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Undergraduate Admissions Interview Questions

Admissions Overview

Applications for undergraduate admissions are most commonly pursued just before graduating from high school or completing a GED. Applications can be tailored for a university program in a specific major or simply for an exploratory path. The term undergraduate comes from the concept that applicants are university students but not degree holders, unlike graduate or postgraduate students.


Applying to an undergraduate program at most universities requires a fee to apply. The application itself usually consists of high school transcripts (or proof of a GED), a personal essay, and standardized test scores (usually SAT and/or ACT). Certain degree programs, such as those in the performing arts, require applicants to schedule an audition and interview with faculty members.

How to Prepare for Undergraduate Admissions

The first step in the process is to determine which schools the applicant wants to apply to. This requires research into different universities and the programs they offer. 

Since university admissions are often limited, it’s important to find several that fit the applicant’s goals and needs and research the individual requirements each of them has for admission.

It’s important to place an emphasis on the personal essay in the application process since this offers applicants an opportunity to convey what they have to offer to admissions staff. Afterward, applicants should ensure that transcripts have been sent to the universities they’ve applied for and confirm that each school has received standardized test scores. 

If possible, applicants should reach out to the faculty involved in their desired degree program to express their interest in studying under them. If that degree program requires an audition or interview, schedule them as soon as possible and make arrangements for travel.

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Undergraduate Admissions Interview Questions

Question: Why did you choose to apply to this college?

Explanation: This is a general question the admissions officer will ask early in the interview. The purpose of it is to begin the conversation, learn more about your background, and collect some information they can use throughout the interview. When responding to this question, you should highlight the university's key characteristics and how they will help you obtain a degree and pursue your chosen career.

Example: "I chose to apply to this university for several reasons. The first is your reputation for academic excellence and the notoriety of the teaching staff. I also admire your close relationship with the business community and the opportunity this provides for internships and additional learning opportunities. Finally, the campus is within driving distance of my hometown, so I will be able to go there on weekends and continue working my part-time job."

Question: What are your academic weaknesses, and what steps are you taking to address them?

Explanation: During a college interview, you can anticipate questions about your strengths and your weaknesses. The key to answering a question about your weakness is that it should be unrelated to your academic career or something you are actively working on to correct. This question specifically asks about academic weaknesses and what you're doing to correct them, so you need to use the second option when responding to this question.

Example: "My greatest academic weakness is taking on too many projects at the same time. I tend to overload myself and then become stressed about the time required to complete all of the work. This was pointed out to me by my high school counselor and my parents. What I've done to overcome this is limit myself to a smaller number of projects and create a schedule that includes the time I need to work on them and the time required for other activities and pursuits, including relaxation. This has already had a positive impact on this issue, and I feel less stressed when starting a new project."

Question: How do you feel you can contribute to the culture of this college?

Explanation: Admissions counselors initially screen applicants based on their academic achievements and their standardized test scores.  The next criteria they use is your formal application and college essay. During an interview, they take a great deal of time to learn about you as a person and how you will contribute to the institution's overall culture. Interviewers want to create a diverse culture and accept applicants who will contribute to this and enhance the other students' experience on campus. 

Example: "I believe I can contribute to the diverse and inclusive culture of this campus, based on my acceptance of people who are different than I am, experience traveling to different places around the world, and history of working as a student mediator at my high school. I firmly believe interacting with people from different backgrounds and cultures helps make me a better person and provides me with new perspectives I may not have considered if only spending time with people just like me. I hope I will be able to promote this point of view on your campus through both my words and my example."

Question: Who is someone you admire and would like to meet?

Explanation: The purpose of this question is to understand the type of people you admire and would like to emulate. By identifying an individual you would like to meet, you're telling the interviewer that this is the type of person you are striving to become. You should pick somebody who you generally admire and know about because the interviewer is likely to ask you follow-up questions about the individual.

Example: "The person I admire the most and would like to meet is Condoleezza Rice. I admire how she took the time to develop herself through education, volunteerism, and work experience to become one of the most respected secretaries of state this country has ever had.  She has a direct communication style which is easy to relate to and a casual approach to serious issues. She also has a whimsical side and likes to have fun. The final thing I admire about her is the strength of her golf game, which is a sport I also enjoy."

Question: Other than textbooks, what are you currently reading in your leisure time?

Explanation: This is another question the interviewer will use to learn more about you and the things you like to do while not pursuing an education. You'll note these last three questions all ask about non-academic topics. During a college interview, you can expect a great many questions like this. Keep in mind that the admissions counselor is striving to create a campus culture that is diverse, inclusive, and contributes to the overall experience the students have at college.

Example: "When reading for fun during my leisure time, I tend to gravitate toward books in the science fiction or mystery genres. I like them because they encourage me to consider topics I'm not familiar with or solve problems with a limited amount of information which contribute to my ability to do the same in both my academic and work pursuits. I am currently rereading the Dune series by Frank Herbert.  In addition to the science fiction element, these books also address complex societies, interpersonal relationships, and government structures."

