Image from Pexels.

Image from Pexels.

Have a college interview coming up? Feeling a little anxious? Don’t really know what to expect? Well, have no fear! College interviews can sound intimidating at first, but once you have a basic understanding of how they work, they’ll be just like normal conversations you feel comfortable with.

Before the Interview

Now I don’t suggest that you plan out everything you want to say and do beforehand, but definitely don’t walk into the interview completely blind. There are a few important steps you should take in order to prep for your interview so that you won’t have a moment where you’re completely struggling or feeling uncomfortable.

Dress Attire

As silly as this sounds, don’t forget about what you’re going to wear. While it depends on who your interviewer is, it’s important to look presentable in any case since you want your interviewer to know that you’re taking the interview seriously. After all, first impressions matter. It may not represent the quality of your overall interview, but let’s be honest–who’s really going to take you seriously if you look like you’re going to the beach?

That being said, don’t forget to feel comfortable with what you’re wearing. You may look nice, but you definitely won’t feel ready for the interview if you’re in something that suffocates you.

It’s also important to take notice about where your interview is. There’s no need to go all out if your interview is at Starbucks.

And lastly, don’t forget about your shoes. This is coming from someone who accidentally wore tennis shoes with a dress shirt and khakis. Oops.


Depending on your interviewer, you should always expect at least one or two questions from them. Whether it be “Why did you apply/do you want to attend [college name here]?” or “What’s your favorite color?” you should always be at least somewhat acquainted with your interests. Something I find helpful is to at least be able to answer the “Why do you want to attend?” question, because most times than not that question always seems to arise. After all, you are applying to that college, so interviewers hope that you know why you did. Therefore, it’s always nice to be acquainted with some of the programs the school offers so that you’re not giving extremely broad answers.

For those who are socially awkward, shy, and/or introverted like me, I definitely recommend practicing with someone. Practicing before an interview doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have prepared your responses, but instead it means that you’ll be feeling a lot more comfortable with the interview rather than being extremely nervous.

Location and Time

Know where your interview is. Know how to get there. Know when to get there. Be there on time. ‘Nough said here.

During the Interview

This is it. The day is here. I repeat, the day is here! If you’re still feeling nervous, don’t worry. Most interviewers understand that the interview can make applicants nervous, so don’t feel obligated to walk in completely confident. Pro tip: Arrive at the interview slightly early so that you have time to unravel and feel more at ease.

Interview Dining Etiquette

If you happen to have an interview at a food restaurant, don’t feel obligated to buy the interviewer something. In fact, it’s usually the other way around. If it makes you feel better to have something in your stomach before your interview, definitely get something to eat or drink! If not, that’s totally fine too! There’s no pressure even if your interviewer gets something and you don’t want anything.

Body Language

This is an important one. Even if you’ve had a bad day, try not to look like you’re about to lash out at someone. Interviews can get uncomfortable really quickly if so. Always do your best to represent yourself professionally while not looking too stiff. It’s also nice to keep eye contact most of the time so that the interviewer knows that you’re directly engaged in the conversation. But remember that this is an interview, not an interrogation.

The Questions

Don’t get too nervous if you’re unsure about how to answer a certain question. There’s really no right answer to it, so everything is up to your interpretation. If you find yourself stuck on a question, give yourself some time to think rather than answering immediately. There’s no point in trying to make yourself sound good if you don’t really know what to say. That being said, just don’t make the interviewer wait for too long. Think about the question for a few seconds, and give it the best you’ve got.

After the Interview

YOU DID IT! You’ve completed your college interview! Whether you thought it went well or not, what’s done is done. There’s no point in worrying, so go out and relax. You deserve it.

Give Thanks

Don’t forget to thank your interviewer! Interviewers aren’t usually obligated to conduct interviews with applicants, so definitely take the time to thank them. Most people send thank-you notes via email, but you can definitely hand them a thank-you note after the interview. My only caution is that if you write the thank-you note beforehand, you’re writing thank you to someone that hasn’t even interviewed you yet, so it might be difficult to write a personable letter to someone you haven’t met yet. NEVER ask the interviewer for their address. It could possibly make the interviewer feel uncomfortable and is a breach of their personal privacy. That being said, you can never go wrong with a thank-you email after the interview.

The Follow-Up

Once you receive your admissions decision, let your interviewer know. They will most likely not know your admissions decision, so it opens the opportunity for you to ask them additional questions if you are admitted (or even decide to attend).

What Now?

The interview is over. Smile. Be happy. Hang out with your friends. Eat at your favorite restaurant. Watch a movie. Go out and enjoy life. You’ve earned it.

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the author

Raised in the outskirts of Austin, Texas, Eric Po is a freshman at Harvard University studying Economics. He loves listening to country music (particularly Rascal Flatts and Brad Paisley), but you can’t blame him; he’s a Texan after all! He also enjoys outdoor activities, including soccer, running, and Ultimate. While he’s not sweating outside in the heat, Eric enjoys volunteering for nonprofit organizations that work with youth. Although he hopes to be a financial analyst in the future, he eventually wants to work with students as a counselor.

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  1. Sri on October 13, 2013

    How do you send a note if you do not know the address? Do you send it to the institution?

    • Eric Po Author on October 13, 2013

      So I actually didn’t physically send a note to my interviewer. Instead, I wrote a thank-you note before the interview and gave it to my interviewer after the interview was over. I think writing thank-you notes before can sometimes be a bit generic since you actually haven’t had the interview yet, but it definitely beats asking them for their address. I know some interviewers have their own own office, so you can always send it to that address, but there are instances where that is not the case. Don’t send it to the institution because it will most likely get lost (unless your interviewer works directly for the university, e.g. admissions officer).
      However, I believe the safest way to ensure that your interviewer has received some form of thank-you note is email. Most of the time interviewers contact you via email and so I find it to be the most convenient!
      Thanks for reading, Sri!

  2. Deepa on October 13, 2013

    Nice article, Eric! haha tennis shoes with dress shirt and khakis…totally an Eric move 🙂

  3. Sri on October 16, 2013

    No problem Eric! I love your posts! Oh, and I agree with Deepa haha. Totally an Eric move!

  4. Lin on October 31, 2013

    I forgot to send a thank you email and I just kept dragging it out and now it’s too late but it’s my top school and I’m applying Early Decision, did I completely mess up? How much would it hurt me and my chances?

    • Lily Herman on October 31, 2013

      Hi Lin,
      Don’t fret too much! Thank you notes are more of a kind extra gesture, and it shouldn’t mess up your chances (I’m sure admissions officers are totally used to students not sending thank you notes, as they have not yet learned that it’s standard interview practice). However, just be aware that it’s a very nice thing to do in the future, and it should be considered a necessity!

  5. lilymarine on January 12, 2014

    My child just had a college interview at satrbucks. He enjoyed the interview however he forgot to ask the interviewer’s email address and now he doen’t know how to send the thank-you note–they only talked on the phone befroe this interview.

    Could someone give me advice on what we should do now?

    • Lily Herman on January 12, 2014

      I would try doing a little Google searching to see if he can find her email address! Typically that does the trick. It is, however, extremely important to send that thank you note–it can create a lasting impression on an interviewer and can turn a good interview into a great one!

      • lilymarine on January 12, 2014

        Thank you so much for the suggestion.
        Do you think it is appropriate if my son calls her and just let her know that he likes to thank her again—– or maybe text her.

  6. mahek arora on March 25, 2017

    I loved the idea of a thank you card after the interview! However if you’re not able to email or send a letter would you recumbent the applicant hands over card after the interview with handwritten calligraphy on it with their name?

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