10 College Interview Mistakes

Make Sure the Impression You Make During Your Interview Is a Good One

A student at a college interview
A student at a college interview. SolStock / Getty Images

The college interview probably isn't the most important part of your application, but it can help you if you make a good impression. When a college has holistic admissions, the interview is a great place to put a face and personality to your application. A bad impression can hurt your chances of getting accepted.

Key Takeaways

  • If you chew gum, show up late, or act disinterested, your disrespectful behavior will make a bad impression.
  • Show that you are an independent adult. Check in yourself when you arrive at the interview location, and don't try to bring your parents with you for your interview.
  • Make sure you research the college and have questions you want to ask your interviewer. Ignorance of the school and silence during the interview will work against you.

If you're preparing for a college interview, make sure you to avoid the following mistakes.

of 10

Showing Up Late

Your interviewers are busy people. Alumni interviewers are probably taking time out of their full-time jobs to meet with you, and campus admissions folks often have back-to-back appointments scheduled. Lateness disrupts schedules and shows irresponsibility on your part. Not only will you be beginning your interview with an annoyed interviewer, but you're suggesting that you'll be a bad college student. Students who can't manage their time typically struggle in college coursework.

If you run into difficulties on the day of your interview, be sure to call the admissions office well in advance of your scheduled appointment to let them know the situation.

of 10


Business casual is your safest bet, but the main thing is to look neat and put-together. You'll look like you don’t care if you show up wearing ripped jeans or saran wrap. Keep in mind that guidelines for your clothing will vary depending on the personality of the college and the time of year. At a campus summer interview, for example, shorts might be fine, but you wouldn't want to wear shorts to an interview at an alumni interviewer's place of business. These articles can help guide you:

of 10

Talking Too Little

Your interviewer wants to get to know you. If you answer every question with a "yes," "no," or a grunt, you're not impressing anyone, and you're not demonstrating that you can contribute to the intellectual life of the campus. In a successful interview, you demonstrate your interest in a college. Silence and short answers will often make you seem disinterested. It's understandable that you might be nervous during the interview, but try to overcome your nerves enough to contribute to the conversation. You can also prepare for common interview questions, like one that asks about a book you're reading or would recommend.

Also be sure to ask your interviewer about their experience with the college. A good interview is a two-way conversation.

of 10

Making a Prepared Speech

You want to sound like yourself during your interview. If you have prepared answers to questions, you might come off sounding artificial and insincere. If a college has interviews, it is because it has holistic admissions. The school wants to get to know you as a whole person. A prepared speech on your leadership experience will probably sound rehearsed, and it may fail to impress. Try to relax, be yourself, and speak naturally. Think about how you would respond to different interview questions, but don't memorize answers.

of 10

Chewing Gum

It's distracting and annoying, and it will also appear disrespectful. You want your interviewer to be listening to your answers, not to your smacking mouth noises. By putting something in your mouth for an interview, you send the message that you have little interest in having a meaningful conversation. Try to avoid chewing on your fingernails as well.

of 10

Bringing Your Parents

Your interviewer wants to get to know you, not your parents. Also, it's hard to look like you're mature enough for college if Dad is asking all the questions for you. Often your parents won't be invited to join in on the interview, and it's best to not ask if they can sit in. College is about learning to be independent, and the interview is one of the first places where you can show that you're up for the challenge. If your parents have questions for the college, your interview isn't the place for those questions.

of 10

Showing Disinterest

This should be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised what some students will say. A comment like "you're my back-up school" or "I'm here because my parents told me to apply" is an easy way to lose points during the interview. When colleges give out acceptance offers, they want to get a high yield on those offers. Disinterested students won't help them accomplish that important goal. Even students who are academically overqualified for a school sometimes get rejection letters if they demonstrate no real interest in a school. 

of 10

Failing to Research the College

If you ask questions that could easily be answered by the college's website, you'll send the message that you don't care enough about the school to do a little research. Ask questions that show you know the place: "I'm interested in your Honors Program; could you tell me more about it?" Questions about the size of the school or the admissions standards can easily be figured out on your own (for example, look up the school in the list of A to Z College Profiles).

of 10


Sometimes a students' insecurity about their admissions chances leads them to exaggerate or lie about their credentials. Avoid this trap. Be yourself, and present your experiences honestly. You can get yourself in trouble if you fabricate half truths or exaggerate during the interview. A lie can come back and bite you, and no college is interested in enrolling dishonest students.

of 10

Being Rude

Good manners go a long way. Shake hands (or bump elbows if there's a pandemic). Address your interviewer by name. Act like you are excited to be there. Say "thank you." Introduce your parents if they are in the waiting area. Say "thank you" again. Send a thank you note. The interviewer is looking for people to contribute to the campus community in positive ways, and rude students won't be welcome.

A Final Word on College Interviews: Before you set foot in the interview room, make sure you have answers for these common interview questions. Your interviewer isn't going to try and stump you or ask difficult questions, but you do want to make sure you've thought through some of the most common questions.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Grove, Allen. "10 College Interview Mistakes." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/college-interview-mistakes-788892. Grove, Allen. (2023, April 5). 10 College Interview Mistakes. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/college-interview-mistakes-788892 Grove, Allen. "10 College Interview Mistakes." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/college-interview-mistakes-788892 (accessed June 9, 2023).