With increasing competition, admissions into top colleges are becoming more rigorous and stratified. Interviews are important benchmarks to determine if the candidate is an ideal match for the institute. In many places, they are also referred to as ‘personality tests’, which sums up their essential purpose in the selection procedure of a college or other organization.
A Short Introduction to College Interviews
College interviews are a part of holistic admissions and usually accompany written tests or group discussions. They are usually the last stage of a selection process and carry a lot of weightage in the selection matrix. They help the college know if you are consciously going for the course and institution you have applied for or if there is an element of confusion or personality flaw that might render you incapable of keeping up with the demands of the course.
Why Are College Interviews Important?
College interviews are important because they give you a glimpse into what will be expected of you throughout the course you have applied. They are as much for the college to understand your appropriateness as it’s for you to understand the vision and expectations of the college at a more personal level.
Sometimes you are with other aspirants like yourself during the waiting period for hours before your interview. In that case, the college interview can be a starting point for the network and friend circle you will be a part of during college and perhaps even after that.
College Interview Questions and Answers
1. Tell us about yourself.
This is the classic first question but still the most confusing. A good trick to remember is Present-Past-Future. Speak a few lines about your current role/ course and how that broadens your scope for what you are applying for.
Then say a few lines from your experiences in the past that are directly linked with what you have applied for. Then connect this with your future aspirations and how the course you are going for will help you reach them. The key is to keep the college course you have applied for at the center of your answer.
It will cut the clutter and help the interview board to really see the ‘you’ that is useful for them. For example, if you’re applying to a B-school while pursuing a job at a tech company, you would tell the interviewer about your current role and what characteristics in your personality led you to the conclusion that an MBA would help you in that role.
Then give some facts from your past life as ‘evidence’ for the aforementioned personality traits. Then explain your future aspirations as that ‘person’ (whose picture you have painted till now) and how you hope that MBA will help you manifest them.
2. Why this college/major?
The easiest way to go about this question is to speak the truth. Hopefully, you would have done some research before choosing the college/major for which you are giving the interview. Delineate the conclusions of that research for your interviewer to see. Speak about what you discovered about the excellency and public image of the course/college and the range of opportunities it provides while putting in some reasons specific to you as a person and fit in most accurately in your vision for your own life.
3. Where do you see yourself in the next ten years?
In all honesty, such questions are so trite at this point that an interviewer will ask you only to test your ability to deal with trite questions and not a genuine interest in your life story. An unconventional suggestion is to let your imagination fly. No one will come to check if you indeed fulfilled each of the aspirations you listed, but giving imaginative responses tells the board that you are open-minded, optimistic and creative, which are attractive traits to have when you are as young as college aspirants usually are. Additionally, consider putting in some points on what you would want to do as an alumnus of the college ten years from now to strengthen its network and social capital.
4. What are some areas of development that you need to work upon?
‘Areas of development’ is the newest socially correct term for ‘weakness’, and reasonably so, since no ‘weakness’ is permanent enough to be called out as such in an interview. There are two pieces of advice to remember here. Firstly, use your words wisely.
So, if you feel your inability to manage your sleep schedule is a note-worthy area of development, then don’t say, ‘I sleep a lot’, or ‘I make it late to appointments because I was binging FRIENDS the night before’. Instead, say that you have trouble sticking to important self-care routines for effective working hours.
The second piece of advice is to contextualize your area of development, which typically includes describing an episode that made you realize that what you mention is indeed a significant area of development and another where you made progress on that area of development.
5. Which is the last book you read?
The books you read tell a lot about your mind and the thoughts that you engage with outside the professional realm. If books are not your forte, feel free to divert the interviewer’s attention to the last documentary or the last YouTube lecture series you watched. The goal is to stick to the topic. So, if you are applying for a Science course, you wouldn’t get excellent points if the last book you have read is the Twilight Saga. You have to show the interviewer that you think about the things that are the concern of the college or the course outside the closed walls of the interview too, and explain how the last book you read broadened your understanding of that.
6. If you had to describe your role within your family/friend circle, how would you describe it?
Consider this answer to be a prototype for all personality-related questions. Start with a precise answer (for example, I bring groundedness to my friend group) and substantiate it with real-life experiences and anecdotes where you displayed that specific quality. As stated, do this for all such questions; the key is providing actual real-life episodes continuously to base your understanding of yourself in reality and not delusions that you imbibed from the media.
