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College Interviews: Do's and Don'ts

Updated: Feb 22

This article was originally written and published by Rose Wong in 2020.

In the college application process, the interview allows schools to get to know you through an actual human being who has a connection with the university. The interviewer is typically part of the alumni; if you get the rare opportunity to do an interview on campus, you may meet with an admissions officer.

Truth be told, interviews count for a small portion of the overall application. At the end of the day, it’s a review submitted by a third party after meeting you for 30 minutes, so it makes sense that it doesn’t matter nearly as much as your essays, transcript or recommendation letters. With that being said, don’t blow it. A mediocre review may not affect an overall stellar application, but a scathing one would.

Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind when you head in for your interview:


Show how much you want to be at the school

This may be your only college interview or your 18th. Regardless, when you’re sitting across from the alum, you need to show that among the list of schools to which you are applying, this one is special. That’s where you want to be next year, and you know exactly why.

Do your research and be prepared to talk about aspects of the school that you are particularly excited about. And say the actual words: “[College] is my top choice.” The alum is listening for this, so make it clear that you want to be part of their alma mater.

Present a unique side of yourself

The alum likely has multiple interviews lined up for the day, camping out at one coffee table as high school seniors come and go. Don’t let your interview be the one they vaguely remember when it’s time to write her review for the school, and they have to search through your profile for something to say.

Show what makes you unique. It could be a robotics project that supports mothers in wheelchairs or a summer that you spent in Ecuador interviewing people for an oral history. It could be anything, but bring your passion, which is what leaves an impression.


Of course, you want to be natural and conversational. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have to practice, practice, practice. College interview questions are not things that you get asked every day, so it’s important to think about your answer beforehand and ensure that you can thoughtfully articulate it when the time comes. Why do you think you are a good fit for our school? If you could have an extra hour in the day, how would you spend it?


Wear jeans

“Business casual” is the move. Trade in the jeans and sneakers for a nice collared shirt, khakis or slacks. Girls should consider a nice blouse with dress pants, or a dress fit for a professional setting.