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Top Tips for Virtual College Admission Interviews

This year’s admissions process certainly looks different. Schools have gone test-optional, campus tours have moved online, and college admissions interviews — traditionally held in-person with alumni or admissions officers — have shifted to a virtual format. For many students, this last change feels particularly challenging. Interviews are stressful at the best of times; connecting with your interviewer and making a strong first impression over Zoom can seem impossible.

The good news: you can absolutely have a strong interview over Zoom! To help you through the process, we’ve listed below some of our top tips for virtual college admission interviews.


1. Prepare for the interview: The format of your interview might have changed, but your interviewer will still be looking for the same thing: a smart, engaged student who is seriously interested in attending their institution. Knowing this, you’ll want to take some time before your interview to think about your own interests and experiences. What have you done that shows your love of learning? What experiences can you talk about that present you as a thoughtful, active community member? Also make sure to do some research on the school itself so that you can clearly explain why you are interested in attending. What field would you like to pursue there? What research opportunities and clubs would you explore? Do you have any questions for your interviewer about the school’s offerings?

2. Pay attention to your setting: Your brilliant conversation should be the focus of your interview, but don’t discount the importance of setting. Make sure you take your Zoom call in front of a neutral background that’s as professional as possible. (If you’ll be in your bedroom, make sure to clean it up before the call!) Also check your lighting and your computer angle. Can your interviewer see you clearly, or are you backlit like an anonymized witness in a documentary? Will your interviewer be able to look you in the eye? Feel free to bring in lamps or to prop your computer up on books, if necessary!

3. Dress for success: Sweatpants may be de rigueur for virtual learning, but your interview is an opportunity to put some of your more formal clothes back into rotation. Dressing nicely shows your interviewer that you care about this meeting — that’s important! At the very least, you will want to wear a nice top (a button-up, a blouse) to the interview, since your interviewer will be able to see it during the call. It’s also wise to wear a nice pair of pants, just in case you have to stand up during the interview. The last thing you want is for your interviewer to see your pajama pants as you chase your dog out of the room!

4. Make sure you’re not interrupted: This can be challenging, especially for those with large families, but do try to avoid interruptions during your Zoom call. Ask your family to stay out of your room during your interview, as movement in the background of your call can be distracting. It’s especially important that your parents don’t speak to the interviewer on your behalf, as this can suggest that you aren’t mature enough to handle the interview (and, by extension, college) on your own.

5. Take advantage of the virtual format: Zoom interviews can feel less natural than in-person interviews, but they do offer you some advantages. You can, for example, keep a few notes or your resume on-hand to refer to if you need reminders about important points. You can also make sure you have an arsenal of items (water, tissues, etc.) nearby, just in case you need them. Make sure you take advantage of these opportunities to make yourself more comfortable during the interview. That will make the whole thing feel less stressful!

grad school Graduate Admissions Insider Tips Interviews Top Tips

Master Your Graduate School Interviews

Post by: Dr. Kristen Willmott

“What will they ask me?” “How can I leverage a Zoom interview?” “What if they offer an in-person interview?” “Do I meet with a graduate school admissions rep or a faculty member, or both?” “How big is a ‘panel?’” “Is this a true ‘admissions interview’ or more of an ‘informational interview’ offer, and what’s the difference?” These are all common questions we receive from our graduate school admissions consulting clients who are targeting some of the best Master’s, PhD, law school and MBA programs in the nation and overseas.


The bottom line is that graduate school interviewing can be intimidating even for the most prepared candidates, and most top schools have so many applicants each year that they don’t even offer interviews beyond a casual sit-down alumni interview once an application has been submitted.  So, college seniors and working professionals could easily have their first ever admissions interview at the grad school level, NOT college.

I urge graduate school applicants to head into the interview process informed and in the know so remember the following:

  • First, congratulations on securing an interview! Not everyone gets that option and it shows that you’ve done something very right so far. The competition amongst top applicants is fierce, even as enrollment numbers dwindle at some programs, and it’s a win to be offered an interview.
  • Second, it’s a two-way street. They are interviewing you to assess your fit with the program and what you will bring to them. BUT, you have every right to pose questions and go into the process assessing the program’s fit for YOU at this point in your life.
  • Third, all top graduate school programs think highly of their offerings; they have to, they should. They know/believe they offer a great program, have unparalleled facilities and resources, and renowned faculty who are at the height of their fields, so they don’t need you to tell them in an interview how great they are. They already know that; it’s on the website, they put it there. They want to know why YOU are great, why this program is the only one for you, and what you’ll uniquely add to their already-impressive program and department and curricular/research/on-campus offerings.


