Many colleges ask you to interview with an alum or admissions officer as part of the application process. This article has the full list of schools that require, recommend, or offer interviews, and it will give you some pointers on how to figure out your college's interview policy.
To start off, let's review the point of the college interview. Is your interviewer evaluating you, or is the meeting simply a chance for you to learn more about the school?
UPDATE: How Has COVID-19 Impacted College Interviews?
The coronavirus pandemic has had a serious impact on colleges and college admissions, and this includes college interviews. Practically every college in the US that required or recommended an interview is now offering virtual interviews. Some schools, such as Brown University, are requesting applicants submit a two-minute "video portfolio" in lieu of an interview.
Quite a few college interviews were already done online even before the pandemic, so colleges know how to conduct a virtual interview that covers the same information that an in-person interview would. This means you don't need to worry about a virtual interview having a negative impact on your application, and you can prepare for it the same way you would an in-person interview.
Why Do Colleges Give Interviews?
Colleges hold interviews for a couple of different purposes. The most common perception is that interviews are meant to evaluate you. Your interviewer is sizing you up and will report back to the school with her two cents on whether or not you'd be a good fit. For the majority of college interviews, this is mostly true.
While a college interviewer doesn't have a huge say in who gets in and who doesn't, she does contribute to the decision by sharing her perception of your personality, strengths, weaknesses, and goals. Often the most selective schools use evaluative interviews, like Harvard (and most of the Ivy Leagues), Wesleyan, and Hamilton College.
Most college interviewers aren't trying to put you on the spot, though. Rather, they use interviews as a way to get to know you further, beyond the written component of your application. Rather than drill you with questions, they often want to engage you in conversation about your interests and passions.
Interviewers want to learn more about your goals and assist you in figuring out whether the college is the right place to achieve them. According to some colleges, the report from an interviewer almost always helps your candidacy because it helps flesh you out as a multidimensional person.
While most interviews are evaluative, some are merely offered to be informational. Informational interviews are offered to help you learn more about the school and get all your questions answered by someone who attended. These interviews are meant to be for your benefit, and usually, interviewers don't issue a report to any admissions committees. Some schools that offer purely informational interviews are Cornell, Vassar, and Colby.
Colleges that consider interviews when they evaluate you typically require or strongly recommend the interview (for all intents and purposes, let's just interpret "recommend" as "require"). Those that offer informational interviews often present them as optional. Flipped around, you can usually safely assume that a required interview is evaluative.
Optional interviews are often more informational, with a few exceptions, like Tufts and Northwestern. If an interview's optional, it's still a good idea to set one up. Not only will you make a good contact and learn a lot, but you'll be actively demonstrating your interest in the college!
So to sum up, college interviews, like the Harvard interview, can be evaluative and considered in admissions decisions, or informational, like the Cornell interview, and meant solely to teach you about the school. Evaluative interviews are also informational in many ways; it's definitely a good idea to prepare and ask questions and learn about the college.
Regardless of what kind of interview the college offers, it will be your responsibility to set one up. How do you go about setting up your college interview?
You might meet at a local coffee shop, where you can express your enthusiasm in cappuccino foam.
How Do You Set Up an Interview?
Most interviews are conducted by alumni of the college. These alumni live all over the country or internationally, so they're able to meet with most students at their high schools or at a nearby coffee shop or library. When I interviewed, I met in a cafe, my local library, and two alums' houses—which, in retrospect, is kind of strange. Most colleges are clear that you should meet in a public place, not go to an interviewer's private home.
Colleges vary in their procedures when it comes to interviews. Some ask you to set one up after you've applied and they've begun to process your application. Others may ask you to indicate on your application whether or not you'd like to have an interview (these are the optional ones).
If your interview is virtual, you'll learn what platform the interview will be conducted on (such as Zoom or Skype), and you'll receive a link to the interview. When it's time, just log on! While virtual interviews can feel more casual, remember to still take them seriously. Dress nicely, and try to sit in front of a neutral background. Try to keep distractions and background noise to a minimum, as well.
More selective schools, typically those with required interviews, often want you to request an interview a few weeks earlier than your application deadline. MIT and Wellesley, for instance, set interview request deadlines in mid-October for students planning to apply early action and in mid-December for students applying regular decision.
