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How to Ace College Interviews

Most schools interview students once they’ve applied, and chances are that you will be one of them. This is the first time many people have had an interview of this nature, so I thought I’d provide a few tips that’ll help ease the process.

Don’t be nervous

College interviews are usually very casual and low stress. The nature of the interview depends on your prospective major/school, but the overarching goal of the interview is for the interviewer to decide if you’re a good fit for the school, and for you to learn more about the school from someone who lived it! Approaching this with a relaxed mindset is the best way to set yourself up for a great interview.

What do I wear?

It really doesn’t matter. Interviewers aren’t there to judge you on your appearance or what you’re wearing, they’re there to learn about you. Don’t feel the need to dress up, anything you’re comfortable in works. If you’re still confused, smart casual is the way to go.

Do I need to prepare?

College interviews aren’t really something to spend hours preparing for, but make sure you know the basics and can talk about yourself and your interests. Think of why you want to go to the school. What do you hope to learn from it? Why do you think this school is a good fit for you? Interviewers hear “I love the culture” and “I want to meet interesting people” all the time but that’s applicable for any school, so really spend some time thinking of why you’ve applied to this school, and what you want to gain from it.

For example, when I was asked, “Why Penn?” by my interviewer, I spoke about the specific clubs and organizations that attracted me, the courses and professors I wanted to learn from, and other miscellaneous things that are truly unique to the school (location, traditions etc.). This shows the interviewer that you know about the school you’re applying to and would utilize the resources provided. This also helps them remember you and vouch for you amongst a sea of applicants.

TLDR: do your research, think about what you’d gain from attending the school, and talk about your past experiences that would make attending this school a more unique and fulfilling experience than any other university.

What will they ask me? What should I ask them?

Chances are it will be very casual. Expect to talk about your achievements in school, any projects you’ve worked on, why you want to study the major you’ve applied for and why the school you’re applying to is the best for you.

More important is asking them interesting and genuine questions about their experience at the school and what they’ve done with their time. For example, don’t ask them “is there a consulting club on campus”, you can find that on the school’s website. Instead, say “I saw on your LinkedIn profile that you were a part of the Wharton Management Club – what were the best experiences and lessons you learnt from the club? Did it help you realize what you wanted to pursue once you left college?”

Asking for advice is always good and asking about specific details you’re interested in or things you two have in common is a safe bet as well. Try to listen and learn a lot, this is a great opportunity to learn things about colleges that you may not find through internet searches.

General advice

Make sure they know what kind of person you are and what your achievements/interests are. They don’t have access to your application, so this is a chance for you to showcase yourself on a blank slate and impress them.

Once you’re done with the interview, thank them for their time and write them a thank you note a day or so after the interview. This will help them remember you and leave a good mark in their books.

Try not to be shy (this can be difficult if you’re on the quieter side like me) and learn from the experience. Most importantly: if you feel like you mess up in the middle or don’t know what to say, don’t panic. Interviewers know you might be nervous and want to help you, so take some time to simplify your thoughts and continue the conversation.

Good luck!

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