College admissions and scholarship interviews can begin in the fall (as soon as Early Action/Early Decision applications are submitted) and continue throughout the spring, depending on each college’s deadlines. Interview questions tend to clump around six major categories: Self-Awareness, Milestones, Relationships, Favorites, College/Career Plans, and Opinions.
The questions that center on Self-Awareness are the biggest category. These queries probe the thoughtfulness and maturity of the student. Hands down, the toughest question on the list is the open-ended, “Tell me about yourself.” This is generally delivered right after the handshake and before the teen has the chance to catch his breath. However, if handled well, the answer will frame the remainder of the discussion.
Interviewers aren’t looking for a chronological progression through high school, or a resume list, or all the awards the kid has won. They aren’t impressed when a boastful student shares all their wonderful accomplishments and tells the interview what to think, i.e. “This (leadership position) demonstrates that I am a perfect match for your college” or “I am really outstanding in speech and debate which is why I interview so well.” Unfortunately, misguided parents often coach kids into the worst possible answers. I’m here to tell you that this kind of sales job is the wrong approach.
When an interviewer asks a student to “Tell me about yourself,” they basically want a nutshell version of what the student’s life looks like and what is important to her. Thus, I have kids start with briefly explaining their locale, their family, their school situation, and their most meaningful activities shared in an eager, yet humble way. This gives the interviewer a concise history and a framework that they can use to ask further questions. For that reason, when I am working in a mock interview situation with a teen, we tend to spend some time with this particular question.
We decide together what the most important things are that they want to convey, usually three main points that they want the interviewer to remember about them – a theme if you will – that can be conveyed quickly. We look for unusual elements of their profile that might be memorable. We certainly want to talk about the most important things first.
If they homeschool, we work on how to showcase the homeschool experience in a positive light so that all negative stereotypes are dispelled immediately and won’t haunt the interview in a negative way. I encourage kids to watch the interviewer’s face to know when to stop or when to keep going with this initial question. Sometimes the answer needs to be short. Sometimes the student has license to tell about everything. It all depends on the interviewer sitting across the table from them.
Next time we’ll talk about more questions from the Self-Awareness category.
Are you on our VIP List? If you would like to receive our newsletter, be the first to be notified of sales and new classes, and get special updates, click here!