With that in mind, the main questions that any interviewer likely wants to know are super simple. In fact, they are SO simple that across almost every graduate school program, in almost every field, I can streamline them into 4 core questions that boil down to the following:





Simple, right?… Of course, they won’t likely be phrased in this specific manner, and there are always going to be more long-winded questions that admissions reps and faculty will toss out to you in your graduate school interviews. Given that, here are some questions for you to practice if you have been offered an interview OR if you are planning for graduate school admissions and you want to know what to expect in the interview process.


  1. Tell me about yourself. (VERY open ended… this one can be tough.)
  2. What do you believe your greatest challenge will be if you are accepted into this program?
  3. In what ways do you think your previous experience and coursework have prepared you for succeeding in our program?
  4. What do you know about our school/program?
  5. What is your philosophy regarding this profession?
  6. Explain a situation in which you had a conflict and how you resolved it. What did you learn?
  7. Describe a group project you’ve worked on and the role you took.
  8. How will you be able to make a contribution to this field?
  9. What can you offer this program that other applicants cannot?
  10. Tell me about your last X experience (internship, research, job, volunteer, etc.). What was a challenge? What was a key contribution you made?

At the end of the interview –you’ll be asked if you have questions for your interviewer. Don’t say you have none. You don’t know everything about the program, the faculty, the interviewer himself/herself, the student experience, etc. Jump on this opportunity to assess fit with the program AND give them even more information about you by what you are asking.


Practice and plan to ask 2-3!

  1. What future changes do you see in this program/profession?
  2. What professional associations have you joined that you’d recommend? (question for faculty only, not an admissions officer)
  3. What can you tell me about the student culture in the on-campus academic climate?
  4. What are the defining characteristics of the program’s character and/or mission?
  5. What advice do you have for me at this stage in the admissions process?


Complete needed self-prep before the day of. Practice not in front of a mirror (we have cell phones now!), but by recording yourself and your answers to the above questions on your cell-phone or computer. Then, watch it twice. Do you love what you see and how you answered?  Or, are you just wanting the video to be over? How does that candidate appear and come off as in his/her responses? Excited and knowledgeable about the program and his/her direction, or panicked, rushed, and unprepared? Then, record it again. It’s a painful but purposeful strategy to prep, I promise!

Finally, plan for logistics. What are you wearing the day of? Have you checked your Zoom settings and background? How/when are you getting there if it’s on site vs. virtual? My advice: Dress professionally but comfortably. Get there 20 minutes early but not 60 minutes early. Bear in mind that you’re likely being watched so no cell-phone calls as you sit in a chair outside the office. No obsessive texting either, that can wait; soak up your surroundings instead. Bring your resume/CV (and know your resume/CV). Get some sleep the night before and if you’re headed to campus, allow for time to walk around/tour for a bit first. Can you see yourself living there? Are you happy as a grad student-for-a-day there? Pretend you’re headed into a meeting with your advisor vs. an admissions interview.  Is that overwhelming or exciting? Is it frustrating because you wish it were on another campus or exhilarating because you’re so glad you’re there? These are all important questions to ponder as you walk one step closer to your graduate school admissions acceptance.

Headed down that path?  Let us help!  Seeking a mock interview with guidance and coachingLet’s chat!

Insider Tips Interviews

Crush Your College Interviews

There are different types of college interviews (alumni, informational and required). Most schools have eliminated on campus interviews in favor of alumni interviews so as not to waste time interviewing thousands of applicants who never end up applying. As a result, offices cut back dramatically on these interviews and instead let alumni interview students once the students’ applications are submitted in the early round.

Either way, interviews DO count in the admission process, but not that much – they basically take a 2 dimensional application and make it more “3-D” so admissions officers can see confirmation of what is already in the student’s file. Often students turn down alumni interviews because they think they are unhelpful but that is a mistake.

