Nail the Admissions Interview

Not every school offers admissions interviews, but for those that do, we always encourage our students to take advantage of the chance to meet a school representative through the interview process. Some schools only offer on-campus interviews, in which case you should make sure to schedule your interview to coincide with your official campus visit. Other schools offer both on-campus and regional alumni interviews. In this case, use your judgment; if you already made your official visit but didn’t get to interview, can you make a special visit just to interview, or does it make sense to have an alumni interview instead? While some schools offer all students the chance to register for an Alumni interview, others will only offer interviews to select students. The bottom line here: you should always check each school’s admissions web page or give them a call to find out how interviews are handled.


Admission interviews can often be a source of confusion and stress. Incidentally, very few schools require interviews. If a school does require an interview, it will be clearly identified as part of the application, and you will know about it far in advance. However, the majority of schools make interviews optional, and if you don’t get the opportunity to have one, it won’t hurt your application. However, taking the time to interview may ultimately add to your application. In this highly competitive admissions culture, you want to take advantage of every opportunity to boost your application above the rest and hopefully land yourself in the admitted pile.

OK. Now you have decided to interview… how do you prepare?

Though interviews are a chance for the school to get to know you a little better, they are also an opportunity for you to get to know the school better. Remember: you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.

Here are 5 of the 10 Steps to a Successful Campus Interview from Dr. Joie Jager-Hyman’s book B+ Grades, A+ College Application:

1.     Bring your resume. Bring a resume that showcases your extracurricular activities, academic accomplishments, and interesting hobbies. Your resume should be similar to your Common App activities list & additional info section. Often, the interviewer will use the resume to guide the conversation. This gives you a little control over the interview, and you’ll be prepared for much of what the interviewer will ask about.

2.    Prepare to talk about your favorite subject in high school and what you might want to study at college. Some students will find it easy to rave about their favorite high school classes and enthusiastically elaborate their future plans for lifelong study of a certain subject. Others students may just shrug their shoulders. Ideally, you want to be more like the former than the latter. If you’re more interested in subjects that aren’t usually offered in high school, like philosophy or economics, that’s great; just make sure that you can convey excitement and knowledge about them.

3.    Learn about the college. Any time you have an interview, it’s important to be familiar with the organization you are hoping to join. You may have been to the college website and read some brochures, but so has every other interviewee. Go the extra mile and find the campus newspaper online. Browse the articles, and get a better understanding of the school from the inside.

4.    Be ready to ask your interviewer three questions. Remember, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Often the interviewer will end the interview with “Do you have any questions for me?” Come prepared with three questions to show your curiosity and thoughtfulness. Avoid “brochure” questions like “What is your student-faculty ratio?” This information is readily available to you in numerous locations. Draw upon that insider knowledge you obtained from the campus newspaper to ask a question about something affecting the current student body.

5.    Write a thank-you note on paper. Your interviewer might receive hundreds of emails a day, but only a handful of written notes each week. Show that you are the kind of student who will go the extra mile to make an impression. The note can be simple: mention how you enjoyed meeting the interviewer and include one or two details from your conversation. Don’t forget to include all of your contact information (name, phone number, and email address) just in case he or she wants to keep in touch with you.