It's important to review "tell me about yourself" college interview sample answers because it is one of the most common college admissions interview questions. Actually, it's one of those questions that will typically come up in an MBA interview, a Law school interview, and even career interviews. So, knowing how to structure your response to this question and provide a strong answer will not only help you succeed in your college interview, but it could be helpful to you later on in your academic or professional career as well. In this blog, we go through everything you need to know about this common interview question, and we share with you some outstanding sample answers that will likely inspire your own.
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What is the aim of the question "tell me about yourself"?
Many students think it's a trick question, but it's actually not designed to trick you. You need to remember that the fact that you've been called for an interview means that you already meet the academic requirements of the institution in question. Now, they want to know more about the person behind the GPA, extracurriculars, and IB or AP classes. In reality, it's an ice breaker. Interviewers typically ask this question at the very beginning of the interview to see in what direction you will go. They want to get a feel for your personality, see how you communicate, and genuinely find out more about you and what has led you to the point of applying to their school.
The first tip that we will give you is to change the way you think about this question. Tell me about yourself is not so much a trick, as it is an opportunity for you to take charge, lead the conversation and sell yourself. When this question is asked at the very beginning of an interview, it allows you to dictate the tone that the rest of the conversation will have. For example, if your answer includes a funny story that makes you and the interviewer laugh, then you are both more likely to be comfortable with each other during the rest of the conversation. Furthermore, this is your opportunity to tell the college admissions officer about the things that interest you that you could pursue during your college years and tell them all about what makes you interesting. College admissions consulting services often call this question "the ice breaker" - the question that allows you to take charge of the interview and lay down the route which your conversation will take.
Before we go any further, do you have questions about the college application process? This video can walk you through it:
What makes it a difficult question to answer?
We've established that the question is not designed to deceive you, but we can't deny that it is a tricky question to answer and that no one can give you the correct response. The most frustrating thing about this question is also what makes it so great - the only expert on you is yourself. We can tell you how to structure your answer and what kind of information you should include, but the answer has to be your own at the end of the day. Some people find this kind of subjectivity uncomfortable and difficult to prepare for.
This question is also very open-ended. The only instruction or guidance that the interviewer gives you is that your answer should be about you. The question doesn't say "tell me about your academic background" or "tell me about how your home life." When an interviewer asks you to tell them about yourself, they are essentially asking, "who are you?". Most students are unsure of what to want to share about themselves, so they start rambling on.
If someone randomly asked you who you are, you would be caught off guard, and you most likely wouldn't have a coherent response to such a complex question. The good news here is that if this question comes up in your interview, you can be prepared and therefore, deliver a strong answer. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Have you started working on your college admissions essay? Check out this infographic for some helpful tips:
What should a strong answer include?
Your answer should communicate your interests and motivations, and relate them to the skills and qualities that will serve you well as a college student or in your chosen area of study. You need to approach this question the way you would tackle the strength and weaknesses interview question. In other words, you need to prepare in advance. Many students fall into the trap of thinking that they don't need to prepare for personal interview questions because they can just answer honestly. While that's admirable, and you should definitely be honest in your answers, a lack of preparation can lead to a lot of rambling, going off-topic, or repeating information that the admissions officer already has.
We suggest that you start by brainstorming and writing down your story. Think about where you were born, how you grew up, who you grew up with, significant life events and experiences, your passions, hobbies, and so on. You want to avoid dwelling on your academic achievements and any other information that the admissions officer can find in your high school resume or common app essay. You most likely won't need to use everything that you write down, but it will give you a better picture of your background and help you identify interesting information that you may have disregarded. For example, if you enjoy hiking, you might think that's not relevant to your application because you plan on being a philosophy major. If included in your answer properly, it could speak to your love for nature and feeling connected to something bigger.
Once you've written down your story and all these interesting facts about you, you should start looking for patterns or links between different things. For example, you might notice that you like outdoorsy activities like hiking and camping. You should delve and explore your feelings about those kinds of activities. Think about why you like your hobbies and what inspires you to work harder. Is it a sense of community? Is it that Eureka moment when you’ve solved a problem? Whatever the answer is, that’s what you want to share.
We recommend that your final answer follow a structure that is similar to this one:
What does a strong answer to this question look like? (Sample answers)
Now to put that all into context, let’s look at some tell me about yourself college interview sample answers to give you some inspiration.
“Tell me about yourself” college interview sample answer #1
I was born and raised in a small town in Connecticut with a population of just under 3000. I'm an only child, but I always joke that I grew up in a family of a thousand people because we're all so close to each other. Both of my parents are doctors, so sometimes they had to work late. On those evenings, I would stay at my best friend's house. She also happens to be our next-door neighbor, and her mom works from home, so it was pretty convenient. Mrs. Yang, my best friend's mom, is a children's book illustrator, and she has all these art supplies all over her house, so she would use them to keep us busy. She would give us each a canvas, some paint, a brush, and leave us just to explore.
