The Admission Interview: a Complement to Your College Application

Many high school seniors are working diligently to complete and submit their early action and early decision college admission applications before November 1. So once early applications are successfully submitted, what comes next?

Most large colleges, such as public universities or colleges that receive tens of thousands of applications, do not offer admission interviews. However, several small liberal arts colleges or highly-selective universities do. Often, these are conducted by alumni in your community.

Examples of colleges that ‘consider’ interviews in the admission review process include Bates, Dartmouth, Emory, George Washington, Tufts, Tulane, and Virginia Tech. An even smaller handful of schools weigh interviews as ‘important’ in the evaluation of your application for admission. Examples include Georgetown, Lafayette, MIT, Syracuse, and Wake Forest.

If you want to check whether the school you are applying to offers interviews, check the undergraduate admissions section of the college’s website. To understand how an interview may be considered in your application for admission, search the college name and ‘common data set’ and review section C7 of this document.

In most instances, the interview simply serves as an additional data point for the admissions committee, so don’t stress. For example, Georgetown suggests you should,

“…use the interview to learn more about Georgetown and the Georgetown community from the perspective of an alumnus…While the interview report is used as part of the admissions committee’s consideration process, it rarely “makes or breaks” an application, and much more often than not, it works in the applicant’s favor.”

Making the effort to interview demonstrates to the admissions team that you are genuinely interested in attending, and gives the school another chance outside of the written application to consider you as a candidate. As Lafayette College website puts it,

“An interview gives voice to all the parts of your application. It gives us an opportunity to engage with you and it gives you the opportunity to add one more facet, one more distinguishing feature, to your application. It is also a time for you to ask questions about the College and take the time to assess if Lafayette is the right fit for you.

Rarely, if ever, does an interview affect a student’s application in a negative way and in many cases, the interview is what made us decide to admit a student to Lafayette.”

Typically, you can schedule an interview after you have submitted your application for admission. Some colleges manage these interviews within the user portal for applicants. In other instances, your contact information is handed-off to an alumnus who may contact you directly to set-up a time and place to meet for an interview, so periodically check your email inbox, and your spam folder.

Typical topics that may come up in your interview include your academic interests, including what you think you might want to study in college, the extracurricular activities you participate in, and summer or school-year work experiences.

The interviewer may have basic information about you – such as your name and the major of interest you identified in your application, but probably does not have your complete application package. Plan ahead and create a basic resume to have ready to share. You should be able to pull a resume together using a Google Docs or a MS Word resume template. Re-use the activities you included in the CommonApp. The interviewer understands that you are still a high school student and does not expect you to have deep work experience.

In preparation for the interview, do your homework and review the college website in depth. Consider likely questions you may be asked in advance. Jot notes to yourself regarding points you might want to highlight in the conversation. If time allows, ask a family member or a college admissions counselor to conduct a mock interview with you. Practice how you will respond to expected questions, but strive to be natural.

If you know the name of the alumnus who will be interviewing you, look them up online in advance. This simply helps you better understand their background, and you may find you have common interests.

Once you and your interviewer have agreed on a place and time to meet, make sure to be on time, if not a few minutes early, and wear clean, business casual apparel. Neckties, suits or dresses are not necessary.

When you meet the interviewer, make eye contact, and offer a firm handshake at the start and close of your meeting. When you are chatting, make sure to speak clearly. Alumni interviews often take place in cafés, but that does not mean this is the time to chow down. Politely sip a beverage instead.

Be ready with stories or anecdotes that demonstrate or show an attribute, rather than just state that you possess a characteristic. For example, a student who wants to highlight how responsible he is might prepare to share a story about how he makes dinner for his younger siblings when his parents return home late from work, or how he helps his group project teammates stay on schedule to meet a due date.

Come ready with some questions for the interviewer, but avoid obvious questions about information that can easily be found on the college website. Instead, consider asking the alumnus about their experience at the university. Even better, ask a question that leads back to your interest in the school. For example, “I read about the career center on ABC University’s website, and the companies that come to interview students on campus. What was your experience landing your first job after college?”

Keep time in mind – the interviewer is likely conducting multiple interviews, and may have allocated only 30 minutes, but definitely no more than 1 hour to spend with you, so plan your time accordingly. Finish strong by emphasizing that the school is a top choice for you, and thank the interviewer for taking their personal time to volunteer on behalf of their alma mater.

Need guidance through the college admissions process? Whether it is sage advice, expert edits or admissions interview prep, we can help. Contact (781) 237-7770 or visit