics and questions you should be able to answer the question that many of us dread during an interview, “Tell me about yourself.”

4.  Make it personal, questions to ask.  We talk to often about an interviewees opportunity within the interview to make it personal and thus memorable.  Sure, there are stock questions to ask during an interview but it is much better to personalize your questions.  Here are some examples:

  • What did you major in, how did you decided on this major?
  • What was the best class you ever took?
  • Who was your favorite professor?
  • What is your favorite tradition or memory from your time here?
  • What sorts of things were you involved in?
  • Why did you decide to attend (or come to work) at this school?

5.  Most importantly: Be yourself and enjoy yourself!