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Intel on the Interview: Common Questions to Practice

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If you’ve ever lain awake at night wondering about your college interviews, there’s good news: Most admissions interviews rely on a standard body of questions, and it’s no secret what they are.

Just knowing what questions you might be asked is helpful, of course, but it’s also a very good idea to practice answering them in a mock interview. Ask your guidance counselor, a parent, or even a friend to play the role of the admissions officer. Don’t worry about flubbing your answers on the first go—that’s why you’re practicing! Just take a deep, slow breath, and start again.

When you respond to questions, don’t get too hung up on providing the perfect answer. Consider it more of an invitation into a topic area. Try to imagine you’re the interviewer. What answers would you like to hear? Why would they impress you? This is your opportunity to make a positive impression that can serve to balance out any weaknesses on your transcript. Any experienced admissions officer has a well-honed B.S. detector, so keep it honest.

Ready? Here goes:

Why are you interested in this school? and Why do you think you would be a good fit for this school? Be ready to answer these questions with a few specific examples of how your interests and abilities dovetail with the school’s culture and offerings.

What can you tell me about yourself? This question is your opportunity to showcase any admissions-worthy skills or interests that might not otherwise come up. If you confess that you’re a voracious reader and read when you’re supposed to be watching your brother’s basketball game, and that you’re excited about college because of all the reading, you’ll get your interviewer’s attention. Be honest and be ready to back up your statements with supporting evidence.

What do you like to do in your free time? Hint: be honest, but not too honest when answering this one. Nobody is going to be impressed to hear that you spend 20 hours a week of quality time with your Xbox.

What would you like to know about us? If you do have a question, make sure it’s something that isn’t on the front page of the website or otherwise easily available in the literature. Something along the lines of “how does the reputation of your philosophy department compare with the reputation of your religious studies department?” is a better pick.

Where do you see yourself 10 (or 20) years from now? The point of this question is not to find out whether you have a detailed plan, but to show that you think about the future. It’s okay to say “I’m not sure,” but don’t just leave it there—suggest a couple possibilities of things you think you might do based on your current interests and activities. If you can relate those musings to opportunities you hope to get through college, all the better.

Why do you want to go to college? Don’t say “to get a degree” or “to get a job” or “to make money”. Of course you want these things; everyone does. Why else do you want to go to college? What excites you about learning?

Keep in mind that even though you’re extremely likely to be asked many (or most) or the questions on this list, you’re also likely to be asked a few questions unique to the school or to your individual application. Reread your application and review the basic college literature before heading to the interview. You might want to bone up on current events before your interview, too—if you can talk intelligently about a story you read in the newspaper that morning, you’ll be sure to make a positive impression. Good luck!

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Elisabeth Bailey+

Elisabeth Bailey is a freelance writer and editor with particular interests in academics, food,and sustainability . She is also the author of A Taste of the Maritimes: Local, Seasonal Recipes the Whole Year Round and writes regularly for Canadian Farmers’ Almanac and the National Wildlife Federation. Elisabeth and her family live and enjoy great local food in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.


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