Common College Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

Hands of an interviewer and candidate
July 11, 2022
Common Questions Asked During College InterviewsFAQs About Common College Interview Questions

”Rohan

Reviewed by:

Rohan Jotwani

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/4/22

Need some advice on how to ace your college interview? This guide is for you. Here we will help you by listing the most common college interview questions and how to answer them.

Just like you seek the best schools to add to your dream list, colleges also look for the best candidates to fill their seats. 

College interviews are a crucial part of the admissions process, not only for yourself but also for the school. Preparing for college interviews can help reduce anxiety and allow you to enjoy the experience. An interview does not have to be scary; if you come prepared, it can be fun and boost your confidence, along with your chances of being accepted.

Here we will discuss the top 10 common college interview questions and the best possible answers to help you prepare.

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Common Questions Asked During College Interviews

Here is a list of the most common questions asked in college interviews. We’ll analyze each question and offer an example of how you can approach your response. 

1. How Would You Describe Yourself to Someone Who Did Not Know You?

This question asks you to talk about your passion, interests, and quirks. It requires you to demonstrate that you are more than just a name on an application. Use this question to showcase who you are as a person.

Example Answer: "I am a people person. I enjoy meeting and working with a lot of different people, and I am known for being a great listener and clear communicator..."

Why we like it: It has the right amount of details and doesn’t overshare. The answer is clear and concise, showing the interviewer that you have a good work ethic and are easygoing.

2. What Do You Expect to Be Doing X Years From Now?

This question asks you to share your ambitions after graduating. The interviewer wants to know how you will use what you learned in their institution in the real world. There is a good chance that you might not know exactly what you will be doing years after graduation. However, even a basic outline of goals is an acceptable answer.

If You Know What You Want To Do

If you already have a set plan, this question should be easy to answer. Nonetheless, you should elaborate further; explain why you want to pursue the career path you chose. What interested you about the field? What do you hope to accomplish?

Example Answer:I am eager to continue developing my academic skills in graduate school. I have noticed that many graduates with my credentials tend to seek higher education before entering the job field, which interests me with my X-year plan.”

Why we like it: It tells the interviewer that you are interested in continuing your education and show you want to prepare before jumpstarting your career.

If You Don’t Know What You Want To Do

The interviewer doesn’t expect you to know exactly what you will be doing years from now.  When facing this question, it is important to show that you have put some thought into your response, analyzing the relationship between your dream school and your future.

Example Answer: I am not sure what I will be doing X years from now, but what I do want to do is help people with their problems. Once in college, I plan to take sociology and psychology classes to get a good idea of my career options.

Why we like it: This answer displays your uncertainty, but it also depicts your way of thinking. It shows that you’ve taken time to think about your future and are able to create a broad idea of your career paths.

3. Why Are You Interested in Pursuing Your Major?

Some college students go into their educational programs with little idea of what they will study. This question permits you to show you have at least a plan during your college career. It would help if you answered with honesty and explained the reason for choosing your major. 

Example Answer: "I am interested in a career in political science because I feel like my generation should be involved with the development of our nation. I also feel that my generation has an equal responsibility to contribute to our nation and I hope by studying political science that I can inspire more young people to take part in our country's governmental processes."

Why We Like It: Your knowledge about the major you are pursuing demonstrates that you have drive and passion. It also showcases your integrity in giving back to the world and making it a better place.

4. What Skills Do You Expect to Develop Throughout Your Program?

This question assesses your ability to self-reflect, identify your weaknesses and discuss how you plan to improve them. Your answer should include one or two primary skills you want to work on.

Example Answer: "In high school, my research writing wasn't as strong as I would have liked, and I continue to build my skills in this area. I took some writing workshops and hired a tutor to help me. After figuring out which methods I was most comfortable with, I was able to improve my research writing skills dramatically. I hope that through my educational program I can further develop this skill to become an efficient researcher and writer."

Why We Like It: You talk about an academic skill that was not up to par during your high school years. It is a skill that is essential for excelling in college, and you wish to work on it in order to get top grades during your program. You took the initiative to work on the issue and were able to remedy it. It shows you are willing to improve on your weaknesses.

5. Do You Plan to Continue Your Education?

This is a more direct version of question #2. It is acceptable to say you are not sure if you want to continue your education. What’s most important is that you demonstrate that you have put some thought into your future and that you answer honestly. 

Example Answer: "I can see myself pursuing a higher degree after undergraduate school, though I do not quite know yet if that is something I want to do. I feel like I will have a better idea of my higher education goals after attending my program for a while."

Why We Like It: Though you note that you are not 100% sure if you want to pursue a graduate degree, this response demonstrates that you have started thinking about your future. It shows critical thinking and honesty.

6. What Career Fields Interest You?

This question assesses your interests and evaluates the programs you would best qualify for. You can narrow down your interests to two or three careers related to your major.

Example Answer: "I honestly don't know what I will be doing after graduation, but I know I would love to pursue a career in law, legislation or another political field."

