College Alumni Interview do’s (and a few don’ts)

college admissions interview prep

First, the do’s:

1. Be on time and look professional.

Log into the Zoom link early and wait. Be sure your “Zoom shirt” is appropriate.

2. Be prepared.


Be sure you have taken the virtual tour before your interview and have a sense of the school. Be sure you have a grasp of the major facets of the academic and co-curricular program - (for example: don’t say you want to major in Arabic at a school that lacks a program in that discipline, or that you want to join a sorority at a school without Greek Life).

3. Be ready to answer this important question: “Why is X College on your list?”


A related question is: “What about College X is a good fit for your interests?" Be sure that your response is specific and detailed. Your response should not just be why you want to go to college in general, what you love about the city where the college is located, or a sense that the campus tour was pretty…be prepared to go deeper!

4. Before the interview, consider how you might respond to some common “interview questions."


These questions include:

  • What books, magazines, websites, blogs, etc have you read recently and enjoyed?
  • Of the activities you are involved in, what says the most about your personality?
  • What teacher/academic course has had the greatest influence on you? Why?
  • What do you love/wish you could change about your high school?
  • How would your family/best friend describe you?

5. Have at least one question prepared that gives an insight into your interests and motivations, something that might give a glimpse of what your life might be like on their campus. 


An example might look like this: "I have been very interested in issues of sustainability at my high school, particularly working with faculty and our dining services to reduce our food waste. Could you tell me more about the ways that student voices are incorporated into sustainability initiatives on this campus? Could you tell me more about the different types of career or graduate school opportunities recent graduates have had in this field?" 

And, a few don’ts:

1. Don’t be terse, short, or overly brief in your answers. 


Interviewers can sense disinterest quickly. Make eye contact and elaborate on your responses.

2. Don’t get involved in a conversation where you lecture on your political or religious views. 


You can never presume the beliefs of another individual, so stay in neutral territory.

3. Don’t just spend the time listing your accomplishments.


As you talk about your accomplishments, make sure you are also being attentive and responding to the questions that are posed.

4. And finally, you do not have to answer these two college-related questions:


  • Where else are you applying?
    • Say: “I’m still torn between many good options.” Or “I have not quite decided yet.”
  • Which school is your first choice?
    • Unless the answer is “this school where I am right now having this interview” say: “I have so many great choices I cannot decide right now” or “It changes every day." Do not tell every school where you interview that they are your first choice.

Elise holds a BA in Political Philosophy from Williams College and an MEd in Administration & Social Policy from Harvard. She has spent the past twenty years working in top-tier independent schools.


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