These deadlines are a couple of weeks earlier than your application deadline, so you'll need to research the process at your prospective colleges early. If you have any interviews, you'll have to keep track of the interview deadline, not just your overall application due date.
Once you've made your request, the college will usually put you in touch with a local alum. Then you'll set up a time and place that works for both of you. At this point, some readers may be sharing a very specific worry: what if there are no interviewers in my area?
If you don't have an interviewer close by, then the college simply tears up your application. KIDDING. If an interview's impossible, it won't negatively affect your chances in any way.
What If You Don't Have a Local Interviewer?
Most students will have at least one interviewer in their area, at least for those schools that require interviews. Alumni networks are often wide-ranging.
However, if you're one of the few students that doesn't have an alum in your area, many schools will allow you to have an online interview, typically over Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts, or one on the phone. If this is the case, most schools share Brown's view: "All interviews, whether in-person, at interviewing day, by phone or by Skype/G-Chat are considered equally by the Office of College Admission."
If an online or phone interview doesn't work either for some reason, then don't worry! Your inability to set up an interview won't be held against you. Even if the interview's required, schools aren't going to punish you for where you live. Nor will it affect you negatively if there are simply too many applicants and not enough interviewers.
Make every effort to meet interview request deadlines and/or set up an online meeting, but don't worry if it's just not possible. You can rest assured that it won't detract from your application.
Before getting into the full list of colleges' interview policies, let's first consider the rules at Ivy League colleges, all but one of which strongly recommend or require an interview.
Ivy, the patron plant of perfect SAT scores.
Interview Policies of Ivy League Schools
If you're planning to apply to Ivy League schools, then you know that their expectations are as rigorous as they come. Most require the maximum number of teacher recommendations and SAT Subject Tests, not to mention a high GPA, strong extracurricular background, and competitive test scores. Why wouldn't they also require an evaluative interview as part of this intensive process?
They would, and they do. For every school but Cornell, evaluative interviews are a required part of the application process. Admissions committees aren't too transparent about exactly how much interviews count toward the decision. An interview certainly shouldn't make or break your application or even count all that significantly in the admissions decision, but when applying to such selective schools, every aspect counts. A great interview could give you a competitive edge over another applicant with similar credentials.
The chart below shows the interview policies of the eight Ivy League colleges. As mentioned above, you should pretty much consider "recommended" to mean the same as "required." Click on a school's name if you'd like to read its official statement on college interviews.
|College||Interview Policy||Interview Purpose|
|Brown||Recommended to submit video portfolio||Evaluative|
|Cornell*||Required for Architecture program and the School of Hotel Administration, recommended for the Art program||Informational|
|University of Pennsylvania||Recommended||Evaluative|
*Cornell is the only Ivy League school that doesn't schedule interviews for a majority of candidates. Cornell makes sure to emphasize that its interviews are informational, rather than evaluative:
"Once you apply to Cornell, an alumnus or alumna in your area may contact you to schedule a time to talk. While this optional, informal conversation helps the admission committee get to know you better, its main purpose is to give you an opportunity to ask any questions you may have about Cornell. This meeting does not serve as an admissions interview, nor does it take the place of the admission interview, if one is required of you."
Since we're already talking about the interview policies of Ivy League schools, let's also take a closer look at other highly selective colleges that require interviews as part of their admissions processes. If you're applying to any of the Ivies, you might also have one or more of the schools below on your college list.
What Goldilocks was to porridge, these schools are to their applicants. This may have made more sense in the old days of SAT analogies.
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Interview Policies of Highly Selective Colleges
Some of the following schools require interviews, while others simply recommend them or offer them as an option. As mentioned above, it's always a good idea to seize an opportunity to demonstrate your interest in a school. Especially with these highly selective schools that use holistic admissions processes, it's always helpful to reveal more of who you are, what motivates you, and why you're enthusiastic to attend.
The schools with optional, informational interviews aren't so intense. While I'd still advise you to take advantage of the offer, it shouldn't negatively impact your application if you don't choose to schedule an interview with them.
Check out the chart below for the interview policies of some selective colleges. As with the info above, you can click on the school's name to go to its official site and learn more about how its interview process.
|College||Interview Policy||Interview Purpose|
|Hamilton College||Strongly recommended||Evaluative|
|Wake Forest University||Recommended||Evaluative|
|Washington University in St. Louis||Optional||Informational|
Many of the schools on the above list are highly selective, and many of them encourage applicants to interview so they gain a more complete sense of each student as a "whole person." Other schools have different purposes for interviews, as you'll see below.
