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Like many of the most common interview questions, a question about why you are interested in the college seems like a no-brainer. After all, if you are interviewing at a school, you have presumably done some research and know why you are interested in the place. That said, it is easy to make missteps when answering this type of question.
- Be specific. Make sure you've done your research and are aware of the features that distinguish the college from other schools.
- Give a well-rounded answer. Try to find features on the academic and non-academic fronts that you can address.
- Don't focus on selfish aspects of attending the school such as prestige or future earning potential.
Weak Interview Answers
Some answers to this question are better than others. Your answer should show that you have specific and admirable reasons for attending the college. The following answers are not likely to impress your interviewer:
- "Your college is prestigious." This may be true, but what distinguishes the college from other prestigious colleges? And why does prestige matter so much to you? What exactly about the college's academic and/or non-academic features make you eager to attend?
- "I'll make lots of money with a degree from your college." This certainly may be an honest answer, but it won't make you look good. An answer such as this suggests you care more about your wallet than your education.
- "All my friends are going to your college." Are you a lemming? Your interviewer will want to see that you have selected the college because of your own educational and professional goals, not because you follow your friends blindly.
- "Your college is convenient and close to home." Here again this might be an honest answer, but college is preparing you for the rest of your life. Proximity to home suggests that location is more important than your actual education.
- "My counselor told me to apply." Fine, but you'll want a better answer. Show that you have done your own research and that you are eager to attend.
- "You're my safety school." No college wants to hear this even if it's true. Colleges want to admit students who are eager to attend, not students who look down on the school and are likely to transfer after a year.
Give Your Interviewer a Well-Balanced Answer
The interviewer is hoping that you are interested in the college for reasons other than peer pressure or convenience. Similarly, if you say you applied entirely because of a parent or counselor's recommendation, you'll be suggesting that you lack initiative and have few thoughts of your own.
When it comes to prestige and earning potential, the issue is a bit more fuzzy. After all, name recognition and your future salary are both important. The interviewer most likely is hoping that you find the college prestigious. That said, you don't want to come across as someone who is more concerned with material gain and prestige than with pursuing your passions and getting a high-quality education.
Many students choose a college based on sports. If you love nothing more than playing soccer, you're likely to look at colleges that have strong soccer teams. During the interview, however, keep in mind that students who are interested in nothing except sports often fail to graduate.
The best answers to this interview question provide a balance of academic and non-academic reasons for wanting to attend. Perhaps you've always dreamed of playing on the school's soccer team and you really like the school's hands-on approach to teaching engineering. Or maybe you like the opportunity to be an editor for the literary magazine, and you are eager to participate in the English department's study abroad program.
Know the College
What you most need to do when answering this question is show the interviewer that you know the college's distinctive features well. Don't simply say that you want to go to the college to get a good education. Be specific. Let the interviewer know that you were drawn to the college's innovative first-year program, its emphasis on experiential learning, its Honors Program, or its international focus. Also feel free to mention the school's wonderful hiking trails, its quirky traditions, or its amazing lilacs.
Whatever you say, be specific. The college interview is a great place to demonstrate your interest in the school, but you can only do this if you have done your homework. Before you set foot in the interview room, make sure you have done your research and identified several features of the college that you find particularly appealing, and make sure at least one of those features is academic in nature.
Finally, make sure you make a good impression by dressing appropriately and avoiding common interview mistakes such as showing up late, answering questions with one-word responses, or proving that you are clueless about the school