When I was old enough to take care of myself, I didn't have to go over there anymore, but I was absolutely in love with art and creating by that time. I spent hours painting with Mrs. Yang, and she encouraged me to experiment with different forms of art. Being in a small town, the local high school didn't have a lot of extracurriculars for fine arts, but my mom has always been the biggest supporter of my art. She signed me up for a few sculpting classes in Greenwich, and we even took a few trips to New York City to visit photography galleries and art shows. During one of those trips, we decided to take a walk through X university, and I found out about your amazing fine arts program.
I've always wanted to learn how to be a better painter. I haven't found anything that grabs my attention quite as much as painting does, but I have developed a fascination for history, which eventually turned into a love for old buildings and architecture. Now, I am one of those people who can stare at the New York public library for hours. One day, I'd like to paint it. I don't think I have the skills to do it justice just yet, but my hope is that I will get an opportunity to learn from the best at university X and continue honing my skills.
Need a quick review of some key points we include in this blog? This infographic is for you:
“Tell me about yourself” college interview sample answer #2
I was born in Accra; Ghana and I am my parents’ only child. We moved to the US when I was about ten years old, so I don't have many memories of my hometown. I have, however, seen videos of me running around in our backyard and trying to climb to the very top of trees that were taller than our three-story house. So It's pretty safe to say that I have always enjoyed being outside and pushing myself.
That hasn't changed much over the years. When we first moved to the states, we lived in a townhouse with a tiny backyard, but I didn't give up running around. So, my mom always had to find creative ways to keep me occupied. She was the happiest person when she found out that I had joined the track team.
Outside of my love for sports, I also discovered camping when a friend invited me on a birthday camping trip in middle school, and I fell in love. There are just so many amazing things out in nature that are not beautiful to look at, but that serve a purpose that we don't pay much attention to, but if they ever stopped doing it, life as we know it could change. I love hiking and dirt bike riding, just because I get to do it in nature.
Obviously, I didn't know all this at age 13 when Kimberly invited me to go camping with her. That said, over the years, I have noticed I clearly love the outdoors, and as I tried to decide what I wanted to do with my life, I realized that I want to be a part of preserving this beautiful planet of ours. Hence my application to your institution's faculty of science.
“Tell me about yourself” college interview sample answer #3
I was born and bred in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I am the oldest of three children, and I'm not fond of snow or winter. Seeing that I grew up in a city nicknamed Winterpeg and that many activities involved being out in the snow for most of the school year, I did not participate or get out much. I was also a timid child, so that did not help matters. Instead of playing around in the frozen water with my peers, I would retreat into my books and lose myself in fictional worlds.
I have enjoyed reading books for as long as I can remember, and eventually, in middle school, one of my teachers introduced me to the theatre. First, she introduced me to books like much ado about nothing, and then somehow, she convinced me to get on stage and act. I'm forever grateful for that because it really pushed me to get out of my shell, make friends, try new things, and it gave me a lot of confidence.
Outside of literature and theatre, I mostly focus on my studies and helping my siblings with homework and chores. My siblings are twins, and they are seven years younger than me, so we're not the best of friends, but we're pretty close, and they always come to me when they have questions about anything. From schoolwork to life advice. They do it so much that some of their friends actually started doing it as well, and last year, I realized that I really enjoy it, and I think I'm pretty good at it. With the formal training that I can get from X college, I hope that I will become even better at working with children and helping them the way, so many of my teachers did.
1. Why do college interviewers ask, "tell me about yourself"?
Interviewers use this question as an icebreaker and to find out a bit more about who you are outside of your academic experiences.
2. How common is the "tell me about yourself" interview question?
It is one of the most common college admissions interview questions, so the chances that your interview will begin with this question are pretty high.
3. How long should my answer be?
Ideally, your answer should be around two minutes long.
4. Are college admissions interviews important, or is it a formality?
It is not just a formality. If you're called for an interview, it means you've made the academic cut, but it most likely means that the admissions board is still looking at multiple candidates, so you need to ace your interview to secure admission.
5. What should I avoid when I am answering this question?
You should avoid reciting information that can be found in the other application components that you submitted. This is your chance to tell the interviewer what makes you unique, so use it well.
6. Can I write my answer ahead of time and just memorize it?
We highly recommend that you don't do this. Instead, you should write down the key points of your answer and the structure you want your response to follow. Use that to rehearse instead. It will help you sound less robotic when you finally deliver your answer during your interview.
7. What should I talk about in my response?
You should talk about your background (where you're from, how you grew up), your passions and hobbies, as well as what motivated or inspired you to apply to the program you've chosen.
8. Can I talk about something other than my academic background?
You can certainly talk about experiences unrelated to your studies or whichever profession you are applying to. Just make sure to give details, show why it was important to you and link it back to the program or school that you're interviewing for.
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