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Articles / Applying to College / College Interview Prep Tips: Brainstorm, Research, Analyze, Generalize

College Interview Prep Tips: Brainstorm, Research, Analyze, Generalize

A Written by Amelia Leone | Sept. 5, 2023
Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

I recently visited Washington University in Saint Louis and was lucky enough to set up an interview. By speaking with peers of mine who had interviewed at WashU before, I was able to infer that the interview would be casual and conducted by a student. The interview ran smoothly and was, quite frankly, enjoyable!

The interviewer kicked off the meeting by introducing herself and interests, and then she asked me to do the same. As soon as I finished my response, she started asking questions about my extracurriculars. We then spent the next majority of the session discussing Track and Field, our favorite events within the sport, and the college’s surprisingly astounding team. Avidly preparing for the interview (I even went so far as to conduct a mock interview!) made the whole experience comfortable and allowed me to better answer the questions that she asked.

My main takeaway? Feeling prepared is key! Based on my experience, here are a few of my tips for prepping for college interviews.


The first step to preparing for interviews is to understand yourself. Being aware of your traits, both positive and negative, is crucial as it will help you emphasize your strengths and truly sell yourself as a candidate.

So, think: What are your best attributes? What are your weaknesses? Realize what you need to work on and own up to it. What was a moment where you felt you were your truest self? What do you want to make sure you share about yourself? What do you enjoy doing in your freetime?

Additionally, note how each of your extracurricular activities shaped you and the specific skills you learned by participating in them. How did they shape you as an individual? What challenges did you face while doing them and how did you overcome them?

Write these down on a sheet of paper before your interview!


Next, research the college where you’ll be interviewing. Make sure to understand the school’s core principles and the values it looks for in a student. Essentially, what does their ideal student look like? Understand that this may not be one type of person. Tufts University, for instance, looks for “Intellectually playful, kind, collaborative, civically engaged, and globally minded” individuals. Keep these core values, which are able to be found on schools’ admissions pages, in mind as you prepare for your responses and decide how best to frame yourself.

Then, look for information on what a typical interview at the school is like. Does the school have notoriously casual interviews or extremely formulaic ones? Will the interview be conducted by a student, alumni, or admissions officer? What caliber of questions will they be asking you?


It’s important to remember that colleges need applicants to fit into their community’s needs, not vice versa. So, how do your attributes align with the university’s essential values (which you just researched)? Why would you be a good fit for their community and how would you be an asset to the school? In thinking about these questions, you can begin to prioritize which of your positive attributes to emphasize. While it is important to paint yourself as an ideal candidate for the school by aligning your interests, values, and traits, it is equally as vital that you stick to the “you” that was described in the Brainstorm step. No matter the school and their particular values, feel free to show who you are. As long as you prove your positivity, determination, and interest, schools are likely to find you a compelling candidate.


At this point, you should have a better understanding of yourself, the school’s values, and how they relate to each other. Now, apply this to the interview in particular. Find common interview questions online or take a look at the list compiled below. Keeping in mind the ideas discussed in the previous paragraphs, prepare answers to each of the sample questions. Answer the questions being asked in a way that highlights your positive attributes and extracurriculars. Though this can sometimes feel unnatural, prepare your answers beforehand so that you are confident in your responses and their ability to showcase you. Practice, practice, practice!

Common College Interview Questions

  • Why do you like this college in particular?
  • What are your strengths? Weaknesses?
  • What is an obstacle you faced in high school that shaped you as a person? How have you grown during this time?
  • Favorite book?
  • Favorite class?
  • What do you plan on studying?
  • What have you done so far to show that you would be successful in the major?
  • What makes a great teacher?
  • If you could change one thing about your school what would it be?
  • How would your friends describe you?
  • Favorite high school memory?
  • What would you do if you took a gap year?
  • How do you display leadership?
  • What would you contribute to the campus?
  • What makes you unique?
  • Small talk!
  • Any questions for me?

Final Thoughts

It is important to keep in mind that most interviewers are not looking to frighten or micro-analyze you. The purpose of many interviews is simply to get prospective students engaged and excited about the school. At the end of the day, your application and qualifications will determine your acceptance status. Treat the interview merely as a way to show your commitment to the school and gain a jumping-off point for the “Why us?” essay.

Don't forget to join the CC Community for more discussion on prepping for your college interviews, applying to college, and more!

Written by


Amelia Leone

Amelia Leone is a current junior at NEST+m High School in Manhattan. She is an editor of her school's newspaper as well as the President of the non-profit tutoring organization, Learning Pals. Amelia enjoys running, dancing, and exploring NYC’s vibrant foods, thrilling activities, and hidden places.

Growing up in New York City, Amelia has been exposed to a variety of cultures and perspectives. She looks forward to sharing her own experience with the college process, as well as experiences of students with varying goals and backgrounds

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