Question: What steps have you taken to explore the major you indicated you want to pursue in your application?

Explanation: In today's academic environment, a liberal arts curriculum or spending a year or two exploring different majors is no longer an option. Students who expect to excel in their studies and eventually their careers need to have some focus and a good idea of what they would like to do with their education after they graduate. You should be able to discuss some of the research, events, and experiences that have impacted your decision to pursue a specific course of study and your career choice.

Example: "On my college application, I indicated I would like to pursue a marine biology major. I've chosen this due to my love of the environment and the enjoyment I get when exploring the ocean, learning about marine life, and spending time outside. My family and I have taken several vacations which have enabled me to explore a wide variety of coastal environments. In addition to snorkeling, I am a PADI-certified diver. This has enabled me to witness parts of the planet that many other people never see firsthand. I'm looking forward to learning more about this discipline through my formal education and the fieldwork related to my major."

Question: What has been your biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?

Explanation: The purpose of this question is to discover how you go about dealing with challenges. The nature of the challenge isn't as important as the steps you took to overcome it. During your time at college, you will be presented with a wide variety of challenges. The interviewer wants to make sure you can address and overcome them and continue to move forward with your college education.

Example: "My biggest challenge thus far has been dealing with my parents divorcing when I was still in elementary school. This was a traumatic event that impacted me greatly. Fortunately, both of my parents were very supportive and provided me with the resources and knowledge I needed to work through this. One of the key things they did was put me in formal counseling and get me involved with a support group of other kids going through the same situation. What I learned is that regardless of the challenge, if you work hard and seek out the right resources and support, you can overcome anything which occurs in your life."

Question: Of all the students applying to this university, what makes you unique?

Explanation: This question requires you to be self-aware and reflective. Most people are relatively humble and have difficulty discussing their strengths and the characteristics that make them special. You need to overcome this during an interview. It is the only chance you have to demonstrate your qualifications to the admissions counselor. You can anticipate being asked this question during every interview, not only for college but also during your career. You should have a statement prepared which defines your qualities and how you will contribute to the institution's success.

Example: "I believe the things that make me unique are my ability to overcome challenges, being confident in myself while also accepting of others, and being somewhat of a renaissance person with a wide variety of interests and talents. I am comfortable being a member of a team but also assuming a leadership role when necessary. Finally, I have a deep appreciation of the classics and enjoy introducing them to people who have not been exposed to them yet."

Question: What would you do if you received a large inheritance and didn't have to work to live?

Explanation: This question seeks to understand how you would spend your time if you did not have to work. There is also an assumption that you may not pursue a college education if you didn't need to work. This is another question that requires self-evaluation, honesty, and some speculation. Your answer to the question should include how you would occupy your time, how you would contribute to society, and what you would do to stay relevant and interested.

Example: "If I had enough money and didn't need to work, the first thing I would do would be to continue to pursue my interest in the major which I indicated in my application. Not having to worry about money would allow me to concentrate and attain my degrees and certifications for this field. I would also have the freedom to select a profession with no concern for making money. Finally, I would have time to volunteer and contribute to causes which I am passionate about. I believe the benefit of having enough money is to provide us experiences, options, and choices, not material items."

Question: What recent event has had the greatest impact on your view of society and how people interact with each other?

Explanation: When admissions counselors ask this question, they are testing your interest in current events and how well informed you are. Many students concentrate on friendships, leisure-time activities, and their formal studies, not on what's happening in the world around them. By talking about a current event and its impact on how people relate to each other, you will be demonstrating that you maintain awareness of what's going on in your world and have opinions based on the events.  These are characteristics admissions counselors look for when interviewing prospective students.

Example: "Without a doubt, the most recent current event which has had the greatest impact on my life and my outlook on how people relate to each other has been the COVID-19 epidemic. This has forced us to reevaluate how we relate to each other in a world where wearing masks, maintaining social distance, and not easily interacting with other people has become the norm. It has taught me how to use other forms of communication, take advantage of opportunities to get together with people that are different from who I've been around before, and be more patient of other individuals' ideas of how people should behave during a crisis. I firmly believe that as a society, we will be stronger and have a greater ability to get along with each other because of what we have learned during the last year."

Additional Undergraduate Admissions Interview Questions

  • Is there anything you would change about your high school?
  • What do you like to do outside of the classroom?
  • What are your plans after obtaining a college degree?
  • What do you consider the most significant skills you developed in high school?
  • Do you have experience with leadership positions at school? What did you learn from them?
  • What are some academic, social, and personal goals you have set for your first year of college?

A word of warning when using question lists.

Question lists offer a convenient way to start practicing for your interview. Unfortunately, they do little to recreate actual interview pressure. In a real interview you’ll never know what’s coming, and that’s what makes interviews so stressful.

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