Interviews at Liberal Arts Colleges: Applicants Share their Experiences

February 04, 2016

Thought you were done with the application process? Think again. Now that you’ve submitted your application, it’s time to focus on your college interview. There are a lot of tips and tricks for interviewing at big universities, but not as many for those applying to small liberal arts colleges. That’s where AdmitSee can help! We have advice from current college students to guide you through the process. 

Hear it from top students at Amherst, Barnard, Macalaster, Occidental, Smith and Vassar:

cjjo96 (Barnard ‘18): I only interviewed at Barnard because I applied Early. I think my interview was a huge help for me, primarily because my application does not read in a simple way. What I mean by that is that my grades were pretty volatile and more importantly no where close to matching my test scores. My interviewer (from the admissions office) even said she thought she was confusing two different applications when she first pulled up my file. My interview gave me the time to humanize my application. The mess of mismatched information was given a face and a voice and I saw my interviewer understand me more as our conversation went on. I think interviews are so crucial, especially if you’re not a run of the mill applicant.



Want to know more about Vassar? 798741280240737FB can help!

798741280240737FBSince I’m introverted, I don’t like the idea of talking in front of strangers, but please take advantage of this opportunity! It is a chance for schools to see more of you as a real person, and not just a piece of paper. For example, I was able to explain more about my personal background as a Chinese-America, by talking about my favorite book, The Joy Luck Club. From relating strongly to this book, I can show how much my Chinese heritage significantly shaped my identity as a person. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to ask personal questions about the schools that I couldn’t find the answers to online, like “What’s your most/least favorite part of X college?”, “Why did you choose X college?” and “What’s your favorite tradition?” Don’t be afraid to ask as many as you need to, but be polite and courteous as well. 

After the interview, I sent an email to the interviewer thanking him/her for taking the time to interview me. When I chose which college to attend, I also sent a follow up to my interviewers to thank them again for their consideration and let them know which college I will be going to. Most importantly, you should update your interviewers if their schools actually accepted you, because although interviews are not the most important components of the application, they do play a role in admissions. 

Clinton.Kunhardt (Macalester ‘19): Honestly, the interview is one of most underutilized and valuable parts of the admissions process. It’s a chance to sit down with someone who has a really good sense of who would fit at their school, and be your best self, as well as—and this is the part that everyone misses—figure out whether the school is a good fit for you! Seriously, question your interviewer; not only will it make you look like a more discerning candidate, but you’ll get a much better sense of what the school is like from the quality (or lack thereof) of the interviewer’s responses. Also, talk to students! Just do it!


Always dreamt of going to Amherst? Find out how from simon54!

simon54: Most of my interviews were fairly straight-forward. The interviewers told me that they could not get a student accepted from a school, but they could get a student rejected. Essentially, if you don’t make a fool of yourself in the interview, you will be fine. Look up common interview questions and brainstorm answers to them beforehand. Also, have a really solid answer to the “Why ____?” question going in. The interviewer wants to see that you aren’t applying to the school randomly or without any knowledge of it.

mishell (Occidental ‘19): Reach out to get an interview, especially at smaller schools. It gives a much more personable interaction, understanding of how the school functions, and an edge over those who did not interview. My interview at Oxy was very intimate, not very structured, and revealed that the school really valued my priorities as a liberal arts college. My interviewer and I ended up talking for much longer than a typical interview.

Smithie12318 (Smith ‘18): Interviewed by an Alumnae in a local coffeehouse. We talked for over an hour and half about various topics, ranging from my life experiences, extracurricular activities in school, etc. She also shared some insight into her four years at Smith. The interview was relaxed and amicable, with lots of laughter between the both of us.

Best of luck with your college interview! Whatever you do, I hope you don’t have to go through what this student did at his Haverford interview! If you need extra help with preparing for your interview, talk to a mentor and get some personal help to get you into your dream school. 

About The Author

AdmitSee Staff
AdmitSee Staff

​We remember our frustration with applying to college and the lack of information surrounding it. So we created AdmitSee to bring much-needed transparency to the application process! Read more about the team here.

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Accepted to Northeastern, U San Fran, UGA, FIU, Barnard, Fordham, Pitzer, Miami

I currently attend Barnard College, Columbia University. I plan to major in Film Studies. I am very outgoing and love going on adventures and making memories in the city.

Accepted to Macalester, Carleton, Swarthmore, Rice, WashU, Ohio State, Reed

Sophomore linguistics and computer science double major at Macalester College

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Barnard '18 | My passions lie in education, psychology, and human rights, all from the lens of an African Studies major. My transcript and application were far from conventional, but neither am I.

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Hello! I am a student at Amherst College in Massachusetts with a major in Chemistry.

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