Although it is relatively rare that an admission interview is required, many colleges recommend that you take the opportunity to have a face-to-face discussion with a member of the admission staff. Not sure if this applies? Read through the application materials to determine whether or not your college places great emphasis on the interview. If they strongly recommend that you have one, it may work against you to forego it.

While your application essay or letter of recommendation provides written insight into your personality and goals, the interview is a chance for both you and the college to get a sense of the other party firsthand.

The benefit of a college interview

The personal interview is both a further evaluation of your skills and strengths and an information session. You’ll meet with a member of the admission staff, who will assess your personal qualities, high school preparation, and capacity to contribute to life at the school.

On average, these meetings last about 45 minutes — a relatively short amount of time in which to gather information and leave the desired impression. Here are some suggestions on how to make the most of it.

Scheduling your visit

Students usually visit campuses in the summer or fall of senior year. Both times have their advantages. A summer visit allows for a less hectic visit and college interview. Visiting in the fall, on the other hand, provides the opportunity to see what campus life is like in full swing. (If possible, it’s a great idea to check out campuses during both seasons.)

Always make an appointment and avoid scheduling more than two college interviews on any given day. Multiple interviews in a single day hinder your chances of making a good impression, and your memories of the colleges will blur as you make your way from campus to campus.

Be prepared

You should spend some time getting ready for the admission interview. Read the college catalog and get familiar with the basics about the college before your interview. You will be better prepared to ask questions and will have a better understanding of what the college has to offer.

You should also spend some time thinking about your strengths and weaknesses and, in particular, what you are looking for in a college education. You will find that as you get a few interviews under your belt, they will get easier.

Here are some questions you may be asked in your interview:

  • What courses have been most difficult for you?
  • How would you describe your high school?
  • If you could change one thing about your high school, what would it be?
  • What do you do in your spare time?
  • What do you want to know about our activities?
  • Have you worked up to your potential?
  • What other colleges are you considering?
  • What do you expect to be doing seven years from now?
  • Have you ever thought of not going to college? What would you do?

Ask questions at your college interview

Inevitably, your interviewer will ask you, “Do you have any questions?” Not having one may suggest that you’re unprepared or, even worse, not interested. The questions that you ask will give the interviewer some insight into your personality and priorities. Avoid asking questions that can be answered in the college literature or questions about your standing in the process, such as what they thought of your essay or letters of recommendation.

Although the interviewer will undoubtedly pose questions, don’t think of the interview merely as a question-and-answer session. Ideally, a well-prepared question will lead to an informative and interesting conversation — one that will allow you to learn more about the school.

Here are some questions that you may want to ask during your personal interview:

  • How do you treat AP scores? Is there a limit on the number of credits you will give?
  • How do you match roommates?
  • What new offerings are there in my major? Is there an opportunity for me to design my own major?
  • Are there any new buildings being planned?
  • How does student advisement work?
  • What is your system for course selection?

Be yourself

In the end, the most important thing is to relax and be yourself. Just as you want a college letter of recommendation or personal statement to present an accurate picture of your characteristics and abilities, you want the college to get a true sense of who you are during the interview.

Don’t drink jitters-producing caffeinated beverages prior to the interview, and suppress nervous fidgets like leg-wagging, finger-drumming, or bracelet-jangling. Also, give yourself a break. Your interviewer will expect you to be somewhat nervous, which will relieve some of the pressure.

Consider this an opportunity to put forth your best effort and to enhance everything that the college knows about you up to this point.