Acing the College Interview

Updated: Nov 30, 2020

As college application season comes to a close, there may be a deciding obstacle that is on your road to acceptance: the college interview. Although the thought of an interviewer might be daunting, don’t worry! Dev Devvrat, an assistant dean of admissions at Reed College, answers commonly asked questions and gives advice so that you can nail your interview! The full webinar is posted on the BeyondDreams YouTube channel, but here are a few tips and tricks summarized by the webinar!

The Purpose of the Interview

According to Devvrat, “The main goal of an interview is to understand who we are welcoming into our community”. Interviewers are looking for prospective students to:

  • Demonstrate interest, which is shown by applying early decision, visiting the college (in person or virtually), and sending emails to your college admissions counselors.

  • Display qualifications

  • Show your personality

  • Fill in any gaps and provide additional context to the application

Think of this as an opportunity to connect with the people reading your application! The interviewer is simply trying to get to know you and how your personality will fit on campus.

The two-way stream of information is what makes a college interview unique compared to other assessment methods. Not only is this an opportunity for the college to get to know you, but you should ask questions as well! This is the chance to understand if this college is the right fit for you after high school. 

What They Are Looking For

The most important information that interviewers are looking for is growth, as it is the bread and butter of an interview. Examples of growth questions they might ask are:

  • What have you learned from your most challenging class at school?

  • What are your academic interests and how have they changed?

  • What are you passionate about outside of school?

  • Are you introverted, extroverted, or somewhere in between?

  • What does success look like to you? How have you handled failure?

Do’s and Don’ts in an Interview


  • Be yourself.

  • Follow up with a letter or email to thank the interviewer and demonstrate your interest.

  • Ask questions!


  • Don’t come off as a resume. The interviewers don’t need you to mention anything that is on your resume unless they get to know you better through it.

  • Don’t create a fake persona. The interviewer is trying to get to know the real you to see if you are a good fit for the college.

  • Don’t be nervous! The interview is meant to just be a casual conversation and not a formal Q&A

  • Don’t feel the need to dress formally. This isn’t a job interview and it is rather informal, so arrive as yourself!

How/When/Where Does an Interview Occur?

On-Campus Interview

Having an on-campus interview has its advantages since you get a chance to explore your potential college as well. Usually a 30-minute session in the Admission Office, the interview is typically led by a current student intern. They are trusted to interview just as an admissions officer would, so no need to stress! This is also a great time for you to ask questions to the student interviewer about student life. They have first-hand experience of the college, and you can use this to understand if this campus is right for you. While summer to winter slots are reserved for high school seniors, the end of winter to spring seasons are usually for juniors interviews. Whether the interview is mandatory or not is dependent on the college, as some colleges will just interview whoever signs up while some may require one for everyone.

Off-Campus Interview

This type of interview is led by an admission counselor or an alumni representative, who travels to various places for interviews. The interview tends to take place at a coffee shop or a public place and lasts for about 30 minutes. Devvrat says to look for a person who is dressed formally and has a name tag. You can also ask the people at the counter if there is someone doing college interviews since they are usually informed of this interview beforehand. The interviewer may offer to buy you coffee, and Devvrat clarified that it is not a trick! It is okay for you to order since it is usually paid for by the college, and you won’t be judged for it. It is also common to see interviews take place in the hotel lobby of the interviewer. In this case, you can ask the person at the front desk and they can direct you to your interviewer.

Virtual Interview

This 30-minute interview usually takes place over Zoom and takes place year-round. This can be led by a college admissions counselor, current student, or even alumni. It is the same as an in-person interview, so there is no need to worry!

During the Interview

The interviewer could start with small talk. Remember that this is just a conversation! Some example questions that could be asked include:

  • Tell me about the toughest class you’ve ever taken and how you handled it.

  • Where do you like to sit in your classrooms and why?

  • Who is your favorite teacher? Why did they make an impression?

  • How do you like to spend your free time?

  • What is it about this college that specifically interests you?

  • In what ways would you like to get involved around campus?

  • Is there anything you would like to tell us that won’t show up on your application?

After the Interview

Congratulations, you have finally finished your interview! The counselor or student worker will hand you a business card and thank you for coming. They may still be writing notes, which is not meant to stress you out! It is just so that they don’t forget details about you. It is extremely important to demonstrate interest by following up with a letter or email to thank the interviewer.