Top Tips for College Interviews


You can leverage your college interviews and leave a good impression as well as gain some helpful information. Here are some of our top tips:

1. PREPARE: Outline your top two academic areas of interest and your top two extracurriculars. You won’t have time to touch on everything you’ve ever done in a thirty-minute interview, but you should be able to give examples of your principal interests and strengths. Thinking about these beforehand will help you weave them into your interview conversation naturally.  Spend time researching specific departments at the school that are of interest to you, note the names of specific professors as well as classes and programs. You should also prepare a list of questions about the school that have not been answered in the college literature or on the website.  Something specific to your interests is great: “I notice you have a Center for Science and Culture here. Is there an opportunity for undergraduates to take part in this research?”

Don’t be afraid to veer off the straight and narrow if you find a mutual bond with your interviewer. Taking 20 minutes to intelligently discuss your mutual love of Homer’s Odyssey will not be seen in a negative light. Being authentically engaging never goes out of style.

2. RESEARCH: Here’s a good trick: look up the campus newspaper online before you visit and read the headlines from the previous few days. What are the big student issues? Are they lamenting the lack of dorm space? The issue of teaching assistants? Then, weave these issues into your question to show you’ve done your homework.  “I noticed in your campus paper that students are upset about the funding cuts to the science department — how will that affect pre-med students?”

3. EXTRACURRICULARS AND AWARDS: Bring a typed list of your extracurriculars and awards to the interview. Not all interviewers will want to see it, but some may be interested. At the end of your interview, you may add, “if it would help you out, I brought a list of my extracurricular activities and my awards that I can leave with you…” This phrasing gives the interviewer a way out if he or she doesn’t want to see anything. Being fully prepared cuts the anxiety because you are in charge rather than feeling vulnerable and reactive to what might occur.

4. DRESS COMFORTABLY AND NICELY: Overdressing indicates you are trying to compensate for a lack of real talent by showing off your dress. Plus, you may be perceived as too preppy or snobby by wearing haut couture. Underdressing may be seen as a sign of disrespect. Go for the middle of the road: boys can wear chinos or pants other than jeans with any regular shoe (as opposed to sneakers) and a button down shirt or polo (no tie necessary). Girls can wear almost anything neat from a skirt and blouse to pants and a sweater. Never wear an outfit for the first time to an interview. And don’t be that kid who brings a briefcase and dresses in a 3 piece suit – it’s overkill.

5. TELL THE TRUTH: There are hilarious admissions stories about students who made up answers and were caught. It’s much better to say you don’t know than to be caught in a lie or out of your field of knowledge. Honesty is the best policy.

6. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE EYES:  Make eye contact – even if you are so shy it makes you slightly nauseous to think about locking eyes with an admissions officer.  You don’t have to STARE, but do shake hands, look him or her in the eye and continue that eye contact throughout the interview. Practice, practice, practice.

7. SMILE: Not the deer-in-headlights variety but a nice genuine smile… throughout the entire conversation.

8. THANK YOU NOTE:  Ask for the card of your interviewer following the interview itself and make sure to promptly follow up with a hand written thank you note.  Admissions officers receive hundreds of emails. Stand out with a genuine note of appreciation on your personal letterhead or real piece of stationery.

9. IT’S YOUR INTERVIEW: If your parents join you on your college visit, perhaps they could take a walk when you are having your interview. Often parents take up precious time asking the admissions officer questions prior to or after the interview. The interviewer wants to remember YOU, not your parents.



  • Tell us about your high school
  • Tell me about your classes this year, which ones you like, which ones you don’t like.
  • Where did you grow up?
  • What classes did you take last year/will take senior year?
  • What are your favorite classes?
  • What have you done of interest over the summers?
  • What are you looking for in a college?
  • How do you stand out on the extracurricular side?
  • How would your friends describe you?
  • What world issues do you feel strongly about?
  • What do you envision yourself doing 10 years from now? 20?
  • What books or works of art have influenced how you think?
  • What are you reading now?
  • If you could change anything about your high school experience, what would it be?
  • What teacher has had a profound impact on you? Other person?
  • Where you do think you’d make the biggest impact on a college campus? How would we feel your presence?
  • Describe any unique talents you possess.
  • Have you done any major research projects? Won any awards?
  • What is your favorite book/author?
  • If the tables were turned and you could ask yourself any question, what would it be?
  • Where do you see yourself contributing on campus?
  • Do you have any questions about our school? Please ask me.


Many colleges now have a supplemental question on their application that asks why you are applying. BECOME this why essay for the school you’re interviewing with and always say YES to an alumni interview as admission offices would wonder why, if you were offered an interview, you turned it down.