Why We Like It: You are being honest that you do not know what you specifically want to do but have solid ideas of what you would like to get into with your major.

7. Tell Me About an Academic Challenge You Faced. What Did You Do to Overcome It?

There is no such thing as a challenge-free school experience. This question asks you to show that you have the honesty and bravery to admit you went through a tough time and the lessons you may have learned from it.

Example Answer: "Like many students, I suffer from test anxiety. My academic performance outside of exams was typically top-notch, but my nerves were hard to overcome when it came to tests. Luckily, I discovered an approach that worked for me. Studying continuously in small doses made me more confident in my knowledge and made the material easier to absorb. I also joined study groups for subjects I found more challenging, giving me an additional resource and source of confidence. This allowed me to avoid cramming, which would often amp up my anxiety.

Additionally, I learned a breathing technique that I can use for the exam. It is subtle and straightforward, allowing me to calm my nerves and regain my focus whenever the need arises. Together with the studying techniques, I can perform at my best during tests, ensuring I can showcase my understanding of a subject with greater ease."

Why We Like It: You offered an issue that plagues most students but came up with a unique solution that worked for you. You went step by step on approaching the issue through trial and error until you found the best possible way to fix it. You have shown that you had a weakness and were not afraid to ask for help. 

8. What Are Some Academic Goals You Hope to Accomplish in College?

This question requires you to evaluate your motivation and work ethic in your education. Share any specific goals you have in your answer, whether short-term or long-term.

Example Answer: "I would love to increase my knowledge of applied mathematics and earn top scores in my political science classes by the end of my first year in college. I feel that by accomplishing these goals, I can further develop my critical and creative thinking."

Why We Like It: You are talking about utilizing your skills in a particular subject to achieve a set goal in a reasonable time frame. Your response tells the interviewer that you are dedicated to putting your skills to good work as well as trying to enhance the skills. This tells them that you are a hard worker who believes there is always room for improvement. 

9. How Will You Contribute to Our University?

This type of question may need a bit of preparation in advance. You should research the college you applied to, learn about the student experience, what they find pride in, and maybe any charities or partnerships their departments may have. 

You have to take time and personalize your answer. Do not just say, "I will be a good student and earn good grades." It would be best if you explained the specific ways you plan to contribute to your prospective university. Talk about a quality of yours that helps you stand out from other applicants, then maybe back it up by talking about a past accomplishment or anecdote.

Example Answer:I was very involved with my high school political science club. Since I will be majoring in political science, I hope to join the club here, too, so I can continue developing my skills in that subject."

Why We Like It: What makes this answer work is that you are connecting something unique you did in high school and expressing your interest in recreating it in college. Being able to shift your goals to college shows you wish to continue your success and would be great in helping the college's reputation. If you were good at being a treasurer, you could use those skills as the treasurer of the new club. If you were able to schedule special events, you could use your event planning skills for this club as well. It’s all about adjusting to the new environment and transferring your skills to facilitate it.

FAQs About Common College Interview Questions

Still, have some more questions about college interview questions? That is normal. Here are some common FAQs that address some students' main issues.

1. Should I Ask Questions in the Interview? If Yes, What Kind of Questions?

Yes, it is a good thing to ask questions after the interview. It shows you are willing to know more about the college you wish to attend, and asking a good question would impress the interviewer. Some questions you can ask are:

2. What Other Tips Should I Know Before Preparing for a College Interview?

In order to have the best opportunity to make a lasting impression in your interviews, you can prepare by doing background research on your dream college, dressing well for the interview, being punctual, and learning to relax before entering in

3. Are There Any Ways to Handle Nervousness?

Interview anxiety is a genuine problem for most interviewees. It is okay to feel this way. You can try deep breathing exercises, meditation, taking breaks, and having a good night's sleep before the day of. Some resources offer more relaxation tips.

4. Can I Use the Same Answers for Each College I Get Interviewed At?

Yes, you can. You most likely have the same educational goals for each college, so repeating answers to the same questions would be satisfactory. You can also tailor each answer for each different program you apply for.

5. What if I Am Caught off Guard by a Question Not on the List?

This can happen, but do not panic. College admissions officers would expect you to be caught off guard and allow you some time to think of an answer. You can always ask for clarification on the question, ask to come back to it, or you can even add some humor and admit that the question caught you off guard.

6. Are There Any Workshops or Resources to Help Me Prepare for College Interviews?

There is a good chance your school can offer workshops on preparing for college interviews. However, there are also online resources such as youtube videos or college blogs that offer tips and reenactments of dos and don'ts of college interviews.

7. How Do I Reschedule a College Interview?

If something has come up and you have to reschedule, you can contact the person you were supposed to be interviewed by. Just make sure that you cancel promptly and reschedule to a date that best fits both of you.

Final Thoughts

Getting into college is a big step in your life. It is good that you are adamant about getting into college and working on your career and academic goals. College interviews are another milestone that you have to work towards to get accepted into your dream college, and with all the advice given, you can excel to the best of your ability.

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