A lot of colleges and universities use admission interviews as part of the application process. These interviews are conducted to help you, as well as the interviewer, find out if the particular college or university is a good match. There is really no such thing as trick questions in such interviews, and you will not be put on the spot. However, this does not mean that you should not prepare. You only get one chance to make the right impression on the interviewer. On this page, we will give you more information on how an admission interview works and how you should prepare.
Different schools have different policies in terms of their admission. Regardless of the policy of the school that you have an interview with, it’s a great opportunity to show your interest in them and learn more about the school in general.
There are basically three types of admission interviews:
- Evaluative admission interviews. These types of interviews are usually offered by admissions officers and the most formal.
- Informational admission interviews. There are also called non-evaluative interviews and are used for prospective students to get to know a college or university better. Also, it allows the student to provide information that may not be easily conveyed in the application process through written documentation.
- Alumni interviews. There are selective colleges and universities that may offer alumni interviews after prospective students have submitted their application.
In this article, we discuss different admission questions and why they are asked. Also, read more about frequently asked interview questions here. Also, check our interview preparation checklist.
Why the interviewer is asking admission questions
The general perception of admission interviews is that they are meant for evaluation purposes. The interviewer asks you questions to assess your suitability and will report back to the school with her recommendation on whether or not you would fit. For the majority of schools, this is indeed true. In general, for colleges and universities, the most important thing is to find students that are academically qualified. However, just as important is the process of class-building and adding a variety of students who can further the college’s mission and enrich its campus.
There are several elements that are important for colleges and universities:
- Will you bring something to the school’s campus community that they value?
- Can you contribute to an academic or extracurricular program that is valued by the college/university?
The decision on which candidates get in is based on the interview and the admission impression you make. This does not mean they will try you and put you on the spot, but they use these interviews to get to know you further. During the interview, the interviewer will try to gauge your personality, strengths, weakness, and goals.
Beyond the written component of your application in which you can already provide a lot of information, the interviewer wants to engage you in a discussion about your passions and interests. Based on this conversation, the interviewer can assist you in finding out whether or not the college you’re interviewing for is the right place for you to achieve your goals.
What the interviewer is interested in
Different colleges and universities vary in their interview procedures. Regardless of the interview purpose, whether this is evaluative or informational, the goal of the interviewer is to get to know you and to see if the school is the right match for you. They want to find out why you’re interested in the school and what you can bring to the campus.
Even though admission committees are not always transparent about exactly how they make their decisions, a great interview could definitely give you a competitive advantage over other applicants with similar credentials.
The starting point of the conversation with the interviewer is your application and support documents, such as your letter motivation. Also, the academic interests you mentioned in these documents are going to be discussed.
The interviewer is interested in the following things during the admission interview:
- Your motivation why you’re interested in this particular school.
- More information on your academic interests and motivation for your study.
- What you can bring to the school. In other words,
- What makes you different from the other candidates.
- If you have any questions, admission interviews are two-way streets, and by asking the right questions, you show that you prepared well and that you’re genuinely interested in the school and the study.
Frequently Asked University Admission Questions
Below you can find commonly asked interview questions during admission interviews:
- Tell me something about yourself.
- Why do you want to attend this university? (Specific examples are always great – interviewers want you to be excited)
- Why do you want to study this subject?
- What is your favorite book, and why?
- What are your strengths? And your greatest weaknesses?
- How would your friends describe you?
- What are your future goals?
- What achievement are you most proud of?
- Why should we accept you over other students?
- What other schools are you applying to?
- Do you have any questions for me? (Important to always ask the interviewer questions!)
Tips for success in the admissions interview
Your admissions interview will most likely directly impact your chances of acceptance. It’s therefore important to dedicate enough time and effort to this important part of your application process.
There are a couple of things you should focus on when you’re preparing for an admissions interview.
- Start your preparation early. Preparation is key in order to make a great impression during your admissions interview.
- Bring specific questions. The interviewer expects you to ask questions yourself, for instance, about the school. Put some effort in coming up with creative questions that require answers that are not easy to find online or on the school’s website.
- Practice, practice, and practice some more. Make sure you can answer the frequently asked admission questions as mentioned on this page.
- Be yourself, but be your best self, that is. Be honest and thoughtful during the interview. You want to come across as someone who is conversational and well-prepared.
- Positivity. Convey a positive attitude during the admissions interview and focus on positive body language.
Research to perform when preparing your answers:
- Focus on researching why the school is a good match for you, your goals, and your interests. Hopefully, you already did some solid research before you decided to apply, so this should not take too much time.
- The research you do before your admissions interview should focus on the specifics about how the particular school fits your needs as a student. This could, for instance, be a specific major, program, or track — Research the course requirements, the campus, and facilities, but also the professors.
- Furthermore, the question ‘why do you want to attend this college/university?‘ will come up during the interview. This means that you need to provide a clear and well-substantiated answer on what the school can offer you, but also what you can offer the school. The interviewer is interested in which specific major you want to pursue and why. The research you do before the interview will help you provide a detailed response. Look up the school’s website, alumni you might know, and any other online information you can find to help you learn more about the school.
- Prepare questions to ask the interviewer based on your research.
Questions to ask the admission interviewers
The goal of asking questions to the admission interviewer is, of course to get extra information but also to demonstrate that you take the interview seriously and that you came prepared. Basically, the questions you can ask the admission interviewer can be divided into three separate categories, being:
The research-based questions are the ‘easiest’ to prepare. During your research of the school, create a list of questions that are focused but also relate to your goals and interests. Of course, during the interviewer, the interviewer wants you to do most of the talking. Therefore, make sure that you have a couple of strong questions to ask the interviewer. Make sure to avoid questions that can be easily answered with a simple online search, as this will not leave the impression that you came well-prepared.
