How Do College Interviews Work?

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we get a commission if you make a purchase through our links, at no cost to you.

Spread the love


The idea of applying to universities and navigating the application process for the first time can be daunting. Consider, for example, university interviews.  Perhaps, you’ve been invited to an interview at a college and are juggling feelings of panic, excitement, and fear all at once. While nervousness is natural, preparing beforehand can help you excel on the big day. Keep reading as we look at how college interviews work.

What to Expect at a College Interview?What to Expect at a College Interview?

An interview is only one part of the admissions procedure, which includes your transcript, essays, extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation, and more. More likely than not, your interview isn’t a factor to make or break your application. In fact, interviews are typically conducted to reinstate that you’re the well-rounded person showcased in your application and is an opportunity for you to let your personality shine through.

They can range from an informal chat with alumni designed to encourage you to select a course or an ‘exam out loud’ (For example: Oxbridge Interview), lasting between an hour to ten minutes. Although not always the case, one person typically conducts the interview.

Additionally, college interviews vary depending on the major you’re applying to study. A math applicant may be asked to solve an equation, while an English student might have to discuss a poem or short story with their interviewer.

Are Interviews Required or Optional?

Are Interviews Required or Optional?

Now the question remains: are college interviews important? Most colleges don’t require interviews, with the exception of Ivy League schools like Columbia, Brown, and Harvard. Ivy League universities use interviews to evaluate the applicant and understand the story behind their essay and application.

Other than these schools, college interviews are typically informational so students can learn more about the institution. To determine whether a university requires an interview, visit their website on their admissions information page. If they haven’t mentioned it, you ask the admissions office whether interview participation is mandatory.

Still, it’s always a good idea to schedule an interview, even if it is optional. Once you figure out how to get a college interview for a specific school and apply, you’ll get the opportunity to demonstrate your interest in the institution and gain more knowledge about a specific program.

5 Common College Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

5 Common College Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

In this section, we’ll delve into common college interview questions and the best way to answer them:

Why Do You Wish to Pursue Your Major?

It’s common to enter an educational program with little idea of what you’ll study. However, you should at least have a plan for your college career if you wish to answer this question successfully. Give honest responses and explain the reason for selecting your major.

Example Answer: I am interested in a medical career because I feel like my generation should be involved in improving the healthcare system and helping the community. I believe we have an equal responsibility to contribute to our nation. Studying Medicine will ensure that I inspire others to participate in our country’s healthcare processes and policies.

This is a good answer because it demonstrates your passion and drive, underlining your integrity and determination to give back to society and make it a better place.

How Would You Describe Yourself to a Stranger?

Here, college interviewers want you to touch on your interests, quirks, and passions so that they can understand you beyond just an application or name. This is where you showcase who you are and what you stand for.

Example Answer: “I am an ambivert who enjoys meeting and working with various, different people on some days and reading a book in a room’s corner on other days. I am known for being a clear communicator and a great listener…”

The example above follows an important interview rule: no oversharing with just the right amount of details. Keep your reply concise and straightforward to demonstrate that you are easygoing with a good work ethic.

Where Do You See Yourself X Years From Now?

Here, you’ll be expected to share your ambitions and goals after graduating. Interviewers are interested in knowing how you’ll apply what you’ve learned at their institution to the real world. Students who have a set plan find this question easy to answer and can elaborate on their interests regarding their field. But fret not! If you’re unsure what you’ll be doing a few years down the line, you can talk about a basic outline of goals by analyzing the relationship between your future and dream school.

Example Answer (Concrete): “I plan on attending graduate school to develop my academic skills. I’ve noticed that most individuals with similar credentials in my major tend to seek higher education before opting for a job, which suits my plan for the next X years.”

An answer like this shows the interviewer that you want to continue your education and prepare accordingly before you jumpstart your career.

Example Answer (Ambiguous): “While I’m unsure what I’ll be doing after X years, I’m certain I want to help people with their problems. In college, I plan on taking economic and sociology classes to help me decide my career path.”

In contrast, this ambiguous answer portrays your uncertainty but makes up for it by depicting your thinking process. An interview will be able to tell you’ve given thought to your future and goals.

What Academic Goals Do You Wish to Achieve in College?

If an interviewer asks you this question, they’re trying to evaluate your academic work ethic and motivation. For this reason, it’s in your best interest to specify long-term or short-term goals in your answer.

Example Answer: “I’m looking forward to increasing my knowledge regarding applied physics and securing top marks in most of my classes by the end of my second semester in college. I believe this will help hone my creative and critical thinking skills.

With this response, not only are you showing your interviewer that you are dedicated to using your skills, but also enchanting them. You want them to see you as a hard worker willing to improve both personally and professionally when necessary.

What Will You Contribute to Our College?

Unlike the other questions, this one requires preparation in advance. Research the college to discover what the student experience entails, what it takes pride in, and whether its departments offer any partnerships or charities.

Example Answer: “I was the president of my high school political science club and was very involved in its activities. As I’ll be majoring in political science, I aim to join the club here and carry out projects that create awareness and make the campus a better, more informed place.”

This reply’s beauty is that it connects a specific high school extracurricular with your interest in recreating it in university. When you shift your goals to college, you relay that you’re serious about being successful and helping improve the institution’s reputation.

How to Prepare for a College Interview: 7 Tips‍

How to Prepare for a College Interview: 7 Tips‍

Let’s consider some college interview tips to ensure that you can tackle college interview questions with the best answers and appear confident in front of the university representative:

  • In addition to responding to the interviewer’s questions, try your best to contribute to the discussion, regardless of the interview’s format.
  • When it comes to sitting down, handshakes, starting to talk, etc., let the interview take the lead.
  • Body language is key to making a good impression, so sit straight, make eye contact, and look interested. Engaging with the interview from the beginning will take you a long way.
  • Pay attention to the interviewer’s questions, and don’t hesitate to ask them if you don’t understand it. You also don’t have to be afraid to take some time before answering- there’s no penalty!
  • Think of some specific college interview questions to ask about the institution because interviewers expect this.
  • Practice, practice, and practice! Sit down with a loved one, college counselor, or teacher and request them to ask you their best college questions.
  • Dress business casual.
  • Send a thank you email.
  • As an interview is a two-way process, make the most of it! Find out as much as you can about your applied major, and the school before you decide whether it’s the right fit for you.

How Long Do College Interviews Last?

How Long Do College Interviews Last?

So, how long are college interviews typically? Most of the conversations run for 30 mins to an hour. If you’ve been told that a lengthy interview is a sign of a good one, this can be true, but it isn’t always the case.

Off-campus interviews are conducted by alumni who are working professionals, and on-campus ones are typically scheduled back-to-back, meaning the interviewer is likely on a strict schedule. Even if you notice them checking the time, it’s not necessary that they think you’re boring or that you said something wrong.

Wrapping Things Up: How Do College Interviews Work?

Now that you know everything about how to get a college interview, you can start to take the steps required to ensure that your interview is carried out without any hiccups. Preparing for the interview beforehand will ensure things go smoothly, and you can practice your answers to the sample questions we’ve provided above, and find more online.

Picture of Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

If you found this helpful, help us out by sharing this post!


Readers of this post also read...

A Guide to Effective Study Group Strategies

A Guide to Effective Study Group Strategies

Perhaps you have exams coming up and you’re considering studying with your friends but aren’t sure how to kick things off. Crafting the ultimate study group involves making sure that the time you spend together...

Read More