Should international high school students request college interviews?

You're an international student and you're applying to college in America or another English-speaking country.

You know that some schools require interviews as part of the application process but some don't. Most don't require international students to interview.

You aren't going to interview because your English isn't good enough to do it. Is this the correct decision?


International students should request a college interview

Most American colleges don't require interviews for international students.

Why? They know it may be impossible for you to travel to campus, and there may not be an alumni interviewer near you.

However, Skype and video interviews are becoming more common. Video interviews are especially easy for schools to do because they don't require a live interviewer's time.

So, you probably can interview, but should you?

Many international students choose not to have an interview, because they think their English isn't good enough and so having an interview will hurt them.

This is a mistake.


Your personality is as important as your English

Interviewers aren't judging your English or your academic ability, they are judging your personality. 

You can show your grades, test scores, writing ability, and past experiences in your application. However, it's very hard to show your personality there.

That's why an interview can be a plus.

You can communicate your personality in your interview

You tell your activities and personal qualities in your application but you show them in your interview.

Your best chance of communicating your message – the message of who you are – is to tell it twice, once in the application and once in the interview.

The interview lets you double your chances of communicating your message.

And don't forget:

American colleges want more than good grades and test scores

American colleges look at things in addition to grades and test scores.

They look at "soft factors" like teacher recommendations, essays, community service, extracurricular activities, and the interview.

If you're a leader, the colleges will want you. If you're a great athlete they will want you. If you sing in the choir, they will want you.


Because you will make the experience of going to college better for the other students (and you will also make the school look good).

These things are not grades or test scores. They are activities and also good personal qualities.

If you have useful skills or personal qualities, you can communicate them in your interview. 

How to show your personality in your interview

There are two basic ways to show your personality - what you say and how you say it (content and delivery).


You will get asked questions in the interview. You should practice your answers ahead of time.

Make sure you show your best skills and give details in your answer.

What if you get asked this question (and you probably will) "What is your favorite subject?"

Bad answer: "I like math."

Good answer: "Math has always been my favorite subject. I've loved it since I was little. I've gone to math camp each summer for the last three years and this year I was the captain of the Math Team. We got second place at the annual tournament."

Good answers have details.

Good answers talk about what you are best at. If you are good at math, make sure to talk about that. Don't talk about things that aren't important or aren't your strengths.


A good answer has the right content, but you also have to say the answer in the right way.

The way we speak, the tone of our voice, and the way we use our bodies are all part of our delivery.

Body language

Do you know what body language is? It's the way you use your body to communicate. We are always communicating with our bodies.

Good body language will help people hear what you say.

5 rules for good body language during interviews

  1. Shake hands during the greeting. In America we shake hands when meeting strangers.

  2. Make eye contact. Don't look at the floor or at the wall; make sure you look your interviewer in the eye (not all of the time of course).

  3. Don't cross your arms. This makes you look closed or not interested.

  4. Smile. Try to smile and also laugh at appropriate times, like if they tell a joke or say something funny. This will also show you are listening.

  5. Don't fidget. Keep your hands and body still unless you are gesturing to make a point.

Here's more information about body language for you.

An interviewer judges more than your English

Your interviewer will evaluate your English to see if you can do the work at school. However, he or she will also evaluate your personality. If you're able to have a comfortable conversation, where you seem confident and positive even if your English isn't perfect, this will help you get into the school.

Take the chance

I know having an interview in English when it's not your first language seems difficult, and it can be. But if you study your English and the answers to common questions and practice your content and your delivery, you can do well.

A good interview is an extra chance to get into your dream school so you should take the chance.

Remember, don't let your lack of confidence in your English stop you from trying because your English doesn't need to be perfect for you to interview well.


Many American colleges require the TOEFL for their international applicants (some prefer the IELTS). You knew this, so you took a TOEFL prep course, studied hard, and improved your scores a lot. Your final score was 75.

Your dream school TOEFL requirement

Boston University is where you want to go the most (it's your "dream school"), and they require a minimum TOEFL score of 95.

Your score is lower than the required score

75 versus 95. So much lower! You think you have no chance. Is there anything you can do?


Schedule an interview. Show them your great personality!


Email me at and we can make a plan for you to succeed in your interview and get into your dream school.