The College Interview

In general, the interviewer wants to know . . .

What are you like?

What has influenced you to become the person you are?

Are you a good fit for the college/university?

Interviewers are interested in the answers you give at the interview, as well as the overall personal impression you make.


The interview is not going to “make” or “break” you.

The interview is just one factor out of many the college is going to consider when making its admissions decision.

Be yourself.

There isn’t an ideal UCLA, or Occidental, or University of Santa Clara, etc. candidate.

Sure, students at a particular college may have some characteristics in common.

Beyond those few characteristics, however, students are diverse individuals.

Do not try to fit a particular college’s student “mold” — such “molds” don’t exist!

Be honest.

You don’t need to fabricate experiences or accomplishments.

Let the interviewer get to know you for who you are.

Be confident.

You are an interesting, talented, unique person who has a lot to offer the college!

However, be careful not to come across as over-confident or arrogant.

On the other hand, you don’t want to be too modest, too self-effacing.

Give some thought to how you can state your strengths as skills and abilities that interviewers are looking for.

Question the interviewer.

Don’t forget, you are interviewing the college/the interviewer just as much as he/she is interviewing you.

Use this opportunity to find out about the college and to get a sense of whether or not it would be a good fit for you.

Remember, you are the “customer/consumer.”

Keep in mind . . . you might be able to interview during your visits to college campuses this summer. Inquire about this when you set up your visit!

Tips for your college interviews.

Contact the college’s admissions office to request an interview.

Colleges actively interview throughout the fall.

Admission interviewing usually comes to a halt in January or early February.

However, scholarship interviews may take place up until March.

Before the interview . . .

Read the college’s literature (viewbook, brochures, etc.)

Dress neatly and appropriately.

Arrive a bit early.

If parents come along, they should be introduced and then excuse themselves. Parents should never sit in on your interview!

At the start of the interview . . .

Greet the interviewer with a nice, firm handshake and a smile.

During the interview . . .

Maintain eye contact.

Sit up straight.

Do not chew gum, fidget, play with jewelry/pen/hair/etc.

Don’t give “yes” or “no” or simple, brief answers.

The best interviews are ones which are more of a conversation, a dialogue between you and the interviewer.

Don’t make the interviewer feel as though he/she is pulling teeth!


Before answering a question, feel free to take a few seconds to compose yourself and think about your answer. A few moments of silence are okay.

Resist the temptation to fill the silence gaps with “ums” or “ya’knows.”

If you are asked a difficult or unusual question, it’s okay to say, “That’s a difficult or unusual question. I need to think about that for a second…” or “I didn’t understand that question. Could you please repeat it?”

It’s better to admit to being stumped than to ramble.

Be prepared to discuss your accomplishments/unique characteristics/what you have to offer the college…

Identify two or three things that fit into these categories and that you would like the interviewer to know about.

These might be things that are not readily apparent to those who will read your application.

Be prepared to discuss why these things are important and meaningful to you.

Be confident when speaking about these things.

Be prepared to discuss all facets of your academic record (grades, scores, etc.) — including facets that aren’t so good . . .

Do not be apologetic, embarrassed, or blame anyone else (school/teacher) for any poor past performance(s).

Emphasize that you learned a lesson from the experience(s) and are ready to move on.

Poor academic performances are usually forgiven, as long as you turned them into valuable lessons.

Be prepared to discuss your extracurricular interests, as well as your future plans. . .

If you’re not sure of your major or career choice, that’s okay. Don’t be afraid to admit that.

Be prepared to discuss how you first became interested in the college and why you think it is a good fit for you . . .

Prepare some questions (3 to 5) for the interviewer.

Avoid asking simple, factual questions that are in the school’s literature.

You need to convey enthusiasm and interest in the college, and the best way to do this is to ask good, thoughtful questions.


Remember that while you need to convey enthusiasm for the college, you don’t have to act or say that the college is your fist choice.

Only discuss personal, extenuating circumstances that you are planning to disclose in the college’s application with an admission officer. There is no need to discuss such issues with an alumni interviewer.

You may want to bring along a copy of your resume and an unofficial copy of your transcript.

If you have supplemental materials (slides, art work, an article in the newspaper), you many want to bring them along, too. But don’t over do it. Ask the interviewer if it would be okay to share these materials with him/her.

At the close of the interview . . .

Thank your interviewer with another nice, firm handshake and a smile.

Also, ask him/her for a business card so that you have the correct spelling of the interviewer’s name and address to which you can send a thank you note.

Send a thank you note!