written by
Kaitlin Liston

How to Prepare for Your College Interview

Admissions Tips 8 min read

Can you answer these 10 common college interview questions?

Christina | Unsplash

It’s that time of year again: colleges across the country are beginning their interview process for prospective applicants. While we cannot be sure how the college interview processes for all schools will change due to COVID-19, it may become more accessible for students to get an interview if the entire process is moved online.

Even if you’re not planning on interviewing, these ten college interview questions are a great way to start thinking about how you want to craft your narrative in your college applications as a whole.

This informational essay was written by Kaitlin Liston, UC Berkeley ‘18. If you want to get help writing your UCB application essays from Kaitlin or other Bullseye Admissions advisors, register with Bullseye today.

1. Tell me about yourself.

This is hands down the most popular question asked during college interviews. It is a good idea to get comfortable with a 2-4 sentence statement (although this should not be memorized word for word) that succinctly sums up how you want to present yourself.

Are you a sister, son, cousin, leader, student, a rising senior, athlete, activist, artist, mentor? What are your passions, hobbies, interests, dreams, and background? What makes you unique?

Stockholm man with headphones
Yingchou Han | Unsplash

2. Why do you want to go to our school?

Other versions of this interview question: What kind of school would you like to go to? What are you looking for in a college? Why are you a good fit for our university?

When you answer this question, don’t just think about what you like about the school, but how your skills and interests will make you a good fit on their campus. This is where your college research comes in to play! Talk about specific programs, professors, clubs, communities, etc. that stood out to you and that you would be interested in joining. Why would you be a good fit for these?

This is also a good time to bring up characteristics of that school’s learning environment like location, class sizes, mentorship and tutoring programs, and campus resources that made you want to apply in the first place.

3. Why do you want to major in ____?

The interviewer may follow up by asking what classes and programs you participated in in high school that relate to your major. They may also ask about any areas of study that are weaknesses.

If you know what you want to major in, make sure to look into the college’s classes, programs, research opportunities, and professors for that department. Keep a mental note of what stands out to you or what you might think make that program a good fit.

Don’t forget to mention how your planned path of study intersects with your passions and academic strengths. Maybe there were certain classes or programs in high school that you loved, or maybe you’ve already had the opportunity to intern or work in a field that interests you.

If you are undecided, this will not count against you—you’re one of many applicants who feel this way. Speak honestly about why you’re undecided, and share a few departments that you intend to explore once you get to campus. If you have a few career paths you’re interested in, share them; if not, elaborate on what subjects you enjoyed in high school or any personal passions you plan to pursue. The most important thing for undecided applicants is to establish that you have concrete intentions and goals to pursue academically, even if you don’t have it all planned out.

College band.
Rojan Maharjan | Unsplash

4. How will you make a difference on campus?

Other versions: How are you going to show up in our community? What will you pursue on campus? What will you contribute to our campus and community?

All of these versions are asking the same thing: Who will you be on their campus?

This is another great time to share the research you have done on the school! What clubs, organizations, programs, societies, etc. are you interested in joining? If you do join, how would you like to make an impact on the campus and the community? If there are certain causes you care deeply about or, even better, have already been involved in, share them.

5. What is one thing you would change about your current community and/or your high school? What is something that makes it great?

Interviewers ask this question because they want to see your critical thinking skills and how you perceive the world around you. This is also a chance to share an obstacle that hindered you at school, and how you would change this so that other students do not face the same barrier in the future. While it is important to be honest, this is not a place to rag on your high school and any issues there. Present what you would change in an analytical way and share how you believe they can fix it.

Your answer should also demonstrate what will continue to be important to you when you go on to college. This will help the interviewer determine if you are indeed a good fit for campus.

This trip was interesting because my sleeping arrangement didn’t workout, so for a week I slept on a random dorm mattress, and used my camera bag as a pillow.
Ryan Jacobson | Unsplash

6. Who is your role model?

Other versions: If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be? Whom do you most admire? If we had a speaker on campus, who would you invite?

This question is used to gauge who you look up to and why. This helps the interviewer understand who understands your motivations on a personal level. Your answer can be a family member, a mentor, a friend, a teacher, an author, an artist, an athlete, a politician... it can be anyone, really, as long as you speak sincerely. It does not need to be someone that the interviewer definitely knows, it does not need to be someone famous. Make sure you have reasons and examples for why you admire them or their work.

7. What is your favorite book?

Other versions: Who is your favorite author? Is there anything you have read that changed the way you think? What have you read recently?

This question is another way for the interviewer to understand what you are interested in and to have a conversation about what you like. This can be a book you read for fun and loved. It can be the first book you ever liked reading or a book that made you think about the world differently. It can be a book that someone important gave to you or read with you. Don’t feel pressured if your favorite book does not seem academic enough. There is no right answer here; the interviewer’s goal is to learn more about you as a person.

If you are not an avid reader, think about the books who have had to read for your classes. It does not have to be a book that you read on your own. Did any stories from your English class stand out? Did any of them make you understand a certain situation differently or start an important discussion in class? Were there any books you enjoyed?

book girl
Eliabe Costa | Unsplash

8. What do you like to do in your free time?

Other versions: What do you like to do for fun? Do you have any hobbies?

Don’t think too hard about this question! Your college interview is truly a conversation to get to know you. Colleges are taking a holistic approach and want to know what you like to do outside of academics. So, share what you like to do in your free time honestly. If you do love to code or write books, that’s great, but your answer doesn’t like to be an academic hobby. This is simply a way for you to demonstrate your other activities and interests that make you a well-rounded applicant.

9. Give me an example of a time you showed leadership skills.

Another version: Give me an example of a time when you had to go against the grain.

With this question, the interviewer is giving you a chance to share how you lead. Share the experience as succinctly as you can, because the point is not about what happened but how you handled it and why. This is a good question to spend some time with before your interview. Consider how you chose to lead or intervene, what any outcomes from your leadership were, and what you learned from the experience.

Your example can come directly from a leadership position you have held as team captain or club president, but you don’t have to be in official position to show your leadership.

Jeffrey F Lin | Unsplash

10. Can you share a time that you overcame an obstacle and how you overcame it?

This popular interview question is a chance to show your maturity, perseverance, and strength. The interviewer is interested to see how you react to unseen difficulties. This is another question it would be wise to consider beforehand. Make a mental list of your personal qualities or skills that help you grow and move forward when things are hard. If you are comfortable sharing some personal information, this may also be a good opportunity for you to briefly explain any serious barriers you faced to get to where you are now.

Office meeting
Charles Deluvio | Unsplash

Bonus question: Do you have any questions for me?

One last tip when preparing for a college interview: do not forget to ask the interviewer some questions! This is another question where your research is key. When you look a school’s campus environment, greek life, or academic programs, be sure to note a few genuine questions you have about life at that school. Remember, you’re making a four-year commitment to go here; in a way, you also get to interview the school.

If you’re participating in an alumni interview and you know who will interview you beforehand, look them up on LinkedIn and Google to see if you have any common interests. They may also have participated in experiences at the college you are genuinely curious about.

If your interview is with a member of the admissions faculty, there are still so many great questions you can ask. Two questions that work well are “what is your biggest piece of advice for incoming students?” and “what do you love most about your school?”

Good luck!

Stephanie Hau | Unsplash

This informational essay was written by Kaitlin Liston, UC Berkeley ‘18. If you want to get help writing your UCB application essays from Kaitlin or other Bullseye Admissions advisors, register with Bullseye today.

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