124: College Interview Tips and Strategies

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This episode is an interview… on interviews! Monica James--whom you may’ve heard previously on the podcast in the episode on Demonstrated Interest--absolutely crushes it in this interview, offering more practical advice than you’ll find in most weekend workshops on this topic. And it’s no wonder: for years she’s been teaching people (and in particular high school students) how to give great interviews. We cover, among other things:

  • Why do colleges give interviews?
  • Can a bad interview actually hurt your application chances?
  • How do you prepare for the interview?
  • What’s the one thing that colleges are looking for above all else?
  • How do you answer the “Why this college” interview question?
  • How do you answer the Strengths and Weaknesses interview Question?
  • How do you answer the Tell Me About Your Reading Life or “What books have you read recently” question?
  • What is the hardest interview question and how do you handle it?
  • What if you get a “bad” interviewer?
  • What if you’re asked a question in an interview that you truly don’t know the answer to?
  • How much does body language matter in an interview?
  • What should you wear to an interview?
  • How do I handle a Skype or Phone Interview?
  • How do I set up an interview?
  • How should I practice?
  • What about Scholarship Interviews—are they different?


Who is Monica James? [2:26] 
How Monica first started coaching college interviewing? [3:35] 
An anecdote about the power of storytelling [5:48] 4:07
Why colleges give interviews [4:38] 
Can an interview hurt an applicant? [5:29] 
Which schools require an interview? [6:23] 
Why students should do suggested interviews [7:30] 
How do students prepare for an interview? [9:55] 
The formula for preparing an excellent interview question answer [11:26] 
One thing colleges are looking for [16:50] 12:12
How less intellectual students show intellectual vitality [17:45] 13:05
How students prepare for the “Why Us” question [14:33] 
How to prepare for the “what is your weakness” question [17:23] 
How to answer the “what is your reading life like?” question [21:17] 
The hardest interview question [23:53] 
What if your interviewer isn’t that great? [27:47] 
Monica James’ favorite questions [31:45] 
What to do if you have no idea how to answer a question [34:48] 
Advice on body language, what to wear, and handshakes [38:24] 
What to do if your interviewer goes in for the hug [40:57] 
What to know about eye contact and fidgeting [41:36] 
How to prepare for a Skype or phone interview [44:04] 
How to setup an interview [45:50] 
Who to practice an interview with [47:31] 
How to prepare for scholarship interviews [50:25] 
How to be charming [52:27] 
Develop questions to ask the interviewer [55:00] 
Monica’s Show and Tell [57:57] 
Ethan’s Show and Tell [59:23]