Top 10 University/College Admissions Interview Questions

Don’t let your nerves get the better of you.

College Admissions Interview Questions

The college application process is stressful to say the least. Once you’re done writing your (dreaded) college essay, submitting your high school transcript and getting in your letters of recommendation, you can finally relax… For about a minute. Because now it’s time to go in for an interview.

If you’ve worked through high school, you’ll more or less know what to expect, as college admissions interviews are quite similar to job interviews you might’ve previously attended. Still, the questions and setting are different, and it makes sense to be nervous. And if you’ve never attended any interview, it’s all the more reasonable to feel jittery!

To help calm those nerves, we’ve outlined 10 common college interview questions you can expect along with some sample answers, and added in 5 tips to help you ace your interview.

10 common college interview questions

Let’s look at some questions that admissions officers can’t seem to quit. You’ll learn why they’re being asked as well as how to answer them.

1. “Why have you chosen this program?”

This is probably the first question you’re going to get, for obvious reasons. The admissions officer or faculty member interviewing you wants to see how passionate you are about the subject you’ve chosen, and get a sense of the sort of career you envision for the future.

When answering this question, it’s important to show that you’re genuinely interested in the course and that you’d make a good fit. Try to keep your answer specific!


I have chosen to study animation because I’ve always loved video games and animated films. A career in the games or films industry would be very rewarding, as you get to collaborate with other artists to create brand new worlds that can entertain and inspire thousands. I am particularly eager to build on my knowledge of using 3D modeling tools.

2. “Why have you chosen this university?”

Although it may sound as though your admissions officer is fishing for compliments on behalf of the university here, that’s not what they’re doing. They’re hoping to hear that you’ve done your “homework” — that you didn’t just pick the first course at the first college you came across, but rather that you thought it out well.

So, before you go in for your college admissions interview, dedicate some time to reading about the college’s history and the faculty’s achievements, identifying what you find interesting or inspiring.


I have chosen Cornell because it offers one of the best business programs in the country. I believe that I would truly be in good hands here, building a solid foundation for a successful career in the field.

Another reason why I’ve chosen this university over the ones in my state is because moving away from home will teach me independence and allow me to meet people I otherwise wouldn’t have.

3. “What’s a topic in your field that particularly interests you?”

Like the previous questions, this one allows you to show that you’ve carefully thought about your chosen subject and aren’t just applying for the sake of applying.

If you’re pursuing a degree in English literature, for example, you can talk about your favorite book genre and the authors you consider role models — and explain why you find their contributions to the literary world important.


I have a strong interest in the genre of creative non-fiction. The reason is that real stories written in more lyrical prose are both engaging and can broaden our perspectives on life, illuminating the universal experiences that connect us to one another.

4. “What’s one achievement you’re most proud of?”

When trying to come up with an answer to this question, it’s important not to dismiss things you’re proud of for not being “big enough” academic achievements. Though winning awards or scholarships is undoubtedly worthy of praise, not everyone has that — and that’s completely fine.

Maybe you held a leadership position in an academic club instead, or won a prize at a contest, like a science fair. Maybe you mentored a younger student and helped them ace a test. Whatever it is that you can think back on and get a sense of satisfaction is worth mentioning, even if it’s not as “flashy” as you think it should be.


I’ve always had a bit of a talent with languages, but I wasn’t sure I would be able to actually teach when my neighbor asked me to help their son with Spanish homework. In the end, not only was I able to balance my schoolwork with the tutoring sessions, but I also helped the boy improve his marks significantly!

5. “How do you intend to balance your academic responsibilities with your personal life?”

What you’re called to talk about here are your time management, stress management and organizational abilities. Since you’ve already experienced high school, and you likely juggled studying with a part-time job, volunteering or another extracurricular activity, you can bring that up as an example to describe your process for striking the right balance between work and play.

As always, keep your answer truthful, and don’t try to embellish it with fictitious details — if you didn’t find high school all that difficult (and do tell us your secret!), then describe how you’re hoping to achieve the same during your first year of college.


During high school, I got into the habit of marking down every little thing on my calendar: from tests and assignments to meetups with friends. This helps me ensure I never forget anything and always have a clear idea of when I’m doing what.

6. “What societies are you interested in joining?”

In other words: “What are your hobbies and interests?”. Your extracurricular activities of choice can reveal a lot about you. If you’ve played sports since you were a kid, it can show dedication, discipline and great teamwork skills; if, on the other hand, you’re looking to join a volunteering group, it can demonstrate empathy and a desire to make a positive impact in your community.

