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Good Questions to Ask During Your College Interview

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Two people talking in a table.

Good Questions to Ask During Your College Interview

If you’ve already started thinking about your college interview, you’re probably concentrating on the questions that will be asked of you and how you should respond to those questions in a natural and informative manner. But have you considered asking, “What are good questions to ask in a college interview?”

You may have already read our most recent articles about preparing for interviews at UPenn,  UChicago, and Columbia. However, a good interview is more like a discussion than an interrogation, mainly when it is conducted with a college admissions officer or a college alumnus.

What is a College Interview?

What exactly is involved in a college interview? The discussion during a college interview may occur with a college admissions staff member or with a recent alum of the institution being considered.

Because it takes place on campus, typically in the admissions office, the first type of interview is frequently called an on-campus interview. The second type of interview is commonly referred to as an off-campus or alums interview for equally evident reasons.

You must be aware of the kind of interview you will be taking part in, as the questions you ask should vary according to the person conducting the interview.

On the other hand, alums may be better equipped to speak about their own experiences and provide greater insight into specific programs and new efforts at the university. For instance, an admissions representative will know more about particular programs and new initiatives at the university.

Two women talking on a table.

The interview procedure varies from institution to institution. At some schools, you can sign up for the program either while you are completing the application process or soon after you have completed the application.

For the remaining schools, including those in the Ivy League, the admissions offices will contact you when they receive your application to schedule an interview. Because of the many applications other schools receive, many choose not to conduct interviews.

What Should You Expect in a College Interview?

What kind of questions will you be asked at the college interview? Certain schools do not include interviews as part of their admissions process; however, if the school you are considering has interviews, you should not avoid them. Even if they are merely ‘suggested but not necessary, they are still important. It could decide whether you or another student is admitted to the college of your choice.

They will ask you why you are interested in the school, about your experience in high school, your academic interests, your ambitions in education, your future professional plans, your hobbies, and other aspects of you.

a group of female college students carrying their notebooks while walking; one of them is looking at the camera smiling

Another essential facet to consider, which we think many applicants miss, is the interview being a 2-way street. College admissions interviewers expect you to demonstrate your genuine interest, create a positive first impression, and gain further knowledge about the school. What better way to show this than by throwing good questions to ask in a college interview?

What are good questions to ask in a college interview?

What are some good questions for a potential student during a college interview? It is important to note that part of your preparation is to be strategic in your interview approach. These interviews are often conducted by a representative of the educational institution, who may be a current or former teaching staff member.

However, some universities, like UPenn, do not offer alum interviews for transfer applicants. But regardless, ask questions that are relevant to them and, to a certain extent, make them smile.

In this section, we will be more intentional in sharing tips as we will enumerate questions fit for an alum and a college admissions officer.

What are good questions to ask from an alum?

What are some good questions to ask someone who has graduated from the institution? For questions addressed to an alum, the approach is to make them reminisce about the wonderful years they have spent at the university they wish to enter.

What was your experience like?

Who were the teachers who influenced them? To what extent did they participate in Greek life? Why shouldn’t they? How did they feel about the meals in the cafeteria and their housemates during their first year?

Your interviewer’s responses will provide insight into who they are as individuals and, potentially, what you can anticipate from daily life at their institution.

Group of students standing next to a building.

What did you love most about your college that you think other colleges may not offer?

These responses can significantly assist you if you consider attending multiple schools. It is important to get perspectives from a wide variety of people, and you can only achieve this by introducing good questions to ask in a college interview, on top of asking this to many people.

The opinions of alums on how a college separates itself from its competitors. It may ultimately differ from what the marketing material would have you believe.

What would you have done differently?

It’s possible that they would have been happier if they hadn’t moved out of the dorms and into an apartment the previous year or if they had participated in extracurricular activities that were more challenging for them.

It’s possible that they would have been better off taking the low-paying internship in their industry during the summer rather than the high-paying factory job (or vice versa).

Even if you hear a few “be ye not so stupid as me” recommendations, it might be beneficial to listen to them. Everyone makes their unique blunders.

What’s an iconic tradition that every student must try?

The interviewer will be able to tell whether or not you are genuinely enthused about the prospect of being an active member of the school community based on how you respond to this question and how you choose to answer it. This is one of the good questions to ask in a college interview that you don’t want to miss.

Traditions at the school and how students participate in those traditions reveal much about the campus culture. Even though each person’s experience is unique, the word “iconic” indicates that the person you are interviewing will likely tell you about something essential to the student experience.

What do you wish you’d known as a freshman?

