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Articles / Applying to College / Questions to Ask Your College Interviewer (It Works Both Ways!)

Questions to Ask Your College Interviewer (It Works Both Ways!)

N Written by Nina Berler | Nov. 1, 2021
Interview-unsplash.jpg
Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

What Should You Ask During a College Interview?

As a college applicant, you may already know the feeling of relief when you hit submit. But wait, you're not done yet! Some of you will get a message from a portal or an alum notifying you of the next step in your college-ready journey: the interview.

Whether they're in-person or virtual, interviews provoke angst in applicants. Yet any applicant will tell you that the best way to ace an interview is to prepare. Recently, I spoke to a student who was an interviewing novice until a month ago. Now, he’s a pro.

What makes the difference? He told me, “Knowing what I would say for even the most basic question.”

Yet it really does work both ways. What happens when your interviewer stops after 20 or 30 minutes and asks what questions you have? Before your interview, be sure to prepare a list of at least three questions for your interviewer.

By coming prepared with questions, you can:

  1. Show your interviewer that you’re thoughtful and prepared

  2. Avoid awkward silences during the interview

  3. Uncover information from which you may make a decision if offered a spot in the incoming class (unless you’re an Early Decision candidate, of course)


The student I mentioned above told me, “You have to have a really good question to ask them... That makes or breaks the whole interview.” So he asked the Skidmore (it was actually another college) interviewer, “How would you define a Skidmore graduate?”

As an alumni interviewer, I was always impressed when students came with insightful questions for me, for example, how Brown served me after college. If you have an alumni interview, that’s an easy ask. It could be that your interviewer is a student intern, in which case you might ask whether they’re pleased with the decision to attend that college and how they feel it’s benefitted them so far. Ask them about some of their favorite on-campus traditions.

But sometimes you’ll be interviewing with an admissions officer who did not graduate from that institution. That person is looking to answer, “Do we want [your name] in our college community?”

If you have an interview coming up, of course you should look at the website. (A current applicant told me, “I researched the college's website, tried to think about possible questions that I would be asked and practiced my responses.”) But why ask about something the college already addresses, such as how large the institution is, what majors are most popular and what extracurriculars are offered? Instead, look to ask something different to display characteristics such as thoughtfulness or intellectual curiosity. For your use, I’ve brainstormed a few on the list below.

6 Clever Questions to Ask Your Interviewer 2021-22 (Just for Readers of CC!)

  1. How is your college partnering with area employers or nonprofits to make the learning experience more engaging?
  2. Where does your college see itself in five or 10 years? Will it have more dual enrollment programs (for-credit programs with other institutions)?
  3. How are you expanding your curriculum in STEM? How will liberal arts skills be important in the future?
  4. What do you hear from alumni about their networking possibilities?
  5. During the pandemic, virtual learning really took off. How do you think your college will use online learning in the future? Does it plan to make lectures available to people around the world?
  6. How has the admissions process changed since you went test-optional?

If you’re stuck for good ideas—or you want to verify your understanding of the college’s goals—check out its social media, blogs and alumni publications.

Interviewing, like so many aspects of the college application process, is a life skill. You now have college interviews, then later, internship interviews and job interviews. The more you do, the bigger your experience base, which means your confidence will improve. Sure, the interviewer gets that you’re only 17 or 18, but there’s no excuse for not being prepared.

Do's and Don'ts of College Interviews

College Interview Do's and Donts Instagram Post (1).png

From my students who have interviewed this fall come two wacky questions they actually had to answer:

  1. Who is your favorite cartoon character?
  2. Are you a dog or a cat person?

Don’t ask either question of your interviewer, please!

For more on college interviews, check on Nina Berler's website for her or jump into the conversations about College Admissions on the CC Forums.

Written by

N

Nina Berler

Nina is the founder of unCommon Apps, a college and career readiness consultancy. She has an AB with Honors from Brown University and an MBA from the Stern School of Business, NYU. Nina is a Professional Member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) and a member of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC). Her ebooks, Supplementing the College Supplement and Mastering the College Interview, are available on Apple Books.

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