“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 be expecting this prompt doesn’t mean the entire interview will be a breeze. A meaningful response 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 senior year, interviews are a hot topic of conversation because they’re commonly part of the college and scholarship application process. In fact, just this week, two students reached out to me asking for advice about interviews; one student was asked by Duke University to interview with an alumni representative (in an effort to learn more about the student), and the other client is applying for a full-ride scholarship at Regent University (and interviews are part of that process).
So, what’s the best way for them to prepare for their interviews? I always suggest doing mock interviews before the real deal. In a mock interview, students will come to my office dressed as if they were walking into the actual interview and answer my questions as if I were the real interviewer. I throw many questions at them– standard ones and curveballs– and when the session is finished, I discuss their performance, highlighting the stellar parts of the interview as well as giving them tips for improvement.
I want to emphasize that practicing for an interview like this is extremely important– but an interviewee should never sound rehearsed. It’s a fine line. If done correctly, an interview is a chance to give the college representative or scholarship committee a lasting, positive impression of a student. I 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 (or scholarship) 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. Also, bring copies of your resume to give to the interviewer(s). And, don’t assume he/she has memorized your resume; in other words, when discussing your accomplishments, don’t skim over the important information.
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.
Finally, I’ve compiled a list of questions, recently asked of my clients during college and scholarship interviews:
· 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?
If you’re preparing for an upcoming interview and need assistance beyond these tips, give Landmark 12 at call!