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How to prepare for your college interview

Updated: Oct 16, 2020


Nervous about your upcoming college interview?

We get it - Interviews of all sorts make both parents and students a bit queasy.

There’s the whole power dynamic thing, the anxiety over what to say, what not to say, and, of course, the worry that you'll be rejected. But here’s a secret: your interview will rarely be the ultimate deciding factor in your application.

And while this may sound a bit disheartening, or even cynical at most, it should bring you joy. Because ultimately, the college interview is a golden opportunity for you for 3 reasons:

1. You get a chance to make a human connection.

2. You can explain, in person, any discrepancies (like a grade drop) in your academic history.

3. All they want to do is learn a little bit more about YOU. Well, that's easy!

So before you go all sweaty-palms, or (perhaps worst) bust into your interview wearing yesterday’s bad decisions, we’ve got some general guidelines on how to prepare for your big day.


Tip #1: Prepare

The number one thing you need to do before your college interview is to prepare. I don’t care if you are the next George Clooney: if you walk into that interview without a solid understanding of what the college offers and how you can contribute, you're DOA - no exceptions. So sit down with your laptop and take a deep dive into the university's website because you’re about to stalk their website like it’s your ex’s Facebook page.

We’re talking everything: look at their academics page, their events page, student activities, faculty websites, you name it. If they have a blog (like Brown does), read it! Make a note of anything you find intriguing and identify at least 3 opportunities you would join in. Consider how you might contribute to expanding that opportunity. The goal, of course, is not only to generate a list of leads or talking points but also to convince your interviewer that you:

a) give a damn,

b) will utilize the various resources they offer (no one likes a deadbeat student),

c) will actively promote the expansion of and contribute to college life.


Spend some time preparing by reviewing the college’s: mission statement, majors/schools, events/news, student housing, faculty research, student organizations/athletics, campus culture (and location).


Tip #2: Get Real Insightful

After your intrigues start percolating, you’ll want to utilize these discussion points as mini segues into you. Since the interviewer may or may not have read your application already, make sure to review your admission essays and activities lists. Start pondering those hard-to-answer existential questions like: “What are you searching for in life?” “What do you want out of a college?” And, “If you could only choose one song to play every time you walked into a room for the rest of your life, what would it be?” (Just kidding, that last question was from a google job interview).

Given the high degree of personal reflection and self-awareness about who you are as a person and what makes you tick, we hope that you’ve been contemplating this stuff for a while now. If not, start digging.


Review your application materials and be able to vocalize your deep personal reflections about what motivates you to the world.


Tip #3: Conquer!

Congratulations! If you’ve followed the steps above, you’re well-prepared for your interview. Now take a deep breath, make sure to dress nicely (no tux, but not jeans and a t-shirt either), be polite but confident (not arrogant), and don’t use slang. Remember to be honest in your answers, and, most important of all, be YOURSELF. If you're nervous and get tongue-tied, say so! The interviewer will understand, they are human after all.

Also, remember to send a thank-you note to the interviewer. That’s just good manners.

If you want more reflection points and exact things to research, check out our pdf worksheet here. For questions and strategies that the college interviewer may ask, check out our other blog post “The Top 5 Questions that College Interviewers Ask."


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