“Tell me about yourself.”
It’s a staple in most interviews…college interviews included. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily easy to answer. And just because students may expect to answer it doesn’t mean the entire interview will be a breeze. As a college planner, I always tell my clients that a meaningful response to this prompt will require some preparation. In fact, preparation for the entire interview will be what separates the successful applicants from the not-so-successful ones.
At this point in the semester, many high school students have finalized their college lists and have already started submitting applications. Many of them come to Landmark 12 Consulting desperate, wanting to know how to stand out among the thousands of other applicants.
We always suggest doing an interview. It’s a great opportunity for students to share information that’s not listed on the transcript or application, to ask any questions they may have, and to discuss their goals and explain their interest in a college. The interview is not usually the deciding factor in whether the college will accept them, but it can give the college representative a chance to get to know them better. And we believe, if done correctly, an interview is a chance to give the representative a lasting, positive impression of a student.
Most colleges don’t require interviews, but many recommend them. If a student does decide to do an interview, just because a college doesn’t require one doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be taken seriously. One of the biggest mistakes a student can make is not taking enough time to prepare. We recommend researching the college by checking out its website, brochure and course catalog. Have a list of questions ready to ask the interviewer. Act interested. Students need to be prepared to explain why they’ve applied to that particular college and what they will contribute to its campus.
Students also need to be prepared by jotting down notes about their academic backgrounds, high school activities, and hobbies so that these experiences are fresh in their minds and can be easily discussed during the interview.
In addition to not being prepared, being “fake” is another common mistake students make. They try to come up with answers that they believe the interviewer wants to hear, and oftentimes, that answer isn’t genuine. And it shows. Representatives expect to hear answers from a 17-year-old…not a 17-year-old pretending to have the resume or experience of a 37-year-old.
Also, the following list of mistakes may seem like no-brainers, but students repeatedly make them: Don’t be rude. This includes a student checking his or her cell phone, checking a watch or doing anything else distracting during the interview. Even if the college isn’t a student’s top choice, the interviewer still deserves the student’s full attention and respect.
Don’t dress inappropriately. This means no jeans. Dress to impress.
Don’t show immaturity. It’s not a good look for students to have their parents sitting in the interview with them. If the parents have questions, they should ask them afterward. College is a time of demonstrating independence, and it should start in the interview room.
At Landmark 12, our college consultant is often asked for common interview questions, so we’ve prepared a list:
- What three adjectives best describe you?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Tell me about a challenge you’ve had to overcome.
- What activities do you find most rewarding?
- What do you do in your free time?
- What is your favorite book?
- What do you want to do after graduating from college?
- Why do you want to major in ______?
- Who in your life has most influenced you?
- Does your high school record accurately reflect your effort and ability?
- If you could do one thing differently in high school, what would it be?
One of the best things a student can do to prepare for an interview is to practice. At Landmark 12 Consulting, we offer mock interview sessions to guarantee students are ready for the big day. We go way beyond the classic “Tell me about yourself” prompt to ensure they’re prepared for any question thrown their way.