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College Admissions: Typical College Interview Questions

Wednesday, November 05, 2014


Photo credit: iStock

Interviews may or may not be part of your college admission process. Some schools (especially large public universities) do not offer interviews. Some colleges offer optional interviews. These might be evaluative (they count as one factor in the admission decision) or informational (they do not count towards admission and are a way for you to learn more about the school). Some schools offer interviews on or off campus with admissions representatives. Some schools only offer alumni interviews. Some schools will let you interview during junior or senior year and other schools only grant interviews once your application has been submitted. Some schools offer a phone or Skype interview. Some schools have mandatory interviews. 

As you can tell, colleges have different philosophies about interviews. Once you have a list of colleges that interest you, go directly to the colleges’ websites to determine whether or not interviews are an option. If you decide that an interview will be advantageous, follow the school’s instructions about how to arrange it.

Here is a list of fairly typical questions you might be asked by a college admissions representative or an alumni interviewer:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Tell me about your family.
  • What are your strengths and talents? What are your weaknesses?
  • Are there accomplishments you are particularly proud of, and why?
  • In what areas would you like to improve?
  • What do you like best and the least about high school?
  • Which courses have challenged you the most and why?
  • How do you respond to academic demands and pressure?
  • What has been your most stimulating intellectual experience?
  • What teacher has had the biggest influence on you?
  • What has been your most challenging leadership experience?
  • What has been your biggest disappointment in high school?
  • What is your favorite activity outside of school?
  • What activities do you plan to continue in college and why?
  • Which authors, books or articles have had a profound impact on you?
  • What issues concern you?
  • What do you want out of college?
  • Why are you interested in this college? (Tip: Use the school-specific research (link to my column from the week of 10/27) you did to answer this question.)
  • What do you plan to major in and why? (Tip: It is fine to say you are multi-interested and want to explore at college before committing to a major if you are unsure about your course of study.)
  • What do you want out of life?
  • If you could take a year off, what would you do and why?
  • Tell me about your work experience and community service experience.
  • How would your friends describe you?
  • What are you doing this (or did you do last) summer?
  • What other colleges are you considering?
  • What person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? What would you discuss?
  • Describe the most difficult situation you’ve been in. How did you handle it?
  • How do you spend a typical day after school?
  • Have you ever thought about not going to college? What would you do instead?
  • On a day without any obligations, what would you do?
  • What’s the biggest ethical dilemma you have faced? How did you resolve it?
  • If you had a million dollars and wanted to donate it to our school, what would you earmark it for?
  • What questions do you have for me? (Tip: Have questions prepared in advance.)


When it is your turn to ask questions of the interviewer, be prepared. Don’t ask questions that you could easily find the answer to on the school website. You want to let your interviewer know you have been a diligent researcher and are thoughtful about why X college is a good match for you. Here are some questions that tend to work well:

  • What did you like best about your college experience at X school?
  • What’s the “don’t miss” class/professor/event/tradition at X school?
  • If you could change one thing about X school, what would it be?
  • How would you describe the students that seem to thrive at X school?
  • What’s one piece of college advice you want to share with me?


Come back to GoLocalPDX next week for additional interview tips and guidance about the difference between in-person and Skype interviews.

Jodi Walder is the founder of Portland, Oregon-based College Admission Coach LLC, which helps students identify and gain admission to right-fit schools where they will thrive academically and personally. Contact her at [email protected].

Banner Photo Credit: iStock 


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