Interview Preparation

College Interview Tips and Preparation

Not all colleges offer on-campus interviews. Check with each admissions office individually to see if they interview and, if so, determine the process they use. While most colleges that interview do so on their own campus, some interview locally. Generally, interviews are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

For example, USC interviews Southern California students on their L.A. campus, but they also offer interviews in major cities across the U.S. If you arrange an interview on the USC campus, schedule this when your school is having an in-service day and you do not have classes. If you do not get a time with someone in your major, you may have to interview with representatives from a different department. Note: USC does not interview on weekends.

Georgetown, Columbia, Harvard, and MIT interview some students, but interviews are only offered after your application is submitted. SMU interviews too, but there are more students than slots. Rick Diaz has been with SMU for decades and he is truly a gem in admissions, but he only has a limited number of interview times. Prepare, set an appointment, and interview.

Here is an interesting tidbit. Colleges may say that they do not interview, but when you get on campus you can often meet the regional representative who will read your application.

At Lizard, we prepare students throughout the year for college interviews, summer programs, internships, and jobs. In a two-hour session, we assist with research, environment, questions, body language, and thoughtful responses. The value of the training lasts long after the college process since students will likely interview dozens of times in their life.

How to Have a Successful Interview


  •  Read materials about the college ahead of time.

  •  Get a sense of the student body and type of school environment.

  •  When interviewing on campus, try to schedule appointments with coaches, faculty/administrators in your major, religious leaders, students, representatives, or other people of interest. If you can't, don’t sweat it.

  •  Know whether the interview is evaluative (they will determine whether or not you would be a good fit) or informational (they are only ‘interviewing’ you to provide you with more information about the school).

  •  Tour before you interview.

  •  Dress to impress. Remember, this is an interview. You want to make a positive impression with the adult interviewer. Avoid baggy pants, jeans, showing skin, sneakers, sandals, or flashy accouterments. You don’t need to wear a suit, but a sweater, slacks, and conservative clothes are appropriate.

  •  Parents are often invited, but they must NOT dominate the conversation. Many times it is better if they are not in the interview room. Remember, most colleges want you to demonstrate some independence.

  •  Be sure that you are not hungry or tired when you arrive.

  •  Smile. You want them to get a sense of your charming personality.

  •  Be sure to leave the interviewer with a great impression.


  •  When the interviewer calls your name, greet him or her with a handshake and a smile. Be relaxed and friendly.

  •  Make eye contact and create a connection.

  •  Introduce your parents or siblings if they are with you.

The Interview

  •  Be prepared to tell the interviewer more about yourself.

  •  Research the school first, be prepared to ask questions about the college.

  •  Bring a pad or folio with a pad. Jot notes before you go to remind yourself of key questions. You might also want to take notes during your interview.

  •  Body language tells much about a person. Use good posture when sitting in your chair; leaning, slouching, or looking away makes you appear disinterested.

  •  Use correct grammar and appropriate vocabulary.

  •  Avoid inappropriate language like swearing, politically incorrect terminology or usage such as "you know" or too many "ums.”

  •  Think before you answer questions, but try to remain relaxed.

  •  Exude confidence. Do not act overconfident.

  •  If you are truly interested in the school, be authentic and demonstrate that interest and enthusiasm.

  •  This is your chance to impress. Arrive early. Surprisingly, many students arrive late. Some do not even come. Others do not appear to take the interview seriously and are unprepared. It is better if the interviewer is late.

  •  Be friendly, but not flirtatious or overly casual. Shaking hands is appropriate.

  •  Do not badmouth counselors, teachers, fellow students, religions, races, or political groups.

  •  Do not memorize answers; try to sound natural and conversational.

  •  Do not chew gum.

  •  Do not eat food during the meeting unless you are at a restaurant and requested or offered to do so.

  •  Do not wear lots of cologne or perfume.

  •  Do not respond with only "yes" or "no" answers. They want to get a sense of who you are.

  •  Ask for a business card at the end of the interview. Write the name of college representative and the meeting date on the back.

  •  Thank the interviewer after the meeting and shake their hand.

  •  Always follow up later with an e-mail or a thank you note.

Be Prepared to Answer These Questions

  •  What three adjectives describe you?

  •  What activity is most important to you and why?

  •  After touring our campus, what do you find the most appealing about the school?

  •  What do you consider the greatest contribution you could make to our student body?

  •  What is your greatest strength? What is your greatest weakness?

  •  Why do you want to go to college?

  •  Where do you envision yourself in ten years?

After the Interview

  •  Write a short thank you note to your interviewer and send it within 24 hours.

  •  In the note, include a reference to something specific from the interview. You want some specific point to stand out so that they remember you.

  •  If you have a question that was not answered, include that in the note.

  •  Also, send the interviewer an e-mail with a question about special services/opportunities in order to learn more and create a dialogue.