7. How are you planning on spending your summer?
This and other such questions help the interviewer gauge the extent of your personality beyond the competition of college interviews and admissions. Of course, do include the possible internships or professional commitments that you are looking to engage in, but also mention other hobbies/duties that you will be giving your time to. Consider personalizing your answer by noting that taking consistent vacations mean a lot to you and your family and it is one commitment you are devoted to.
8. If you had to change one thing about your experience in high school, what would it be?
The questions involving high school experience might be the most offsetting for some people because most of us haven’t processed our experiences in high school enough to use them to answer interview questions at the college level in such a short period. Our recommendation is to make a list of experiences that were the most important and impactful for you from an academic perspective and use them according to the need of the question.
For example, an experience that you would have earmarked could be your role in organizing a business analytics competition, and as you are asked the above question, you can say what you could have done differently by making it more inclusive in terms of the range of case studies that were rolled out to the participants. Writing a list of experiences beforehand that you will elaborate on according to the question prevents you from giving vague and emotional answers about your high school experience that might be more appropriate for a therapist’s office.
Things to Keep in Mind During Your College Interview
- Be Confident and Truthful: Beyond any advice on the Internet, only you can think about what is worth marketing to the outside world in you as a person.
- Substantiate your responses with facts: Avoid giving your answers in very abstract terms. Always provide concrete evidence and anecdotes from your experience verifying your opinion of yourself. Speaking generally about your personality and character is too self-obsessed and delusional.
- Make friends: Try to interact with people who have given the interview before you, either through the Internet or at the interview venue. If possible, do some research on who the interview board members are.
- Keep your subject knowledge intact: There is no substitute for excellence. A good grasp of academic concepts that will form the basis for the course you’re applying for will make up for any minor flaws that you might have in your ability to present yourself as a person. It boosts your confidence, which automatically translates to better responses to non-academic questions.
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Be confident, greet with a smile and know yourself. Consider opting for mock interviews to ‘test’ yourself before the big day. They will relieve you of the stress of encountering the probable questions for the first time. All the best!
Questions Our Learners Also Asked
1. What questions are asked in an interview for college?
Here are the 10 most common questions asked in an interview for college:
- How would you describe yourself to someone who did not know you?
- What do you expect to be doing ten years from now?
- What are some of your strengths and weaknesses?
- How would you contribute to our college community?
- What subject in high school did you find most challenging?
- Why do you want to attend this college?
- Who do you most admire?
- What is your favorite book and why?
- How have you been a leader or displayed leadership?
- Name one challenge that you have overcome?
2. How do I prepare for a college interview?
You can’t always be prepared for every situation that may arise but there are some general things that you can prepare for. Here are a few things you can do to prepare for a college interview:
- Consider the type of interview you can expect?
- Check out different types of questions that are usually asked
- Reach out to a few students or alumni to see what type of questions they were asked during their interview
- Re-read your personal statement
- Re-read your personal essay that you’ve submitted
- Make a list of highlights to show why you would be a great asset to the school
- Know your subject and a general major that you plan on taking
- Dress appropriately
3. How do you stand out in college interviews?
Here are some tips to help you stand out in college interviews:
- Practice mock interviews with friends and family members
- Ensure you have a tentative outline of your answers
- Dress appropriately
- Do your research about the college, highlight past alumni that you admire
- Make sure to have an idea of your major
- Reach before time
- Highlight your accomplishments in life and how the school can help you grow further
4. What should you not say in a college interview?
Here are a few things that you should not say in a college interview:
- Do not mention personal hobbies that aren’t relevant to the school
- While you should highlight your accomplishment, do not be arrogant about it
- Do not talk casually about why you are joining this college
- Do not talk negatively about any other college or even your school
- Do not mention any personal habits like drinking and drug use
5. How do you end an interview?
You should thank the interviewer for their time, shake their hands and ask them to reach out to you if they have any additional questions or information that they wish to clarify. It is important to keep the conversation simple.
6. How can I impress the interviewer?
Be passionate about learning and any particular hobbies that you might love that is relevant to your field of study. Tell them stories related to your field or why you are interested in the particular major you are considering. Instead of going with the same old standard answers, try to offer answers that can leave a lasting impression on the interviewer. You should also be tentative, ask questions and offer interesting tidbits about yourself.