What to Know About the College Interview

Learn how interviews can help students assert their voice and share their passions, and what the two biggest obstacles to interviews are - schools' varying policies and urban legends about trick questions.
Student Interviewing with a College Administrator

The popular view in the 17th century was that the Earth was stationary and that the sun revolved around the earth. Through his research and calculations, Galileo knew better and suggested such in writing. Fearing he would be put to death if he did not comply, Galileo, when called before the Inquisition, recanted his belief that the Earth revolved around the Sun. But, legend has it that after renouncing what he knew to be true, he muttered underneath his breath, "E pur si muove!"

And yet it [the Earth] moves.

So what's the point of this slightly hyperbolic story?

Well, the point is this—we all have a voice. We all have passion. We all have something to say. And sometimes, our voice gets stifled. In the college application process, students sometimes feel as if their voice isn't being heard. But that doesn't have to be the case.

Taking advantage of the admissions interview, when offered, is a wonderful opportunity for students to develop and assert their voice and share their interests and passions. It's also a great place to learn more about how a college might fit their desired criteria.

But there are two main obstacles that keep many students from having interviews as part of the college application process:

Obstacle #1: Every school has a different policy

    • Some schools offer interviews
    • Many schools do not
    • Some schools only offer alumni interviews
    • Some schools only offer informational interviews
    • Some schools will contact you for an interview
    • Some schools require you to live a certain distance away to qualify for an interview
    • Some schools require you to apply to a specific academic program to have an interview

This is an obstacle that, while frustrating, is quite easily overcome. Every school that offers interviews goes to great lengths to communicate their policy to prospective applicants. If you visit a school's admissions website, in 60 seconds or less you can find out whether they offer interviews, and if they do, how you go about obtaining an interview and the deadline to interview.

Obstacle #2: Urban legend about trick questions

This is what you find if you type into Google, "college admissions interview questions." You'll find all these questions that no student would ever be asked:

    • If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?
    • How many jelly beans can you fit into a 2-gallon jug?
    • What three historical figures (alive or dead) would you like to have dinner with?

An admissions interview isn't a contest or a quiz.  It is a conversation.

Students aren't asked any questions to which they don't already know the answer because the questions are about them. And not just about them (because I guess that ridiculous tree question is technically about them), but about the topics they talk about every single day. The questions are about their friends and their family, their high school and their hometown, their clubs and their classes, and their hopes, dreams, and questions about college. The college interview is literally the dialogue students are having every single day with their best friends, their families, and themselves.

So if you're a student applying to college this year, scan the website of each college on your list to find out their interview opportunities and protocol. And then, once you schedule your interviews, go on with your life. When each interview occurs, you'll have an engaging and fun conversation all about you. No obstacles. No trick questions. Good luck!