Examples of research-based questions:
- I read about your internship programs for finance students. Could you tell me about specific internships that students got through this program? Also, how did these internships help students academically or in their careers?
- To further develop my skills, I would like to take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad. However, I’m a bit in doubt about if this is the right choice for me since I’m on the football team. Are there examples of other student-athletes here that study abroad given the effort and commitment they have to make to their sports? If so, how do they combine this?
Asking personal questions during the interview is a great opportunity to get an honest insight into their perspective and opinion. These questions work well because the interviewer is likely to want to give you more information. Also, people, in general, like to talk about themselves or their personal opinion.
Examples of personal questions:
- Is there any advice that you would give an incoming freshman?
- What do you wish you would have known before you came in as a freshman?
- I have read about (for instance, an event or tradition on campus). Have you ever participated in it? What is it like?
Questions that regard something specific about the school are always good to ask. So if there is a special event, happening, or tradition, ask about it. This shows that you did your research.
Questions based on the information that the interviewer gives you during the conversation
It’s, of course, difficult to prepare questions based on information that you still need to get. But asking such questions during the interview will indicate that you’re engaged, interested and that you’re paying attention to what is said. If you find a suitable opportunity to ask a question based on something that the interviewer said during the interview, ask!
For instance, if the interviewer brings up tutoring possibilities or any other programs you can follow, you can ask if he or she was or is involved in it. Also, you can ask questions about how these programs work or any other details you might be interested in.
What not to ask the admission interviewer
Just like there are questions that are smart to ask, there are questions that you should avoid. Think of questions such as:
- Avoid asking questions that regard your chances of gaining admission.
- Don’t ask too many questions that are not academically related.
- Don’t ask questions of which the answers can be easily found online or through basic research.
In short, keep your answers and behavior professional. If your interviewer has experience at the school, you can ask them about their reasons for choosing the school. Avoid getting too personal and choose appropriate topics to discuss.
Example answers to admission interview questions
Below you will find some example answers to questions that might be asked during an admission interview. However, these are ‘general’ examples. Do not forget to structure your own answers in a way that includes enough information about you.
1. ‘Tell Me About Yourself.’
This question gives you the opportunity to give a brief and concise overview of your personality, background, experience, and accomplishments. Try to relate your answer to the specific school or the program that you’re applying for. Talk about your work experience, accomplishments, and career goals.
2. ‘Why Are You Interested in This College/University?’
Tell the interviewer the reasons why the school and its programs are ideal for you. Go into detail and describe your motivation to get a degree from that specific school and how it will help you reach your career goals. Talk about elements such as the location, faculty, curriculum, but also the culture associated with the school. Discuss aspects that make the school or the program that you’re interested in unique and why this is the case.
This is a general example of an answer. Make sure to tailor your answer as much as needed to convince the interviewer. The more unique characteristics you mention, the better. This is a general example answer:
‘The facilities at this university are unparalleled, and because I intend to pursue a career in finance, for me, this university is the holy grail of education. The school offers technical and intellectual resources that will provide me with the right education to start my career off right. Also, I want to study at a reputed university. This university has become of the best in the country. It has top professors in my field of study, and the university is located in the middle of a historic city. Furthermore, the renowned international relations program that the university offers appeals very much to me and would give me the chance to study at top schools abroad. Given the reputation and history of the university, I would be very excited to get an opportunity to attend such a reputable institution.’
3. ‘Why Did You Choose This Study?’
This is one of the most important questions that you will need to answer in an admissions interview. The interviewer is looking for candidates that are able to demonstrate their interests in the subject that they are applying for. They want to know all the reasons for you to choose this subject and expect you to give a genuine answer. Talk about how the study fits in your career goals or any other aspirations that you may have.
‘Because I tend to pursue a career as a writer. Since I was a kid, I have dreamed of being a writer. Last year I focused on discovering what type of writing I want to do and how I was going to make a career as a writer. I soon discovered that I had a passion for publishing and editing, and that’s the reason why this program is perfect for me. I have strong written and verbal communication skills that I could further develop during an internship at a publishing company this summer.’
4. ‘Why Should We Admit You?’
You can use this question as an opportunity to make yourself look like the perfect candidate. Highlight your strengths, career goals, and what you can contribute to the school. Try to keep your answer short, concise but highlight why they should admit you.
Example answer for if you were to apply for an MBA:
‘I’m ambitious and would really like to launch my own business within the next years. To reach this goal, I would like to learn in a systematic way about finance, sales, marketing, production, human resource management, inventory control, and more. For me, this is my ultimate career goal, and I’m sure that I will perform well during the MBA program.’
5. ‘What Can You Bring To The College/University?’
This is a serious question, so approach it as such. Focus on selling yourself in a positive way. Highlight the key traits that you possess that make you the right person to attend this college/university. Provide the interviewer with concrete examples of your experience that make you a suitable candidate.
Below there are some general examples that indicate how you could answer the question. Make sure to tailor your answers to the school you’re applying for.
‘I’m an active member of the debate society at my school and participated in several competitive debates. I think that I can take this with me in order to contribute to class discussions.’
‘As an enthusiastic member of the events team at my school, I hosted several events and managed several projects successfully with different teams. I’m able to work well with different kinds of people, and I think that I can use my knowledge well in team assignments.’
‘Having experience as being the president of the student council at my school, I could bring leadership skills and participate in one of the many societies on campus.’
Answers to avoid:
‘I’m a hard worker’ or ‘I’m a perfectionist’ are examples of bad answers because they are not effective. They may show that you have personal qualities, but they do not answer the question asked.