Gather round! We're heading to the full list of colleges that require interviews.
Full List of Colleges That Require Interviews
Like the schools above, most of the schools on this complete list use interviews to evaluate a candidate as part of their admissions process. While interviews help admissions committees get or know a student better, they may also have more specific purposes.
Some interviews are meant to help an applicant with academic and career planning. Many art, design, and performance schools on the list below hold interviews to review and discuss a portfolio. For instance, Moore College of Art and Design and Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design hold this kind of portfolio review interview.
Religious institutions, like Gordon College and Yeshiva University, talk to a candidate about her religious beliefs and the kind of commitment she can make to their community. Others, like Bard College at Simon's Rock and Naropa University, are looking to get to know candidates better and gauge their overall fit with their very unique college communities.
I've provided the full list below, along with the purpose of interviews for most of the schools that offer them. If you can fill in any of the blanks, let me know in the comments!
|College||Interview Policy||Interview Purpose|
|American Academy of Art||Required||Evaluative|
|Bard College at Simon's Rock||Required||Evaluative|
|Berklee College of Music||Required||Evaluative|
|Cogswell Polytechnical College||Required||Evaluative|
|College of the Ozarks||Required||Evaluative|
|Divine Word College||Required||Evaluative|
|Hebrew Theological College||Required||Evaluative|
|Juilliard School||Required as part of audition callback process||Evaluative|
|Northwest College of Art and Design||Required||Informational|
|Paier College of Art||Required||Evaluative|
|Point Park University||Required for applicants to stage-management and technical theatre/design||Evaluative|
|Pontifical College Josephinum||Required||Evaluative|
|Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design||Required||Evaluative|
|Sacred Heart Major Seminary||Required||Evaluative|
|State University of New York Upstate Medical University||Required||Evaluative|
|Stevens Institute of Technology||Required for Accelerated Pre-Medicine applicants, optional for all other applicants||Evaluative|
|United States Air Force Academy||Required||Evaluative|
|United States Naval Academy||Required||Evaluative|
|University of North Carolina School of the Arts||Required||Evaluative|
|University of Waterloo||Required for School of Architecture||Evaluative|
|VanderCook College of Music||Required||Evaluative|
|West Coast University||Required||Evaluative|
|Western Governors University||Required||Evaluative|
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Since there are thousands of colleges across the US and admissions policies are always changing, it's important for you to be able to track down this kind of information on your own. If you have questions about a school that's not on this list or want to learn more about a prospective college's interview policies on your own, how can you go about finding this information?
How can you bring your school's interview policy front and center?
How to Research College Interview Policies
If you click on the names of any of the colleges above, you'll be brought to its official admissions page, specifically one with information about college interviews. By simply going to your colleges' official site and locating the page with information on applying, you should be able to learn more details about each step of the process.
If this information is not readily available, then you should contact the admissions office by email, a form on its website, or phone call (usually the fastest option during business hours). Ask the office about their policies around interviews—or any other questions you have. Make sure to investigate at least a month before your application deadlines—as you saw above, interview request deadlines can be weeks earlier than application deadlines.
You may also search for other students' experiences with interviews on discussion forums like College Confidential. Students may share questions they were asked and how they prepared, though keep in mind that every alum interviewer may be different. Some colleges that require interviews or offer them give helpful suggestions for questions you might be asked on their websites, and you can find other prompts online and practice what your responses.
Once you know exactly when and how to set up your interview, spend some time preparing questions and answers. That way you can make the most of the conversation, connect with your interviewer, and demonstrate both your qualifications and enthusiasm for your college of choice.
Apart from practicing your answers to common interview questions, you should prepare some thoughtful questions to ask your interviewer. But you don't have to come up with them all on your own! This helpful guide contains some of the best questions to ask your college interviewer.
In addition to the interview, you have plenty of other steps to take when putting together your application. For a complete overview, check out our guide to the entire college application process, step by step.
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Rebecca graduated with her Master's in Adolescent Counseling from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has years of teaching and college counseling experience and is passionate about helping students achieve their goals and improve their well-being. She graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University and scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT.