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If you've started thinking about your college interview, you're probably focusing on what kinds of questions they're going to ask you and how you should answer those questions. And that's a good thing to think about! But a good interview, especially with a college admissions officer or college alumnus, is a conversation, not an interrogation.
That means that, just as you should be prepared to answer any questions that your interviewer might ask you, you should also prepare questions to ask your interviewer. You should be ready to ask these questions throughout and (especially) toward the end of the interview.
The role of the interview in the application process is for the interviewer to get to know you and see if you would be a good fit for the school. Asking interview questions makes you seem curious rather than defensive, engaged rather than reluctant.
So, with that in mind: what types of questions should you ask?
A college interview is a conversation with either a representative from a college admissions office or a graduate of the university in question. The former is often called an on-campus interview because it takes place on campus, usually in the admissions office. The latter is often referred to as an off-campus or alumni interview, for similarly obvious reasons.
It's important to know which kind of interview you'll be participating in, because your questions should be different based on your interviewer. For instance, an admissions representative will know more about specific programs and new initiatives at the university, while alumni may be more able to speak about their personal experiences.
The interview process differs by institution. At some schools, you'll be able to sign up during the application process or immediately after you apply. For others, especially in the Ivy League, the schools will contact you after you apply to arrange a time. Other schools don't offer interviews at all due to the high volume of applications they receive.
Whatever the situation, interviewing is a great way to signal your sincere interest in a university, make a good impression, and learn more about the campus.
Asking questions in an interview will show your interviewer that you're engaged in the process and that you've done your homework about the school that he or she represents. Asking good interview questions will also make the interview more friendly and collegial and increase the chances that you'll talk about stuff that genuinely interests you.
Here are some sample questions to get you started:
This is a good question for an alumni interview because it'll help you find common ground on academics. Try to ask follow-up questions based on what you've learned already about the area, and be prepared to answer questions about your area of academic interest.
This question can also provide a good jumping-off point for either an alum or an admissions representative because it will steer the question toward whatever your interviewer most wants to talk about. From there, you can follow up with more specific questions.
In other words, what's special about your school? Your interviewer's answer to this question can tell you a lot about what this college thinks makes it special, which is something you can ask more about – and something that's worth including in your college essays!
Where possible, it's always good to talk about academics because that's primarily how your college application will be reviewed. So, finding out more about what classroom life is like at this college can help you pivot toward your own academic strengths in high school.
Similarly, learning about what campus life is like outside the classroom can also help you bring in your current extracurricular activities. If your interviewer is an alum, it's also a good way to ask more specific questions about what his or her own college experience was like.
It's also important to signal to your interviewer that you're interested in getting involved in the wider community around campus, so asking about ways that students work, volunteer, or otherwise get off campus can also be advantageous.
Colleges love to hear that high school students have already begun to think about what kinds of research they might get involved with on campus, so it's great to ask about research in your admissions interview. Be ready to talk about what kind of project you might undertake!
While you certainly don't want to signal that you need academic help, it's fine to ask about things like first-year orientations or what support exists for students to conduct research, find internships, choose a major, and select their courses.
Here, too, avoid questions that can be answered on the college website (see below), but it's fine to ask about career services, the alumni network, and internship opportunities.
In addition to preparing good interview questions, you should also be aware of the types of questions to avoid at all costs in your interview. Just as a good question can show your high level of engagement and curiosity, a bad question can inadvertently suggest that you're unprepared, immature, or otherwise not a good fit for this school.
This purpose of this interview is for the school to get to know you and you to get to know the school. Do not ask questions about what to include in your college application or how to improve your chances of admission.
Similarly, this isn't the time to ask about financial aid, merit scholarships, or student loans. Those all take place through a separate process from admissions and are something you can take up with the financial aid office instead.
This is a common type of question that drives college interviewers crazy. If your question is something that can be answered through a quick Google search or directly on the college's website, don't ask about it! Don't ask about the size of the student body, the location of the campus, the school's available majors, and so on.
In general, anything you ask should not have a quick answer. Again, the purpose of asking questions is to further the conversation, so avoid purely factual questions.
Asking about extracurricular activities and campus life is fine, but you also don't want to focus too much on non-academic matters. It's crucial that you present yourself as a serious high school student who is ready for rigorous higher education, not someone who is mainly interested in parties and sports.
If you find yourself sliding into talking only about non-academic subjects, pivot back into academics by asking your interviewer about his or her courses, major, or research.
Lastly, be sure all your questions are directly relevant to the school for which you're interviewing. For instance, don't ask about the engineering or business major if this school doesn't have one. It's essential that you do your research ahead of time so that you're confident you're asking the best questions of your interviewer.
Even more so than a traditional job interview, learning about the university is a crucial part of a college interview. Yes, you will be evaluated during the interview; colleges want to admit high school students who will be good matches for their campus. However, many interviews happen at a point in the college admissions process before you actually apply, so colleges still want to get your application and therefore want to answer any questions you have.
Your interview is a time to reflect on your high school experiences, learn about different colleges, and have a friendly conversation. So long as you adequately prepare and go in feeling confident and upbeat, you'll be sure to have a great college interview experience.