How to crush a college interview

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I remember the one fateful afternoon that I had my college interview. I was interviewing with an alumna from a very prestigious school. I was very nervous but determined to make a good impression. But it was my first interview ever, and unfortunately no degree of determination can make up for lack of preparation.

Breaking news, I didn’t get in. Womp womp.

To be completely fair, it wasn’t a complete disaster. But now that I’ve had a few years to reflect, I look back and cringe at some of the answers I gave. Hoping to save you from a similar fate and improve your chances of getting into your dream school, I’ve compiled some of my best interview tips to help you crush your college interview!


You don’t have to dress up in your Sunday best, but do present yourself with poise. Dressing up for the occasion demonstrates respect for the interviewer, and wearing smart casual attire also helps you sit up a little straighter and conduct yourself with maturity. Rule of thumb: If you don’t want your grandparents to see you in that outfit, you probably don’t want your interviewer to see you in it either.

It may seem like common sense, but having had my college interview in a coffee shop right after tennis practice, I assumed that the atmosphere would be casual enough that I could get away with wearing my athleticwear. Yeahhh, probably not the best idea.


I guarantee you will be asked at least some sort of variant of this question during your college interview. Deceptively simple, this question is essentially a sales pitch of who you are as a character.

Keep your answer succinct and entertaining — roughly around 2 minutes. The idea is to give the interviewer a better sense of who you are beyond the college application and present more material to work with when asking you questions. Introduce yourself, what school you’re from, and then offer a personal insight that eventually leads to the reason why you want to apply for that particular school.

Don’t go on for too long — no one needs to listen to your entire life story.


The handshake is one of the first impressions you will give to your interviewer, so be sure to introduce yourself, grip hands firmly (so no limp noodles or bonecrushers!), make eye contact, and smile.


When I shook hands with my interviewer, I was mortified to feel that my hands were uncomfortably clammy. I also had the unfortunate habit of putting my hand to my mouth while I was thinking of an answer. I wasn’t nervous when trying to come up with an idea, but it definitely came across that way to the interviewer.

This is why we pay attention to our nervous ticks. Most of the time, these ticks are so small that we don’t realize we’re showing them until someone else points it out. Figure out how your body changes under stress, and consciously break those habits. If you get shaky hands, place them in your lap and hide them under the table so that your interviewer can’t see you fidgeting. Plant your feet firmly onto the ground and maintain a relaxed and open-shouldered sitting position.


Yes, this college interview might feel really high-stakes. After all, you really want to impress your interviewer in the hopes of getting into your dream school. Unfortunately, nerves sometimes get the best of us and makes us act like… not ourselves.

Nowadays, I go into interviews with a candid spirit. I do my best to treat the interview like an engaging conversation — this is just as much an opportunity for me to find out more juicy details about the other side as it is vice versa. And interviewers were once in your shoes, dealing with the stress of the college interview, applications, and acceptances. You’ll be fine.

If you’re looking for more advice on how to nail the college interview, talk to one of our Chegg College Admissions Counselors! Our Counselors are either current or former admissions officers, so they can help you with any questions you might have about the college admissions process.

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