As mentioned, it’s important that you learn more about the school before you turn up for the interview; a quick search can help you find what societies are available.


I’m interested in joining the school’s film club and hiking society. Both can introduce me to students with similar interests and help me explore new things: be that a quirky movie I’ve never watched or a nature trail I haven’t been on. I believe the right company and time spent outdoors will help keep my mood up in times of stress.

7. “Describe a challenge you faced in school and how you overcame it.”

If you’ve ever been to a job interview, you’ll probably have answered a similar question in regards to any difficulties you overcame in a previous work setting. The interviewer wants to hear about your resilience, problem-solving skills, and ability to function under stress — because college will give you plenty of that.

So, think back to your high school experience; those group projects that had you fuming with frustration, or the time your Jack Russell Terrier ate your calculus assignment. Describe how you handled the situation.


My laptop suffered a fall the day before an assignment was due, and I lost my work. It caused me a lot of stress, but I knew the only thing I could do was communicate with my teacher and ask for a deadline extension. Having never missed a deadline before, they were happy to give me the two extra days I requested.

8. “What are your long-term goals?”

As someone who’s gone to university and ended up working in a different field to what my 18-year-old self envisioned, I know that not every young adult has a clear vision for their future — and that plans often change.

Still, you’ve chosen your degree for a reason, and you can expand on that: what you hope to gain from it and how you see yourself applying those skills and knowledge in the future. You can talk about both academic goals and career goals here.


My goal after graduating is to do a master’s degree in occupational therapy. I want to work with people with diabetes in the future, as I’ve seen how devastating the lack of support can be on people’s mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.

9. “What did you do on your gap year?”

The number of students who decide to take gap years has increased by the tens of thousands since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re one of the countless students who has chosen to take a break between high school and college, you might get questioned on it.

The admissions officer isn’t judging your life choices here; rather, they want to hear more about your preferences, interests, priorities and motivators. Even if the main reason was to rest, focus on the things you learned or achieved during that time.


During my final year of high school, I set myself the goal of saving some money and traveling to Europe. This was important to me, as my family has roots in Italy, and visiting was an experience I longed to have. I worked as a tutor in my hometown for a few months, and then packed my bags and spent four wonderful weeks traveling through Italy and meeting people from all around the world.

10. “Do you have any questions for us?”

The honest answer here may be “no, not really”. You’ve probably read all about the school and the faculty’s history on the university’s website. However, requesting more information from them can demonstrate your interest, which is something your interviewer will want to see.

It’s a good idea to use this question as a way of bringing up a topic you want to touch upon that the interviewer hasn’t already mentioned — or as a way of bonding further with them.


You mentioned that you pursued your bachelor’s degree here, so you’ll know first-hand what the student experience is like. What would you say were your favorite things about the school, and what are some challenges that students, especially first-year students, might face?

How to ace your college interview

Here are five tips that can help ensure you arrive calm, collected and ready to crush that interview!

1. Practice answering common interview questions

Writing down your own answers to common questions can help you prepare for the big day. If you want, practice answering questions out loud with the help of a loved one. An older friend or sibling who’s gone through the college interview process could provide additional insights here.

2. Dress appropriately (and comfortably)

Those shiny black brogues you just bought may scream “art school!”, but if they cut into your heels to the point where you’re internally screaming, then leave them at home. Pick an outfit that’s both comfortable and appropriate instead, aiming for a smart-casual dress code. You don’t want to go too formal or informal!

3. Get there early

A good rule of thumb is to try to arrive 15 minutes before the meeting starts. This will give you enough time to find the room or building you need to be in — you’ll also have time for a few deep breaths or a short walk to shake off any pre-interview nerves.

4. Be mindful of your non-verbal communication

When you’re entirely focused on delivering your answers, it can be easy to lose sight of what your limbs are doing. Are you picking at your fingernails or tapping your foot on the floor? Are you forgetting to make eye contact? The things you communicate non-verbally can be just as important as what you put into words.

5. Be honest

It can be easy to trick yourself into thinking that you should come up with answers that the interviewer will “want to hear”. But the reality is that the interviewer is there to get to know you; so, your answers must be sincere, not just well structured and concise.

Final thoughts

College interview questions are designed to assess your personality, academic interests and goals, so the best way to approach them is with honesty. Admissions officers have spoken to countless young people like yourself, and they’ll know if your answers aren’t genuine; so, pick answers that reflect who you are!

Like we’ve seen, practicing your answers beforehand, and dressing comfortably and arriving early on the day can help minimize the stress.

Can you think of any more tips to share with your fellow (mildly panicked) high school students? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Originally published on September 10, 2018.