College Interviews

Some colleges recommend interviews, however, very few actually require them.  As college applications increase and college admissions offices’ resources are stretched, the general emphasis on college interviews has decreased somewhat during the past few years.  However, at some liberal arts colleges, personal interviews may be viewed as important indications of a student’s true interest in the school.  You should inquire about the interviewing policy of each school of interest.

How Do You Set Up an Interview?

Most interviews are conducted by alumni of the college.  These alumni live all over the country or internationally, so they are able to meet with most students at their high schools or at a nearby coffee shop.  You should always meet in a public area, and do not go to an interviewer’s private home.

Most selective schools, typically those with required interviews, often want the applicant to request an interview a few weeks earlier than the application deadline. MIT and Wellesley, for instance, set interview request deadlines in mid-October for students planning to apply early action and in mid-December for students applying regular decision.

In order to receive information about scheduling an interview, the student needs to submit their application before the interview can take place.  A representative from the college will either email the applicant with the contact information of the local alum, or the alum may phone or email you directly.   The student will set up a time and place that works for both the alum and student.

Interview Policies of Ivy League Schools

For every Ivy school but Cornell, evaluative interviews are a required part of the application process. Cornell makes sure to emphasize that its interviews are informational rather than evaluative and are optional except for applicants seeking admission to their Architecture program and the School of Hotel Administration.

Interview Policies for Some Selective Colleges

Bates – recommended Rice University – recommended
Carnegie Mellon – recommended Stanford – optional
Duke University – recommended Swarthmore College – recommended
Emory – recommended Tufts University – optional
Georgetown University – required University of Chicago-recommended
Hamilton College – recommended Vassar College -- optional
Johns Hopkins University – optional Wake Forest -- recommended
Middlebury College – recommended MIT – strongly recommended
Northwestern – recommended Pomona – recommended
Washington University in St. Louis – optional  

Sample Questions from College Admissions Interviews

  1. How do you like University School? What has been the most positive experience you have had in high school?
  2. What is your role in the school community?
  3. Tell me about a particular class assignment in which you found yourself most stimulated intellectually?
  4. What is the most significant contribution you have made to your school?
  5. What are you looking for in a college?
  6. What are some of your goals – personal or career – for the future?
  7. What are you planning to major in and why?
  8. Why are you considering this college?
  9. Describe someone you admire and why?
  10. What has been your favorite subject in high school?
  11. What books or authors have made a lasting impression on your way of thinking?
  12. How have you spent your summers?
  13. Describe something that you have really become indignant about over the past few years?
  14. How do you spend your free time?

Interview Tips

  • Read all available material on the college in advance and do not ask questions that are answered within the material.
  • Be prepared to comment on particular programs that combine your talents and interests and have five questions ready to ask the interviewer.
  • Give thoughtful answers and do not worry about moments of silence as you collect your thoughts.
  • Dress in business attire (ladies: pants, sweater, blouse, skirt, shoes, young men: slacks, button down shirt, shoes: no jeans/flip-flops)
  • Be honest and do not be afraid to admit you do not know something; simply steer the conversation back to subjects you know.
  • Be aware of current events, and give your opinion freely, but back it up with reasons. There are no wrong answers as the interviewer wants to see how students think on their feet and how they formulate an argument. 
  • Remember the interviewer’s name.  If the interviewer is an admissions officer at the college, address all future correspondence to that person.
  • Write a thank-you note to the interviewer (not an email)
  • Please be sure to make eye contact throughout the interview.