Top 25 College Interview Questions (Example Answers Included)

By Mike Simpson

Ah, college interview questions. For many aspiring college students, the idea of participating in a college interview is, in a word, terrifying. Like a job interview, this meeting may determine whether you get into your first-choice school. Cue the anxiety, right? Well, that may not be necessary.

First, yes, it’s true that not all colleges conduct interviews, especially at the undergraduate level. However, they are standard practice at others, particularly with highly competitive programs.

Boston University – which only admits about 23 percent of applicants – has undergraduate interviews for at least some of its programs. Harvard – which has an acceptance rate of just 4.9 percent – actually has an alumni interviewer process, where prospective students speak with a Harvard alum, which catches some applicants off guard.

Now, does that mean you should panic? Hardly. Instead, you need to prepare. So, if you want to make sure you rock your college interview questions, here’s what you need to know to pull it off.

How to Answer College Interview Questions

Alright, before we dig into example college interview questions, let’s take a quick step back and talk strategy. With the right approach, you increase your odds of excelling during your interview. Not only will you be able to nail the questions we’ll be covering in a minute, but you’ll be equipped to navigate the unexpected.

Why does that matter? Because there is no way to know exactly what you’ll be asked. Sure, most college interviews are going to have some classic questions, so you can see those coming from a mile away. The thing is, there’s also going to be some doozies that weren’t on your radar. It’s inevitable.

With the right strategy, you know how to approach your answer. You’ll have a tried-and-true methodology by your side, allowing you to think faster on your feet. When it comes to standing out for all of the right reasons, that’s really the ticket.

So, if you want to create a great strategy, it’s helpful to know what the college interviewer wants to see. In many cases, the admissions committee is looking for evidence that you could excel at the school. They want to see drive, passion, and enthusiasm for both the college itself and the program. They also want to know that you can overcome challenges, have the right tools to keep your education on target, like organization and communication skills.

There’s also a good chance that they’ll want to discuss various aspects of your college application, your accomplishments, and your goals. This helps them see you as a full person, making it easier for them to decide if you’ll be a great addition to the school.

Before your interview, spend a little time reviewing your application, including your essays. This refreshes your memory about what the admissions committee already knows about you.

Additionally, look at the school website and program page. Look for mission and values statements, review any quotes they share, and look for clues about the college’s and program’s priorities. By doing that, you can align your answers with their preferences, making you a stronger match.

After that, you need to prepare for the kinds of questions you’ll face. Straightforward questions – like “Do you have experience with X?” – are pretty simple. You say “yes” or “no,” and then follow it up with either an example that shows you do or an overview of how you would acquire a skill or learn about a topic if you don’t. Easy, right?

Now, there are trickier questions to handle, namely, behavioral interview questions. We’ve talked about behavioral interview questions in-depth before, but here’s the gist. These are questions open-ended questions that are commonly scenario-based. You’ll have to explain how you’d tackled a particular scenario or discuss an example of how you’ve put your skills to work in the past to handle something similar.

So, what approach should you use to manage behavioral interview questions? Glad you asked. First, begin with a heaping helping of the STAR Method. With that, you are using a storytelling approach that makes crafting a relevant and compelling answer easier.

Next, mix in a couple of spoonfuls of Tailoring Method. With the Tailoring Method, you really focus on customizing your response in a way that speaks directly to what the interview or admission committee values.

Mix those two techniques together thoroughly, and you have a recipe for success.

MIKE'S TIP: In some cases, college interviews are optional. You may be thinking, “If I don’t have to participate, why should I put myself on the line like that?” Because it gives you a chance to seize an opportunity. Not only does saying yes to the interview show that you’re really enthusiastic about the school, but it creates an opportunity for the school to get to know you beyond what’s in your application. You’ll have a chance to stand out, something you may not get if you say no to the interview invitation.

Top 3 College Interview Questions

Alright, you’ve got a great strategy for handling college interview questions. So, what comes next? Well, reviewing a few examples, of course.

By looking at sample college interview questions, you can learn more about how to put the STAR Method and Tailoring Method to work. It gives you a chance to see them in action, and that makes a difference.

So, without any further ado, here are the top three college interview questions and example answers.

1. Why do you want to attend this college?

College interviewers ask this question because they want to know that your interest in this school is real. Essentially, they want to see that you applied here for a good reason, not just because it was convenient, you thought getting in would be easy, or because your parents or guidance counselor said to.

Here, you want to mix a little bit of flattery with some solid knowledge about what this school brings to the table. The interviewer wants to know that you’re excited about more than furthering your education; namely, this specific college.

Exactly how you need to go about answering will depend on the school and why you choose to apply. However, the technique you’ll use stays the same.

