How Not to Answer These Common Admissions Interview Questions

by Christine Chadwick

Sitting down to an interview is one of the most nerve inducing activities you may experience. As most jobs require an interview before hiring a candidate, many universities are following suit. Some will not accept an applicant until meeting with him or her in person. Don't let these admissions interviews intimidate you: they are simply an opportunity to showcase your best side and share with your desired university the outstanding qualities you'll bring to their student body.

In addition to knowing how best to answer interview questions, it's often just as helpful to consider what not to do in interview situations. Here are some widespread traps to avoid when answering these common admissions interview questions.

1. Tell me about yourself

This is the classic interview go-to 'question.' It's sure to come up in some form early in your one-on-one chat. When it does, try not to launch into too much needless detail. The interviewer doesn't want to know what you eat for breakfast every day. Stay on topic. Don't generalise or speak in clichés like "I'm a really outgoing person." Be specific, and don't just focus on academics. Talk about things you enjoy, like hobbies, or trips you've taken.

2. What interests you about our university?

The word "reputation" pops up a lot in answers to this question - and usually in a generic, textbook fashion. Rather than giving a broad, impersonal response, home in on what appeals to you personally about the university. Does the campus have a lively energy and a lot of participation from students? What specific things about your prospective field of study appeal to you in regard to this university? Don't be afraid to gush a little on why you want to attend their institution - so long as it feels genuine.

3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Another common interview question, this one trips people up because it is so straightforward. For most people, strengths are easy to focus on. Be honest, and share strengths that others have noted in you. Don't just say, "I'm a good listener." Rather, provide an example of when listening made a difference in a certain situation or outcome. As far as weaknesses go, try not to answer, "I'm bad at multitasking." Share how you're working toward turning your weaknesses into strengths. Self-improvement is always a winner in interview situations.

4. Where do you see yourself in ten years?

This is a difficult one for college-age people to answer. Your life is sure to change in countless ways over the next several years, so to predict what will happen is nearly impossible. Don't even try to see into the future. Answer how you would like your life to be in ten years, but within reason. Avoid materialistic responses like, "I'd love a mansion with a hot tub." Where would you like your career to be at that point? Where do you see yourself living? Ask yourself these things before heading into your interview.

The interview is one of the hardest parts of getting into university. Considering common questions beforehand can help you enter the situation confidently. Don't sweat it, even if your palms tell you otherwise.