This post covers:
- Tips for Brainstorming Questions to Ask in a College Interview
- 11 Sample Questions You Can Ask an Interviewer
- College interview questions to ask if your interviewer is an alum
- College interview questions to ask if your interviewer is NOT an alum
- What if they START with “What questions do you have for me?”
- Don’t be afraid of asking the tough college interview questions
- A few tough questions to ask in your college interview
Picture this: You’ve just breezed through a college interview for your first choice school. Your answers were well-thought out, witty, and you’re internally high-fiving yourself.
And just when you think things are wrapping up, the interviewer asks “What questions do you have for me?”
You have none. You have no idea what questions to ask in a college interview.
And your interviewer is sitting there, staring at you, while you scramble to come up with a decent question on the spot. Something. Anything!
“Did you …. like this school?”
This is something I hear from students pretty often: they do lots of preparation for how to answer the interviewer’s questions, but less preparation for the end of the interview when they turn the tables and ask for your questions.
And this is SUCH a missed opportunity to show that you’re prepared, smart, and have done your research and really know what you’re looking for in college.
I want you to walk into your college interview 100% prepared for the questions they’ll ask you and the questions you’ll ask them.
So if you’re looking for questions to ask during college interview
a) you’re in the right place
b) keep reading
Tips for Brainstorming Questions to Ask in a College Interview
Yes, I’m going to share some sample college interview questions below. But before you scroll down and copy/paste, here are three things to think about:
It’s more important to be likeable than impressive
This advice came from Monica James during a podcast episode we did on college interview tips. More than anything, you want your interviewer to like you and to write a great note about you for your application file when it’s being reviewed.
The good news? It’s actually much easier to be likable than it is to be impressive. Once you’ve been granted an interview to your dream school, you probably don’t have time to add impressive things to your activities list. But being a bit more likeable? That’s surprisingly easy.
If you want to be more likeable, find a way to ask your college interviewer about themselves, their experiences, their knowledge, and their opinions. People enjoy talking about themselves, and it makes them happy and feel useful if they can provide wisdom and guidance that can help others make better decisions.
And then they associate those happy feelings with you, the interviewee. Those positive feelings combined with your thoughtful answers means you’re a lot more likely to be remembered positively when it comes to application review time. All because you gave the interviewer an opportunity to talk about themselves.
Craft questions that allow you to communicate things the interviewer didn’t ask you about
Did your interviewer specifically ask you about your academic interests and role as captain of the Geography Bee team, buuuuut you actually want to find a way to let them know you’re a champion gymnast? Say “I’ve been doing gymnastics since I was four. What’s the school’s gymnastics team like?”
If they didn’t ask about your award-winning genetics project, you might say “So, I’ve been working on science projects related to DNA and genetics for the last two years. I know Dr. Li has been doing some really innovative research in that area. Are any other microbiology professors working on interesting studies or projects that you know of?”
It’s also okay to ask about things you're just curious about that you'd like to get more insight on
It’s a good idea to give interviewers an opportunity to talk about themselves. It’s a good idea to use your interview questions to reiterate how awesome you are. It’s also fine to ask questions because you’re curious.
You’re allowed to ask “Honestly, how’s the cafeteria food?” or “How hard is it to get cast in the theater department’s plays if you’re not a theater major?” or “Does it ever get boring going to college in a town with a population of 5,000?”
You’re a deep well of curiosity with lots of questions - get answers to them.
11 Sample Questions You Can Ask an Interviewer
Best College interview questions to ask (if your interviewer is an alum)
1. What was your experience like?
Which professors inspired them? Were they part of Greek life or not? Why not? How did they feel about their freshman year roommates and the cafeteria food? Your interviewer’s answers will give you insight into who they are and, potentially, what you can expect from life at their school.
2. What did you love most about your college that you think other colleges may not offer?
If you’re looking seriously at multiple schools, these answers can be incredibly helpful.
An alum’s thoughts about how a college differentiates itself might vary wildly from what the marketing material would have you believe, so it’s good to hear insights right from a range of folks. Maybe the brochures emphasize small class sizes and sports but alums feel the real difference is the diverse staff, cutting edge research topics, and their unusual mandatory study abroad program for International Relations majors. Good to know!
3. What would you have done differently?
Maybe they’d have stayed in the dorms for another year instead of getting an apartment or tried more outside-their-comfort-zone extracurriculars. Perhaps they’d have taken the low-paying summer internship in their field rather the high-paying factory work (or vice versa). And you can bet most people probably would have skipped class less and attended a few more office hours (hint hint).
Obviously, everyone makes different mistakes but just hearing a few ‘be ye not so stupid as me’ tips can be super helpful.
4. What DIDN’T the school do well?
Again, this information is particularly helpful if you end up having to decide between multiple schools.
