As part of the college application process, you may have to go through several interviews, either in person or on the phone. While the prospect of a college interview can feel intimidating, there’s no need to fret if you prepare answers to the most common college interview questions and practice ahead of time. Take a look at these top college interview questions and the answer strategies that can help you ace your interview.
What Will You Contribute to Our Community Here?
It’s time to get specific when you hear any variation on this question. If you’ve been singing since you were 4, mention that you hope to join one of the campus a cappella groups. If you’re a legacy to your dad’s fraternity, talk about how you’re looking forward to rush week. Whatever you’re interested in, whether it’s student government, the marching band, the peer counseling program, or the ballroom dancing team, now’s the time to show your enthusiasm.
If You Could Do One Thing Differently in High School, What Would It Be?
Watch out when you hear any version of this question, because there’s quicksand lurking behind it. Don’t fall into the trap of bad-mouthing your teachers or school (“I would never have taken AP History from Mr. Morton!”), and don’t let this question tempt you to start voicing deep regrets. Instead, use this question to point to the future (“I started Spanish in middle school because my counselors recommended it, but my love for animation makes me wish I’d taken Japanese”), or direct the interviewer subtly back to a realization of how much you actually accomplished in high school (“I would have asked for a time-turner so I could join the yearbook staff as well as the campus newspaper.”).
How Did You Spend Your Summer?
This feels like a softball question, the kind an interviewer might use to break the ice. And it is indeed an easy one to answer, as long as you don’t slip up with something like, “I played tons of video games.” Talk about your summer job that let you save for college, your camp experience that deepened your sports or performance skills, or travel that broadened the way you look at the world.
What’s Your Greatest Weakness?
Get a good answer ready for this question, because you’ll be answering it in every job interview you have for the rest of your life. Interviewers are wise to the technique of presenting a strength as if it’s a weakness (“I’m such a perfectionist that I can’t turn anything in until it’s perfect”), so don’t try to pull it off. But avoid presenting a weakness that could derail your entire college experience (“I wait till the last minute to get started on my work”). Look for a mild weakness (hitting the snooze button, for instance) and elaborate on it.
Who’s Your Hero/Role Model/Historical Figure You Admire Most?
Don’t scrape up an answer like “Abraham Lincoln” just because you know this question will be asked. And don’t fall back on your parents for the “hero” question (unless they have a truly unusual story). Find a lesser-known historical figure for this answer, and don’t forget that you can draw role models from fiction as well (“As an aspiring attorney, I admire Atticus Finch because…”).
What Do You Want to Major In?
If you don’t know yet, it’s okay to say so, but at least mention some of the possibilities you’re considering so you don’t come across as someone with no goals. The interviewer is asking this question to understand what you’re passionate about, so respond accordingly: Talk about your passions, not about the great paycheck you hope to receive after graduation.
What Makes You Unique?
The interviewer is trying to get to know you with this question, while also checking to see how self-aware you are. Try to phrase your answer in the form of a story. Maybe you’re the first in your family to go to college, or maybe you have an unusual hobby or interest you can talk about. To try to find the right story for this question, think about the times you felt the most proud or the situation in which you feel most like yourself.
What’s Your Favorite Book/Movie/TV Show?
Again, the interviewer is trying to find common ground so you can have a conversation. If you truly have a favorite, be prepared to discuss it with passion and to explain why you care so much about it. Otherwise, think through your faves and pick one that shows off a unique side of your personality to make you stand out from the applicant crowd.
If You Had a Thousand Dollars to Give Away, What Would You Do With It?
Here the interviewer is trying to learn how connected you are to the world around you and what motivates you. If you’ve done community service for a local cause you care about, now’s the time to talk about why you think it’s important. If you spend time raising money or awareness for global causes like stopping human trafficking or building water wells, talk about that.
Does Your High School Record Reflect You Accurately?
If you had a rough patch in high school, maybe a semester or year where your grades plummeted, this is your opportunity to explain any extenuating circumstances. Be careful, though, not to come across as a blamer, and take responsibility for your own mistakes.
Why Are You Interested in Our University or College?
This is one of the key questions you’ll be asked, so be prepared. And yes, you need a different answer for each school, an answer that shows your genuine interest in the unique offerings of that particular college. Don’t look greedy by saying you admire the starting salaries of the college’s alums, and don’t trot out a vague “It seems like a strong school.” If you’re being interviewed by your no. 1 choice, say so, with all the enthusiasm you feel inside.
What Do You Do for Fun?
“Chilling with my friends” and “playing video games” are not appropriate answers to this one. Whether you like to coach Little League, write poetry, or soak up applause in community theater, you want to find an answer that paints you as a well-rounded, productive, and interesting person.
What Do You Do Best?
Yes, you’re allowed to brag a bit when answering this question, and you don’t have to be your high school’s starting quarterback or editor-in-chief of the student newspaper to get it right. Maybe you bake an astounding cheesecake, or you’re the one person who can calm everyone’s nerves backstage before a big show. Whatever it is, the interviewer is now looking for something that they won’t find in your application packet.
How Did You Overcome a Significant Obstacle?
Here’s the secret to answering this question: You want to focus on the “overcome” part rather than the “obstacle” part. Maybe you indeed have a compelling story to tell, you beat back a significant illness or recovered after a terrible accident, but the real point of the question is learning about your persistence, your attitude, and your learning curve.
Tell Me About Yourself.
We saved it for last, even though you’re likely to hear this question first. Use this moment to make yourself interesting by talking about your passions and interests. Don’t feel constrained by your application, but start filling in the information that doesn’t appear on it. This is your chance to talk about what inspires you and what your ultimate goals are. Don’t be intimidated by this college interview question, or by anything in the interview, but have fun with it.