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“I wanted to not only attend a school with an outstanding reputation in my chosen program, but also a larger institution that values diversity in its staff and student body. During my childhood, I had the opportunity to live in many other countries since my father was in the military. We got to explore each of the cultures, and I learned the value of being exposed to new perspectives and ways of thinking. I believe that diversity enriches the academic experience, and I know that is a value this college and I share.”

2. Why did you choose this program/major?

Here’s another question that’s all about gauging your interest and passion. Interviewers don’t want to hear that you chose a program or major as an afterthought; they want to learn about a solid reason why you’re heading in this direction.

Ideally, you want to touch on a driving force, something that really sparked your interest in the field. Additionally, tie it into a future aspiration, such as your target career or professional field and why it’s your goal to get there.

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“My interest in engineering actually came up in childhood. I was enamored with the giant roller coasters I saw when my family went to Six Flags, especially the steel coasters with all of the twists, turns, and loops. I began exploring the designs, initially with toys like K’nex and Erector sets. The more I built, the more my passion grew. I began exploring skyrise construction, bridge building, and other engineering marvels. It wasn’t long before I knew that is where I wanted to take my career, allowing me to one day be a part of a construction wonder that captivated me as a child.”

3. Tell me about an academic challenge you faced. What did you do to overcome it?

No school experience is without the occasional challenge. Maybe there was a subject that was particularly tough for you, or you had to change schools several times, making your school years a bit disjointed. Maybe you have test anxiety.

The trick with this question is honesty but also showing that you’ve got some fortitude. After all, if you’re answering college interview questions, that means you graduated high school or earned a GED, so you obviously found a way to navigate the situation. Mention the difficulty, but spend more time talking about how you discovered a way to succeed.

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“Like many students, I suffer from test anxiety. My academic performance outside of exams was typically top-notch, but when it came to tests, my nerves were hard to overcome. Luckily, I discovered an approach that worked for me. I found that 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, as that would often amp up my anxiety.

Additionally, I learned a breathing technique that I can use as I’m taking the exam. It’s simple and subtle, allowing me to calm my nerves and regain my focus whenever the need arises. Together with the studying techniques, I am able to perform at my best during tests, ensuring I can showcase my understanding of a subject with greater ease.”

22 More College Interview Questions

Here are 22 more college interview questions you might encounter:

    1. What do you feel are your academic strengths? How do they help you excel as a student?
    2. Tell me about your academic weaknesses? How do you plan on improving or navigating them?
    3. What is something unique that you can bring to the student body?
    4. Do you plan on taking part in any extracurricular activities or clubs?
    5. If you could change one thing about your high school experience, what would it be, and why?
    6. Why do you feel that going to college is the right move for you? Did you consider other options for launching a career?
    7. Who inspired you most as you were growing up?
    8. Who is your favorite author, and why?
    9. What do you do to destress or have fun?
    10. Do you think your academic performance here will mirror your high school performance? Why or why not?
    11. How can this college and program help you achieve your long-term career goals?
    12. If you weren’t focusing on this major, what would you choose instead?
    13. What do you want to get out of your college experience?
    14. Describe your ideal school culture, both academically and otherwise.
    15. Are you considering other colleges? If so, which ones are you thinking about, and why?
    16. Tell me something about you that isn’t in your college application or essays.
    17. If you attend this school, do you plan on living on-campus or off-campus? Why are you intending on going in that direction?
    18. Which subject was the most difficult for you in high school?
    19. Are there any graduation requirements that worry you?
    20. How do you plan on spending your school breaks?
    21. What skill did you learn in high school that you feel is most important to your future success?
    22. Describe the kind of student you are when in the classroom.

5 Good Questions to Ask at the End of a College Interview

At the end of your interview, you’ll usually get a chance to flip the script and ask a few questions yourself. Make sure that you have some questions to ask the college interviewer ready. Otherwise, you’re missing out on an opportunity.

What opportunity is that? Well, by asking questions, you look more enthusiastic and interested. That matters. Plus, you get a chance to find out more about the school, program, or anything else that may impact your college experience. That’s important, too.

While you can certainly customize your questions based on what you learn during your interview, it doesn’t hurt to have a few in your back pocket. If you aren’t sure where to start, here are five good questions to ask a college interviewer.

    1. What do you love most about this college?
    2. Is there anything that really differentiates this program from those at other schools?
    3. Are there any academic changes on the horizon at this college?
    4. What do the most successful students in this major have in common?
    5. If you could change one thing about this college, what would it be, and why?

Putting It All Together

While heading in for a college interview can be scary, it’s also incredibly exciting. You’re getting a chance to move closer to your dream school and career. That’s amazing.

Before your interview time arrives, take advantage of the tips above. That way, you can show them that you’re the ideal student for them, increasing your odds of getting a spot at your preferred college.

Good luck!

About The Author

Mike Simpson

Co-Founder and CEO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at TheInterviewGuys.com. His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.