No matter how many lists of college interview questions you pore over, you can’t predict everything an interviewer will ask. Nevertheless, some questions you can be sure will come your way.
Odds are “tell me about yourself” or some variation of it will be amongst the first opening interview remarks. Prepare for this cold open and impress the interviewer with this college interview guide.
Why College Interviewers Ask This Question
Before you set out to answer “tell me about yourself” in a college interview, get into the interviewer’s mind. Understanding why an interviewer asks this question allows you to focus on the question’s intent and shape a coherent response.
Interviewers ask this question because it aligns with the college interview’s overarching goal—getting to know you. An interviewer wants to understand who you are and how you would contribute to the student body. By allowing you to have the floor, an interviewer can uncover something they may not have otherwise learned about you.
The “tell me about yourself” question offers a smooth transition from small talk into the focal of the interview. Rather than launching straight into challenging questions, an interviewer wants to lay the groundwork. Starting on a conversational, open-ended question can set you at ease and allow for a naturally flowing interview.
Lastly, an interviewer may use details in your answer to guide the next portion of the interview. Remember, a good college interview feels like a productive conversation. Something you share in your answer could make for a great segue into the next topic or give the interviewer an idea of something to bring up later.
The opening questions of the interview set the tone for the whole conversation. Read on to learn how to put your best foot forward.
How to Answer “Tell Me About Yourself”
Now that you know what the interviewer is thinking, it’s time to formulate the answer to “tell me about yourself” in a college interview. Let’s get started!
What to Include
The “tell me about yourself” question can be a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you can present yourself to the interviewer in a flattering way. On the other, there is the potential to get sidetracked and share information that is not relevant.
To give a complete answer that stays on track, you can include:
- Details from your life that demonstrate how you’d be a great fit at the college
- A brief look at what led you to apply to the college or choose your major
- Your unique passions or interests (connect them to the college if possible)
- Strengths and accomplishments that you can illustrate with stories
- Unique details that capture your personality and help you stand out
If this sounds like a lot, don’t worry. We’ll walk through examples below so you can respond to “tell me about yourself” in a college interview in the way that works best for you.
How to Structure Your Answer
Giving your answer some much-needed structure will reduce the risk of rambling or omitting important information. While there’s no set structure that you must follow, consider the past, present and future strategy.
Past. Share a life event, moment, or journey that made you the student, leader or person you are today. This is a great place to share how an element of your upbringing has prepared you for future challenges. Keep this section brief and demonstrate how it relates to who you are today.
Example: I grew up in a military family that moved around in the states and internationally. Each time we moved to a new city, we learned about the city’s history and connected with locals to learn about the culture. I’ve learned how to appreciate and connect with people of other cultures. This led me to choose political science, emphasizing international relations, as my area of study. I believe that my background will offer a unique perspective as I pursue this path.
Present. Next, discuss who you are and what you are involved in. Share recent accomplishments and how they relate to the university. If some relevant activities and interests are not mentioned in your application, bring them up. You can also talk about what short-term goals you’re focused on at the moment.
Example: I’m currently in the second trimester of my Junior year at [school]. As the oldest of five children, I usually spend part of my day playing chauffeur for my younger siblings. On the weekends, I enjoy volunteering at the local animal shelter. I heard that [insert university] has a great club that spends time at the animal shelter near campus. I’d love to be a part of that. For my final year in high school, I’m focusing on finishing my last season of track and field on a strong note.
Future. This is your chance to showcase your potential. What are the hopes and dreams that keep you moving forward? Discuss what you can bring to the university and how you plan to be an involved member of the student body.
Example: As I look to the future, I know that I want to develop sustainable solutions for consumer-facing corporations. The business school at [insert university] places a large focus on sustainability. That is one aspect that drew me to the university and excites me about being a student body member.
Now you have a better grasp on how to answer “tell me about yourself” in a college interview. Below, we’ll leave you with a final tip for your preparation.
How to Prepare for a College Interview
When you wrote your college essays, you didn’t submit your first draft. You revised the draft until you were left with a college essay that you were proud to submit. When it comes to answering, “tell me about yourself” in a college interview, practicing multiple times is the best way to refine your answer.
It’s important to give these practice answers in a mock interview. InterviewFocus is a mock interview software platform that offers innovative solutions to interview preparation. With features like eye tracking and body language analysis, you’ll be able to improve your interview skills. For a detailed evaluation of six soft skills and personalized improvement recommendations, try InterviewFocus today.