A more profound way of asking this question is: What guidance would you offer to a student beginning their first year? Is there anything about your time at [school] that you look back on and wish you’d handled differently?

There is no such thing as receiving excessive individualized guidance from a graduate, and the answer to this question will likely give some beneficial pointers.

Even if the advice doesn’t seem to apply to you directly, you should find a way to convey that you value their counsel by making sense of it.

What are good questions to ask a college admissions officer?

What are the good questions to ask in a college interview that would be appropriate to ask from someone who is working in admissions?

For questions addressed to a school representative who is not an alumnus, the approach is to make them feel they’re in a position to give fair statements about the university they work for. They do not have sentimental memories to share, but they make it up by representing the university in a more professional, straightforward tone.

a female student staring at her laptop

What makes students at your university different?

Is there a significant amount of political engagement among the student body at this school? Very, very committed to their academic pursuits? Are you more likely than average to attend school in another country? More enterprising than you are typical?

Discovering how the population of this school is distinct from that of others will assist you in determining whether or not it would be a suitable fit for you.

What’s something that makes you proud to work for this university?

Perhaps they feel that the institution’s dedication to ensuring a diverse workforce is something to be proud of. Maybe they take satisfaction in the accomplishments of the football team or the recent discoveries made in the Psychology department’s research.

In your opinion, what are the character traits of a student who’d do well here?

Suppose you know yourself well enough to comprehend the characteristics that make up your personality. In that case, the interviewer’s responses will be most valuable to you, regardless of how they react.

What are the benefits of preparing questions for college interviews?

What are the advantages of practicing good questions in college interviews beforehand? We can’t stress enough that during the interview process, you will be interviewed by the school and have the opportunity to ask questions about the school.

It is necessary that both sides feel comfortable with the arrangement. Having questions prepared in advance brings with it a plethora of benefits, including the following:

It shows initiative

During an interview, if you go above and beyond what is expected of you, the interviewer will see that you are willing to prepare before the interview.

You don’t require me to prompt you, and you didn’t show up without any preparation. This is a quality that schools look for in prospective students.

It shows interest

You are demonstrating an extreme interest in the institution and going above and beyond simply “appearing” for your interview when you take the time to ask questions.

The fact that you are taking the time to ask them questions shows that you are serious about making sure that this college is the right choice for you.

It shows you did research.

You can demonstrate to the person interviewing that you are interested in the school by asking detailed questions. By conducting research in advance and inquiring about particular campus groups, organizations, or events that are currently taking place, you have taken the additional step of coming to the interview prepared.

Unidentified person typing on a table.

Because of this, you should avoid asking “basic questions,” as colleges will likely have the answers to these “simple inquiries” posted on their websites.

Therefore, asking pretty precise questions demonstrates to them that you have done more than skim the surface of the institution that you are interested in attending.

What are questions that should never be asked in a college interview?

What questions should you never ask a prospective college student during an interview? This is quite the opposite of good questions to ask in a college interview. Don’t get us wrong. There are certainly no inappropriate questions. Everything is relative in a college admission interview.

But in our experience, contextual meanings matter a lot. There are, for lack of a better term, ‘courtesies’ that we must consider. So far, these are the two questions that we often hear from our clients, and right off the bat, we strongly advise them to bury and forget about it.

What are my chances of being accepted into this school?

Remember that the decision to make an offer may not be finalized regardless of how certain you are that lady luck is on your side. This is something that you should always keep in mind.

Instead, inquire about the students who are currently enrolled in the institution. What are their credentials and experience? What steps can you take to prepare for the first day of school? Demonstrate your eagerness to become an integral part of the student body and contribute to its success.

What makes your school better than other schools?

Do not engage in conversations or ask questions that put down other universities, even those that compete with your own. It’s a compelling way to build rapport by getting to know each other better through “the competition.”

However, these conversations will, at best, make admissions officers raise an eyebrow, and at worst, they will hurt your chances of being accepted into the college of your choice.

Instead, ensure that the university, its programs, and the traditions it preserves are your questions’ primary focus.

Final thoughts

During your interview, you can engage in friendly conversation, think about your experiences during high school, and research various colleges.

You can be sure of a positive college interview experience by preparing adequately. Please share the good questions to ask in college interviews and go into it feeling confident and optimistic.

If you need further assistance in the admissions process, teaming up with AdmissionSight would be the perfect answer. We are an industry-leading college admissions consultant with more than a decade of expertise assisting individuals like you in gaining admission to the prestigious educational institutions of their choice. Contact us right away to set up a no-cost consultation.

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