The 5 Most Popular College Admissions Questions and How Your Students Can Answer Them

Your student received the email setting a date and time for an interview with the admissions team at the college or university they applied at.

Now what?

Well, preparation is key. They should prepare well and plan for a good interview to boost their chances of getting into that school. Fail to prepare and they could harm their chances.

Study International put together a list of the 5 most common questions admissions staff will ask your students in their interview and some tips for how to answer them. 

#1: Tell me about yourself

This seems easy until you really think about it. The difficulty lies in how general it is, so your student may not know how to begin. While the schools do want to know about them, this isn’t where they spill out their life story (there may not be enough time either – most interviews last around 30 minutes).

Suggestions: Brag humbly and succinctly. It may sound like an oxymoron, but with the right choice of words, they can paint a portrait of themselves as unique and separate from the other candidates. Throw in a little about their academic achievements as well as what they like to do in their free time.

#2: Why are you interested in this college/major?

Admission officers ask this question to see two things: 1) whether your student is  really interested in the major/school; and 2) whether they take their college application process seriously.

Suggestions: There’s no easy way around this. Extensive research will be necessary. Don’t just talk about the school’s rankings, prestige or location, according to Prep Scholar. That just shows a superficial level understanding.

Instead, dig deep. Find out about the specifics about the school’s extracurricular activities, cultural values of the school, etc. If there’s a particular internship program the school has, and that relates to the major they are applying for, talk about it.

Talking about how a major will bring lots of money or job security is a big no-no. Instead, talk about why the subject inspires them – admission officers want to see genuine interest. If there was a light bulb moment that made them decide to major in biology when they were just a six-year-old, talk about it.

#3 – Can you explain the grading system at your high school?

Many schools have different grading systems. This can effect GPA, class ranking etc.. They should be prepared to answer questions about their high school. 

Suggestion: Try to find the clearest way to explain the grading scale that their high school uses, as well as any other achievements they may have, such as awards received.

#4 – What are your academic strengths and weaknesses, and how have you addressed them?

Colleges want to know how your students  perceive their achievements as well as how well they overcome obstacles.

Suggestions: When talking about strengths, be specific. And explain how these strengths helped them throughout high school and how they plan to use it in future. For example, “Writing is my biggest strength. I capitalised on this to get an internship programme at a local publishing house, as well as winning an essay competition. I hope to do the same in college.”

When it comes to weaknesses, admit them readily, so long as they can show that they have made efforts to overcome them. Don’t say they have no weaknesses – no one’s going to buy that and they will only paint themselves as arrogant.

Instead, talk about strategies they have used to overcome procrastination, or a specific story about how they got that C grade to a B in calculus.

#5 – Do you have any questions for me?

Take this opportunity to ask the questions for which the answers just aren’t available on the school’s website. Ask a well-thought question and they can get extra marks for showing they have done their research.

Suggestion: Betsy Cotten, associate director of admissions at McDaniel College in Maryland suggests asking about more in-depth issues such as the culture of a college’s location and how the college’s students spend their time outside the classroom.

“More of the touchy-feely, rather than the more statistically driven stuff is a better use of their time,” says Cotten. 

Here is a link to Study International’s article: