What to say at College Interviews

College Interviews: What to Say

Yeah…. College interviews… the very sound of it makes a lot of people petrified, understandably. You’re going to sit in front of a panel of unfamiliar faces answering questions that will form the basis of their judgement and assessment of you. Trust us, even the President will be intimidated at that. So, we guess it’s okay to feel terrified even if it’s a little bit. But you know what’s better? How we can actually channel all that energy from your fear into something more productive. Like getting you to become the panel’s favourite by answering your questions smartly and intelligently!

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As you know by now, we are dedicated to your success. We aren’t going to leave you just “wing” your interview. In fact, you cannot afford to just “wing it”. That’s why in this article, we are going to extensively discuss what to say and what not to say at college interviews. If you’re ready, then come on, let’s dive in.

A Bit About College Interviews

The truth is that college interviews are very important part of your college application. They form a big part of the admissions committee’s decision to get you admitted or not. Often, we advise that students look through the interview options at the schools on their list. Why? Because aside the fact that that gives the admissions committee an opportunity to know more about you, it even helps you. How? By giving you the chance to know even more about the school you’re applying to. That always comes in handy, you know?

Now, you may go through college interviews questions and get to know about your prospective schools. However, no matter how much you prepare, you can never be 100% sure of what the interviewers will ask. However though, there are certain types of questions that are normal, constant, and expected. These types you can prepare for. Today, we are going to focus on the biggest and most prevalent of them all. Keep reading to find out which.

Do You Know How to Tell Others about Yourself?

One of the trickiest questions that always come up in college interviews, is “Tell me about yourself”. Now, this is the most common question ever asked in college interviews. In fact, it is inevitable. Yet, many people still do not know how to answer it effectively and efficiently answer this question such that it gives them the edge. Too often, many people miss this golden opportunity to command the attention and admiration of their interviewer. Instead, they throw this golden opportunity out the window. We are here to show you how not to throw away this opportunity. We are here to show you how to milk this question to your advantage and have your interviewer eating out of your palm in no time.

READ: Preparing for Your College Interview

Setting the Tone

Now, first things first. This question is going to set the tone for the rest of the interview. So, you want to have strong start. Of course, you should have prepared yourself for the answer you wish to give to that question. But be careful, so your answer doesn’t sound overly rehearsed like something from a robot. Remember Agnes from Despicable Me 2 when she was rehearsing her poem for Mother’s Day? Yeah… you want to keep from sounding like that (Gru actually said she sounded like a Zombie. Lol).

Also bear in mind that the “tell me about yourself” prompt is an invitation to describe your most important strengths and what you intend to bring to the table if admitted. Keep this point in mind, not just for your college interview, but for other interviews you’d be having throughout your career. When the interviewer asks you to talk about yourself, you are essentially supposed to discuss yourself in the light of the qualities you have that are relevant to the position you applied for. In this case, will be an admission into the matriculating class of that academic session.

Please, avoid delving into very personal information. Although it sounds that way, “tell me about yourself” is not a carte blanche to share your entire life story. Aside being unprofessional, doing that makes you look unprepared and your interviewer won’t appreciate that.

Topics You Should Cover

What you say at college interviews matters determines the fate of your application. So, you must choose your words carefully. It’s not a bad idea to discuss where you grew up. However, don’t get into many details. Keep the information about that to a relevant minimum. For example, you can talk about how often you moved around, if you moved around a lot, and then try to connect it to your interest in that college, if possible. If there isn’t a connection, please don’t try to force one so it doesn’t look like you’re trying too hard.

Talk about your prospective major if you have decided on one. If you haven’t decided, then you can discuss the area of study that interests you and what you hope to study when you get in. Also, you can pick three of your strongest personality traits to discuss too. When you pick, make sure you pick those ones that will allow you segue into your academic and extracurricular interests and why they are of so much importance to you.

Now, another thing you should do is to try and make a brilliant connect between the school’s objectives (we believe you must have done your research before going for the interview), your personality traits, and your interests both academic and extracurricular. Try to show them that you have what it takes to fit in seamlessly with the college environment.

Hint: as much as you want the admissions officers to choose you for an admission, the admissions committee also wants to feel like you chose them too! So, it’s a mutual thing. Show them you’re interested in attending their school and make sure they get the message.

Here’s an example to help you form yours

“I grew up in Nigeria, in a city called Ibadan. Ibadan is the biggest city in West Africa, though not as developed as Lagos, it’s much smaller neighbor. I have lived in Nigeria my whole life, so I’d really love to experience life in a different country for a change. With my grandmother staying in New York, I’ve had the opportunity to visit a few times especially during the Christmas break when everyone comes over to say hi to her. New York really has so much to offer, especially in terms of the literary scene, which is one of the ways it reminds me of Ibadan a little. I love reading and writing, so I’m planning on majoring in English or journalism. Journalism seems like a better fit, though because I’m quite observant and have an eye for detail.

I’m proud of my ability to persevere and overcome challenges. This year I was having a hard time in math, but my best friend, Joy, and another mutual friend of ours are really good at it. So we formed a study group and committed to studying for two hours daily. At the end, I came out with a B.  

I’m also really passionate about my interests, especially reading, writing and foreign languages. That’s why I’m a columnist for my school’s press club, and the president of French club. I run a small book club in Ibadan too where we read and discuss mainly African writers. Africa has such a huge pool of literati and my favourite are Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Adichie because of how strongly they tell the African story without losing the beauty of the art.  

I’d love to attend NYU because it has such strong English and journalism programs. I’m also interested in foreign languages, and I hear NYU has an amazing study abroad program. Plus, as I mentioned earlier, New York is such an amazing city, especially for an aspiring writer like me!”

Your answer does not have to be in this exact same format, especially if you have something better, but see how this student neatly ties her interests, background, aspirations, and details about the school together in a neat wrap. All of her interests stated are backed up by things she has done to actually pursue those interests. Plus, she also explains how, from her findings, she has realized how NYU will help her continue to pursue those interests.

Also notice how she avoids cliché personality traits like, “I am hardworking”, “honest”, and things like that. Instead, she zeroes in on the things that make her unique as they relate to her interests. And instead of just mentioning that she is perseverant, she just goes right ahead to prove that with a real story of how that played out.

READ: What to Ask and What Not to Ask Your Interviewer During Your College Interview

What You Should Not Say

Like we said earlier, the “tell me about yourself” prompt is not an invitation to say everything there is to be said about yourself. That said, what shouldn’t you say at college interviews?

Avoid talking too much about your family, your friends, personal hobbies, etc., that have nothing to do with the school, your prospective course of study, or the interview. Keep all those details out of the discuss. Also, you should know better than to say anything negative about the school. That’s just commonsensical, isn’t it?

You must also make it a point not to give the vibe that you’re not particularly interested in attending that particular school. Now, in the light of this, some might tend to go overboard and “over praise” the school. Please don’t do that, it’s going to look like you’re kissing “you-know-what”. And trust us, your interviewer will be able to smell that from miles away and will not be too impressed by it either.

Look at this response for example

“I grew up in Ibadan, Nigeria, but I don’t necessarily want to stay there. It’s just too dull. Connecticut College is really my fallback school, because I have family here in Connecticut. I’m thinking of majoring in Accounting because I’m a real whiz at math. Do you guys have that?

When I’m not in school, though, I like to going to the mall, especially the movies. I love watching movies so much, it’s amazing how I made it out of secondary school without flunking. Lol. I also hang out with my boyfriend too, but mostly on weekends though. My mom doesn’t like it when I hang out on weeknights.”

We do not need to tell you that this is a terrible answer. There is no connection whatsoever, between her interests and hobbies with what the school stands for. It doesn’t even appear like she took some time to find out about the school before going in for the interview. In truth, the interviewer wants to know your interests but always remember that the interests you list must always, without fail, relate to the position for which you’re being interviewed.

Again, this interviewee does not show any strong interest towards this school. Now, we know that you might not necessarily feel the same enthusiasm towards your backup school as you would towards your first choice but your interviewer doesn’t have to know that. He/she doesn’t have to know or even want to know what your backup school is. Not to mention that it’s somewhat rude to send such vibes to your interviewer who must have taken a great deal of time preparing to meet you. The least you can do is to be a bit enthusiastic, backup school or not.

READ: After Your College Interview, Then What?

How to Prepare for College Interviews

It will be a great idea to jot notes about what you’d like to say about yourself and develop those points while you’re preparing. It will keep you from rambling off point at the interview, and help you sound intelligent, composed and more confident. You can also stand in front of a mirror to rehearse, or, perhaps, rehearse with a friend. Just remember to not sound like a robot.

Finally, …

Since this is a question that will very likely come up and come up early, you want to be well prepared so that you can begin the interview on a good tone.

Wow! Was that a lot of information to process? Nah… You’re smart. You can handle it. Now, you know what to say at college interviews. We are pretty sure this post has helped you so please don’t forget to share with friends. And as you prepare to stun your interviewer, we wish you all the best in the world and as they say in The Hunger Games, may the odds be ever in your favour. Watch out for our next post. Till then, ciao!

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