12 Most Common College Admissions Interview Questions

During a college admissions interview, the interviewer will be asking you questions designed to elicit responses that will provide the interviewer with a sense of the you who exists beyond the transcript and test scores. In other words, the admissions interviewer will be asking questions to assess your social intelligence (your poise and demeanor), your general fund of intelligence and how it is used in daily conversation, and, in part, your emotional intelligence (translated: “Is this student possessed of an ability to empathize?”).

The key to acing a college admissions interview is preparation.

Generally, college admissions interviewers are people people.  Most really enjoy talking with teenagers. And while I’ve never met an interviewer who wanted to trick the interviewee, you might feel like the admissions interviewer is out to trick you, if you’re not prepared. 

Below are the 12 most common college admissions interview questions with suggestions for how to prepare for each.


1. Why do you want to attend (name college or university)?

If you’ve already written your “Why us?” supplemental essay response (“Why do you want to attend the University of Pennsylvania?,” “Why do you want to attend the University of Michigan?”), this answer should be easy. Prior to the interview, refamiliarize yourself with your supplemental essay response. If the supplemental response called for was on the short side (150-250), be prepared to elaborate (add more detail) to that written response; if the required response to the supplemental essay question was on the long side (500-650), you will want to condense your written response. If you’ve not yet written your “Why us?” supplemental essay response, before the interview, close read the college’s website and determine two or three specific aspects of that specific college that match your interests. Familiarize yourself with these aspects of the college and rehearse speaking about how those offerings match your interests and intentions before the interview.

2. What do you like about our curriculum?

If the college to which you applied has a required core curriculum, be prepared to speak about the value of that core in terms of your specific intellectual and future goals. If the college to which you applied does not have a required core curriculum, be prepared to speak about the value of that in terms of your specific intellectual and future goals. Also, be prepared to name a few courses that appeal to you, and to explain the appeal of the course(s) in terms of your specific intellectual interests.

3.  What do you do during your summers?

Even if you don’t do anything in particular during the summer but hang out, be prepared to detail, specifically, one activity even if it doesn’t sound impressive. For example, if you like to spend time in the summer wandering in the woods with a camera or sketch book, practice describing this activity and its importance to you as a person and as a learner.

4. What do you want to do after college?, and its variation, where do you want to be in 10 years?

This can be difficult, especially for many applicants who don’t have a clue what they want to be doing in the future. However, there is no way to make “I don’t know” sound impressive. Instead, be prepared to say something and to offer a few sentences explaining why you hope to be engaging in that activity in the future.

5. Who has influenced you?, and its variants, who do you admire? and who is your hero?

Be prepared to name someone even if you don’t think you admire anyone. The person named can be an historical figure or fictional character; it doesn’t matter as you long as you name someone and are prepared to explain succinctly why you admire that person/character. NB: Avoid obvious choices such as Nelson Mandela; instead look for a less-well-known figure.

6. What do you do in your free time?

Don’t answer “hang out” or “play video games” even if it is true. Find a way to compose a specific answer before the interview that showcases an attribute or talent not yet apparent in your application and that speaks to your intellectual curiosity or creativity.

7. What do you want to major in?

If you’re undecided that’s fine; simply announce that you need to read and study longer before deciding. If you do know what you want to major in, be prepared to explain why.

8.  Is there something you haven’t studied before that you might want to study at college?

“No” is not a good answer, and is not going to impress the interviewer with your intellectual curiosity or drive.  Even if you only want to study courses pertaining to your major, be prepared to name one other academic area and to explain why that subject interests you.

9.  What are you most proud of in terms of academic accomplishments?

Be prepared to describe a specific accomplishment and to describe why you are proud of accomplishing that task. NB: “Because I got the best grade in the class” is not going to go far and will only end up making you look arrogant.

10. Tell me about your most important extra-curricular activities.

Even if you feel equally indifferent about your out-of-school activities, be prepared to cite one, to describe why it interests you, and to explain why you might like to continue that activity at college.

11.  Do you have any questions for me about (name college or university)?

Be prepared to ask at least two and perhaps three questions about the college the answers to which are not apparent on the college’s website. 

12.  Is there anything you want to tell me about yourself that I have not asked you about?

This can be a killer question if you are not prepared for it. Don’t treat this question lightly or think you can get away with a flip or trivial response. Instead, be prepared to talk about an interest or hobby of yours, to concisely describe why it interests you and, if you can, how it pertains to your learning or academic area of interest. Your goal here, as in all parts of your college application, is to find opportunities to add value to your profile.

Need help perfecting your college admissions interview techniques? Call me. I’m always ready to help you!

Dr. Osborn works with students from all over the world to help them reach their independent, college, and graduate school goals. Through a personal, one-on-one approach, Dr. Osborn creates an individualized plan for each student based on the student’s strengths, passions, and career aspirations. Her holistic approach helps students perform well in school and secure admission to top colleges.  

About The Author

Susan Osborn, Ph.D., has spent 30 years in higher education, in admissions at Vassar College, in the English department and Writing Program at Rutgers University, in the lab at The New Jersey Center for Research on Writing, and as a private tutor. Dr. Osborn is also an award-winning writer and scholar and she brings both her education smarts and her writing smarts to every student relationship.