Reviewing international student interview questions and answers is essential when preparing your application to study abroad. Not every school conducts interviews, but you need to be ready if your chosen school does, so you must learn how to prepare for a college interview in advance. That’s why we’ve put together a list of common college admissions interview questions that international students can expect. We’ve also provided sample answers and some tips to help you as you prepare. Being prepared for the different questions that the admissions committee might throw at you will help you feel more confident, thus boosting your chances of doing well and getting acceptance.
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Interview Prep Tips
Before we get into the types of questions you should expect as an international student, let’s go over a few things that you need to keep in mind when preparing for your interview.
Interested in a summary of these tips? Check out this infographic:
Most of the time, interviews start with a series of personal questions, such as "tell me about yourself". The admissions committee does this to break the ice and ease you into the conversation. Their aim is to find out things about you that might not be in your application and supplemental application essays. These introductory questions also give you the opportunity to elaborate on certain topics that you might have touched on in other components of your application like your common app essay.
You should try as much as possible to create a narrative when answering this type of question. This is your chance to provide the interviewer with some context about you, the person behind all the numbers and extracurriculars. Talk about your family, your hobbies, and the experiences that shaped you. You should follow that up by mentioning the specific skills or knowledge that you gained from the situation you are describing and link it all to your future in that school.
To put that into context, take a look at the sample questions and answers below:
Tell us about yourself.
My parents are missionaries, so I grew up moving around, both nationally and internationally. It's probably where I get my love for traveling and history from. My parents often took my siblings and me to museums and lectures. I spent most of my teenage years in Italy, where I fell in love with the rich culture, architecture, and history. That's when I realized that I want to become a history teacher, so that I can share that love with others. I think I would do well as a history teacher since I have excellent public speaking skills that I developed in high school as a member of the student body that often had to give a speech.
After my high school graduation, I decided to take a gap year to spend some time in my home country with my family and friends. I have been spending my weekdays tutoring middle school students at my local community center, and it has confirmed for me that I truly enjoy teaching. Now, I'm ready to start working towards becoming a teacher, and the university is the first step towards achieving this.
What book are you currently reading?
To be honest, I am not reading any books currently. I have been focused on preparing my college applications and getting ready to move abroad. However, the last book that I read was Becoming by Michelle Obama. She is probably one of the most famous first ladies of all time, and I really admired some of the initiatives that she started while her husband was in office. Specifically, the Move It campaigns because, as an athlete, I understand the importance of a balanced diet and exercise. Since middle school, I have been playing rugby, and I hope to join the rugby team at the University of X, as well.
What is one part of North American culture that you are excited to experience?
It may sound cliché, but I am excited to experience everything. I grew up watching American movies and TV shows, so when I picture myself in college, I see a typical American experience. I see college campuses with people from all over the world, Greek row houses, large classrooms where students get to have discussions with their professors, hot dogs during football games, and friends who spend hours in a coffee shop studying together. I can't wait to do it all!
What do you do in your spare time?
I am currently in my final year of high school, preparing to write my final exams. I am also a key player on our varsity soccer team. In other words, I haven't really had a lot of leisure time lately. But when I do manage to get some free time, I enjoy just lying on the couch, reading a good book, or watching a good movie. I particularly enjoy books on human psychology, films based on real-life stories, and philosophical novels. I enjoy them because they are entertaining, but I also believe they help broaden my horizons. Additionally, I've found that they help me improve my vocabulary and communication skills while allowing my mind to relax.
What are the areas that you feel you can improve yourself on?
I recently realized that I need to learn how to say no and plan my time better. I went to a boarding school for most of high school. It was my first time away from home, so I thought everything around me looked fun, and I felt like I needed to experience everything all at once. There were many after-school clubs to join, sports to do, and people to meet. I would say yes to so many things, just so I could try them, and before I knew it, I was running the student government elections, I was on the varsity softball team, I was on the planning committee for school social events, and I still had to study for my classes. It all got so overwhelming during the first semester of my second year, and I had to reassess my commitments. This final year, I reorganized my obligations, and I have been working to make sure that I focus on what I enjoy and need to prioritize.
Tip: This question is essentially asking you what your limitations are so you should review strategies for tackling the strengths and weaknesses interview question and apply them to your answer for this question.
The various components of your application, like your high school resume or common app activities section, typically include all the relevant aspects of your academic timeline. Still, the interviewers will likely want to hear about some of those things from you directly. Whenever possible, make sure you highlight impressive aspects of your academic performance such as awards, special recognitions, special projects, or your GPA. You should also show the admissions interviewer your enthusiasm and ambitions by mentioning your academic goals and how this program can help you achieve them.
Take a look at the sample questions and answers below for context:
Tell us about an obstacle that you faced in high school and how you overcame it.
I am an introvert. I enjoy my own company and don't always feel the need to socialize. As a child, however, I was also painfully shy. It resulted from some traumatic experiences in my early childhood that I had not found the courage to speak up about. It had a profound impact on my ability to socialize and attitude in school. I would just sit in class and listen, often answering questions with silence, my eyes downcast. It was only once I noticed that my lack of class participation and interaction with my peers was affecting my grades that I found the courage to visit the school counselor and seek help. At her behest, my parents helped me undergo therapy. As a result, I overcame my mental block, started to trust people again, and even joined the yearbook club. It wasn't an easy process, but I did not give up, and here I am, living quite a normal life now and interviewing for a spot in a great college where I hope to live on campus with a roommate.