Do the school’s shortcomings relate directly to the stuff that’s important to you? If you know you want to go pre-med but your interviewer has some harsh words about the Biology Department, maybe this isn’t the school for you. But if you’re going to be an English major, it matters less if the Biology Department is a bit of a mess.
5. How did going to this school help you get where you are today?
In a perfect world their answers would be “Their classes directly prepared me for my first job. They helped me find the right internships. The careers office coached me to prepare for interviews. The alumni organization connected me with people in my field who could give me professional advice.”
Best College interview questions to ask (if your interviewer is not an alum)
6. What makes students at your university different?
Are the students at this school particularly politically involved? Very, very devoted to their studies? More-likely-than-usual to study abroad? More entrepreneurial than usual? Learning how this student body is different than others can help you decide if it’d be a good fit for you.
7. What’s something that makes you really proud to work for this university?
Maybe they’re proud of the school’s commitment to diversity in hiring. Maybe they feel pride in the football team’s record or the new research findings from the Psychology department.
As always, check to see how these values align with your goals and what you’re hoping to gain from your college experience. That impressive football team won’t help much if you’re a soccer player who’s going to major in Physics.
8. In your opinion, what are the character traits of a student who’d do really well here?
Is this school best suited for outgoing, team-player types who love sports and collaborative projects? Or is it a better fit for adventurous, outside-the-box thinkers who want to create their own majors, do self-directed studies, and study abroad in Thailand?
However your interviewer responds, their answers will be most helpful if you know yourself well enough to understand your own character traits. Hearing that self-starters succeed at this school won’t do you much good if you don’t know you’re a self-starter, right?
(Want to figure out your core values to learn a bit more about yourself? Do this exercise.)
What if they START with “What questions do you have for me?”
Ooof. What happens if they dive right into this question, putting you on the spot before you’ve had time to get comfortable with the conversation?
If your interviewer starts with “What questions do you have for me?,” reiterate what you want. “So I’m really interested in __________ and I’m wondering about the opportunities your school offers to ____________”
Of course, it’s important to go into this interview knowing what you want to communicate about yourself: You want to study art and audition for a capella groups. You’re interested in cancer research and studying Classical languages. You want to major in political science, play in the jazz band, and be an R.A.
I shared a bunch of great college interview questions above. But if you forget them, just go back to the information you want to communicate about yourself and build questions around it.
Want to major in political science? Try “I started the Young Progressives club at my school and I’m planning to major in political science. What sort of research or publications are the Poli Sci faculty working on right now?”
You’re interested in being an R.A.? Try “I’ve been a camp counselor for years and I’m interested in being an R.A. when I’m an upperclassman. What was your R.A. like? Do you feel like they were helpful? Did you know anyone who was an R.A.? How did they like it?”
Or simply get curious. Start with what comes to the top of your mind when you think about this college and go from there.
Don’t be afraid of asking the tough college interview questions--it’s okay if you stump the interviewer!
Did I extoll the virtues of charming your interviewer a few paragraphs ago? Yes. But you don’t need to stick to softball questions they’ve heard a million times before. It’s absolutely okay if you ask them a question they can’t immediately answer or that requires a bit of research on their part. You’ve just shown your intelligence!
A few tough questions to ask in your college interview
9. How is this school dealing with [insert social cause you’re passionate about: increasing diversity on staff, reducing their carbon footprint, holding people accountable for discriminatory behavior]?
Surely you’ve got a cause you feel passionate about, right? Ask your interviewer how this school is navigating said cause. Do they have a plan in place? How have they dealt with complaints or concerns about this topic in the past? Are there student groups that focus on this cause? Obviously, ask about a cause you’re truly passionate about. Don’t use this interview question as an opportunity to be woker-than-thou about a cause you’re not actually that invested in.
10. What sort of internship and career-placement services does the school offer?
This question isn’t always a stumper, but if the interviewer is an alum who graduated a few decades ago, they might not be up to date on the school’s current internship and career services. Or maybe each department deals with internship and career support differently and they’re not sure what the English department does for its students. Since attending college is meant to prepare us for the workplace, it’d sure be nice to know how this school is doing that, eh?
11. I’m really interested in __________________. Is the _____________ department working on any interesting/innovative research?
This question is a great way to reiterate, yet again, what you’re interested in and what you want out of your college experience. This question might stump your interviewer because they’ve been out of school for too long to know what a specific department is working on, or it might be outside their area of study. Again--it’s totally fine to ask your interviewer these tough questions. They won’t be less inclined to recommend you because you’ve asked them a question they don’t know the answer to.
That’s it! Now that you know some questions to ask during your college interview you can walk into that interview more prepared. Go get ‘em.
And hey, check out this guide if you’d like more interview tips.