Top 10 Common College Interview Questions - And How to Answer Them

What Are Some General Tips Before Diving In to Questions?

Top 10 Common College Interview Questions - And How to Answer Them​
  • Be your genuine self: the most important item of all, no reading answers off of a word document, do not try to be a comedian for the first time if you are not usually making jokes, and discuss the topics you are truly passionate about in life.
  • Keep answers to between 1-3 minutes long maximum: droning on is a sign of nervousness, and loses the interviewers interest after a while. Practice giving answers that address the question directly without a lot of fluff in the middle
  • Always have 1-2 questions prepared at the end of each interview: this demonstrates interest and curiosity about the program, and ideally they are questions you would not find on their webpage, but rather will help you determine if the program is actually a good fit for you
  • Avoid red flag answers: even when asked about weaknesses, times of conflict, make sure to have answers prepared that briefly address the question and then move on to what you have learned from there and how you have improved. Avoid overly dramatic answers that result in ‘I reported someone to the review board for this behavior’, or ‘this resulted in a dismissal from the program’, as this will stick negatively in reviewers minds when it comes time to rank applicants (even if it was not your fault).
  • A note on virtual interviews: make sure to have adequate lighting, a quiet space, and good internet connectivity. A bonus for a nice space is to usually have a plant or painting in the background.

Introduction Qustions

  1. Tell me a little bit about yourself” → Almost always the first question in many interviews, have a 1-2 minute answer that discusses where you come from and includes a few hobbies. Avoid overly long answers that go into detail about your work experiences, qualifications, etc”
  2. What are your hobbies/what do you like to do in your spare time” → mention the active things you do with your day such as sports, exercise, social events, music or instruments, etc. Avoid only saying staying at home and watching Netflix, they are looking for people who will be active and social members of the program to build culture at that institution
  3. What do you feel are your greatest strengths as an applicant” → avoid simply listing a number of traits. The best answers usually include a story that exhibits those traits you are trying to display. For instance, you can discuss a time volunteering in a health clinic where patients had a significant lack of resources, and you put in extra effort to communicate with their family, social work colleagues, and additional support staff to ensure they had transportation to regularly attend appointments and get their medications. This displays your that you are caring and thoughtful , and an effective communicator, without simply saying it outright.
  4. “What do you believe you can contribute to this program” – Instead of listing all of your qualifications from your resume, pick a project or something you have started that you are most passionate about. Take 2-3 minutes to describe why this motivates you, how you led the project, and why you want to keep doing it going forward. Colleges are not simply looking for well-rounded individuals, they are looking for individuals who have an exceptional passion and talent for certain topics in order to create a well-rounded class of students to learn from one another.

Common College Questions:

Top 10 Common College Interview Questions - And How to Answer Them​

5.What are you looking for out of a college experience?” Strong academics, research and volunteer opportunities (cite previous research or volunteer activities you have done that you would like to continue there) are great choices. Beyond the obvious, it is important to consider going to a place where you feel you belong, can contribute to, and that challenges you both to intellectually grow and evolve as a person.

6. “Why would you want to go to our university specifically?” Be specific and do your research beforehand. Making broad statements such as ‘the academics are fantastic’ is not going to cut it as a great answer. Make sure that you have 2-3 things that are program-specific (‘I love that your global health program offers opportunities to serve , ‘I saw that this professor has conducted____ research in the past few years and this is the kind of work I wish to get involved in’).

7. “What do you believe you can contribute to our university?” –> highlight any research, volunteer experiences, or personal/academic interests that you would like to continue to pursue during college. If you have started programs or been in leadership during school, highlight this and say that you would love to contribute to leading something like this at their program in the future.

Weaknesses/Tough questions:

8. “What are the areas you think you would most like to improve in” (another form of the “what are your greatest weaknesses as an applicant question” –> pick something real that is relatable, however not a red flag or disqualifying. A good example is ‘Sometimes I take my work home with me and it stays with me for a couple of days when there has been a negative event. I have worked on finding health ways to de-stress such as exercise and social events with friends that have really helped me in this realm’. A bad example is ‘I keep my colleagues accountable, and sometimes this has led to many conflicts’ (programs and universities are trying to avoid students who will make big splashes and cause trouble between colleagues’.

9. “What is a conflict that you have had with a friend or colleague, and how did you go about addressing it” Here is it imperative to avoid splashy and dramatic stories that will stick negatively in reviewers minds. Avoid bringing up stories where someone was reported to the board at school, they were fired, etc, even if you are not the person at fault. The most successful strategies are to pick an incident where there was a lack of communication (i.e. we did not communicate effectively for ______, and as a result ______). Once explaining the lapse in communication, discuss how you learned to communicate more effectively. This shows you are a quick learner and address mistakes

10. “Are there any gaps or breaks during your training that you would like to address”  If there are no gaps, easy answer is to say no. If there are large gaps, pick a single major reason for why they occurred (avoid over-explaining with multiple reasons), and then quickly move on to why that period has made you stronger as an applicant in terms of finding coping mechanisms, therapy, health ways to deal with stress, or has given you the opportunity to bring a new perspective that has been invaluable for the future.

Frequently asked questions

How important is the personal statement for college applications?

Since universities can receive thousands of applications, and many of these applicants all have average or above average GPA and standardized test scores, the personal statement is an important differentiator that lets the admissions committee know who you are as a person and what you can uniquely contribute to their institution.

How important are secondary essays for college applications?

Many admissions experts agree that the secondary essays for specific colleges are even more important than the personal essay in the common application. The reason for this is that the college in question has specifically posed these essay questions because they believe that they reveal a more telling story regarding their applicants. Since this determines who they will then want to accept at their institution, it is important not to rush through the secondary essays and make the best effort possible in standing out in your essay.

Should I go through multiple drafts of my college essays?

Absolutely. You should have multiple people review your essays for grammar and spelling errors, transition quality, and overall message. The most polished essays that are application-ready have usually been through at least 2 or 3 revisions prior to submission.

What is the most common interview format for college?

The most common format for college interviews is one-on-one or panel interviews (two or more interviewers with one applicant). It is important to prepare and practice answers to the most common college interview questions.

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