Have you ever traveled to a foreign country before?
Not yet. I was born and raised in Madrid. I have traveled across the country and visited different cities with my family and my volleyball team for different school tournaments. More recently, I've actually gone on a few weekend trips by myself so that I could explore and start getting comfortable with being by myself in an unfamiliar place. I have not ventured outside of the Spanish borders just yet, but I am hoping that I will get a chance to do so in September to start my journey in university.
Do you need to prepare video interviews? You'll want to know these tips:
Personal and Professional Goals Questions
These questions are designed to tell the admissions committee about your mindset and motivations. You should expect questions about your aspirations in life, your goals, and your motivations. As an international student, you will most likely also need to tell the admissions committee about your reasons for choosing to study in a different country and, specifically, in the country that your chosen school is in.
This is where all the research that we advised you to do comes in handy. For this kind of question, you should focus on the characteristics that the school values. You should mention at least one quality that aligns with what the school is looking for in your answer. Make sure that you back them up with concrete examples and present them in a narrative.
Here are a few examples:
Why have you chosen to study abroad rather than in your home country?
A big part of my decision to study abroad comes from the fact that I enjoy learning about and experiencing new cultures. My second reason is the same reason that most people probably have for pursuing any degree, and that is to improve my career prospects. The reality is that, unfortunately, at this time, no university in my country would give me the same level of education as X university when it comes to my chosen field of study. Furthermore, research has shown that studying abroad helps you to appreciate other cultures and gain a greater understanding of the world. These qualities are becoming increasingly valuable in the modern business world, and I want to give myself the best chance at success after graduation.
How did you decide to come to Canada?
To be honest with you, it was not an easy decision. The decision to study abroad was easy to make, but the world is a huge place, and many great countries caught my interest. In the end, I had to make way too many pro-con lists to help me narrow things down. I was mainly looking for a country with an interesting history, a diverse population, and where I could experience the four seasons. Once I had a shorter list of countries, I could then focus on looking for universities that would be a good fit for me academically and socially. University X and the great white north came out on top, and that's how I ended up here, in this interview.
In ten years, where would you like to be living, and what would you like to be doing?
Ten years from now, I want to be running a nonprofit that helps children in underserved communities by providing school supplies and other necessities. I consider myself a global citizen, and through my many travels with my parents, I learned that low-income communities that need help exist everywhere. For this reason, I haven't decided exactly where I will be. I plan on using the knowledge I will gain from University X and any work experience that I will have to figure out where I can have the most positive impact and start there.
20 Additional International Student Interview Questions to Practice With
1. Why did you choose X college?
2. Why did you choose to pursue X discipline?
3. What were your favorite high school courses?
4. What other schools did you apply to?
5. Do you think you will work during studies? Are you applying for a work permit?
6. Tell me about your family?
7. What will you miss about your home country the most?
8. Who had the most influence on your academic interests?
9. If you've never been outside your country, where would you travel to for a vacation if you had the chance? and Why?
10. If you've travelled outside the country before, which countries have you traveled to?
11. Tell us about your favorite teacher in high school.
12. Which aspect of college that intimidates you?
13. What do you do when you are stressed? How do you handle it?
14. Who is your role model?
15. How often do you plan to travel back home during your studies?
16. How important would you say your grades are?
17. If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would you choose? and why?
18. What current issues have caught your interest?
19. Tell us about an experience where you showed leadership skills.
20. What do you hope to learn in your time studying abroad?
Need more info on the college application process? This video is for you:
College admissions interviews are not a part of every school's application process, but if they happen to be for your chosen school, you will need to bring your A-game. Like with any other interview, preparation is the key. As an international student, you should review common interview questions and follow the tips we've given you above, practice, and get professional feedback, if possible, to maximize your chances of success.
1. What is a college admissions interview?
Essentially, it's a conversation or exchange of information between you and a representative of the college's admissions board. It's usually the last step in the application process for certain colleges.
2. Is the college admissions interview important?
The interview is an essential part of the application process. It gives your chosen school a chance to know the person behind the application and gives you, the applicant, a chance to tell them more about you and why you are a good fit for their institution.
3. Do all schools interview international applicants?
No, not all schools have an interview as part of the application process. That said, you need to be prepared in case your chosen school decides to call you for one. You do not want to start trying to prepare for it at the last minute.
4. Should I prepare for my admissions interview beforehand?
Yes! We highly recommend that you do because being prepared for the different questions that the interviewer may ask you will help you be more confident, thus increasing the likelihood of you doing well during the interview.
5. How can I prepare for my college admissions interview as an international student?
You should research the school you are applying to, review common interview questions, and practice answering them. It is also a good idea to consult an international school advisor to help you maximize your chances of getting in.
6. How long should my answers be?
Your answers need to be concise and straight to the point. It would be best to keep your answers under two minutes.
7. What is an international school advisor?
International student advisors are admissions professionals who guide applicants through the process of applying to colleges for study permits and visas. They can also help you with every part of your college application, including the interview.
8. Should I memorize my answers to the interview questions?
You should avoid doing this as it may result in you sounding rehearsed and robotic during the interview. Instead, you should write down the key points of your answers and practice.
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