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College Interview Tips & College Interview Questions from the College Interviewers

College applications have been submitted and just as the frenzy of the submissions dissipates the college interview requests come pouring in. There is a never a dull moment during the college application process. I am sharing my college interview tips and college interview questions after having served on the interview committee of an Ivy League college as well as advice from other college interviewers.

Structure of a College Admissions Interview: (typically 15- 30 minutes long)

  • Welcome – Brief introduction of interviewer
  • Ice breaker questions – small talk about school, how you are doing
  • Main Focus of Interview- questions to understand you better
  • Invitation for questions for the interviewer
  • Conclusion – a brief note of thanks

Questions asked frequently in a college interview

  • Tell me about yourself
  • What do you do for fun? / What are your hobbies and interests?
  • Why do you want to attend this particular institution? What excited you most about our school?
  • What efforts have you made to learn more about our school?
  • How you will you contribute to our school?
  • What do you want to study and why?
  • Have you had any experience relevant to what you want to study?
  • What other schools are you applying to?
  • Why should our school accept you over the other well qualified applicants?
  • Talk about your greatest achievement?
  • Talk about a failure and what you learnt ?
  • How do you want you use your education when you graduate? Where do you see yourself 5 years after you graduate ?
  • Describe a recent leadership/ team work experience ( this will be specific to what experiences you have)
  • Tell me about one of the hardest decisions you have had to make?
  • Tell me 3 strengths and 3 weaknesses?
  • What is the main weak point of your application?
  • Why did you choose the subjects you chose for grade 11 and 12?
  • How would your friends and family describe you ?
  • Why do you want to study abroad?
  • What is the ideal learning environment for you ?
  • If you had a day with no commitments what would you do?
Shaista Baljee, Founder Ivyaspire Education Counseling

Shaista Baljee,  Founder – Ivy Aspire Educational Counseling

  • Don’t let the nerves kick in, you are well spoken and can easily answer questions asked.
  • Be confident and self-assured; start a firm hand shake, sit up-right and make eye-contact. Do not appear obnoxious
  • Be well prepared for the questions you can anticipate ( list shared above) this will reduce the nerves too
  • Practice in front of a mirror or better still record yourself to see your nervous ticks so you can control them
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Interviews for Stanford and Princeton

    • I much prefer depth versus breadth be it for academic or extracurricular topics. Students who can speak about interests at length with passion v/s hearing about a lot of interests at a superficial level


Interviews for MIT and Notre dame

      • Be clear WHY you made the choices you made. I am less interested in what you did but why you did it. For example which MUN’s you attended is less important than WHY you participate in MUN’s in the first place


Interviews for the University of Pennsylvania

      • Talk naturally, repeating rehearsed answers can be very off putting
      • Do your research on the specific aspects that appeal to you about the University as well as the program you are applying to.


Interviews for the M&T Program (Management and Technology) at the University of Pennsylvania

      • I can quickly tell the level of involvement and understanding of the activities you have undertaken. Make the effort to understand the space you are in talk intelligently about it and your role in the activity
      • Have a clear reason of why a certain program and how studying it a particular school is essential to your gaols if you are applying to a very selective program within a university


Interviews for Northwestern and LSE

      • Be honest, an interviewer has been through the drill of interviewing many times over and can immediately tell when you are over exaggerating, . That is a real turn off. Even if you haven’t been very successful, be honest about your struggles and showcase how you worked hard and never gave up and what you learnt from your experiences.

Interviews for New York University

      • Non-verbal communication is equally important as what a candidate says, if a candidate is shifting too much in his seat, cannot maintain eye contact or appears distracted , I immediately question their commitment and passion for the school
      • Don’t be smug and try and show off, even if the interviewer poses an opposing view or presents incorrect data , it can be done to see how a candidate conducts himself. No one likes a show off or someone who makes themselves look good at the expense of others

Interviews for Dartmouth College

      • Be on time and be appropriately attired, this might seem like a given, but you will be surprised to see how often students show up late or in sneakers
      • Don’t try to strike a casual conversation with the interviewer about how the interview went or your chances of acceptance. I see this often now.