Tell Me About Yourself
Talking about yourself should be an easy thing to do, but when a college interviewer says, “Tell me about yourself,” students are often stumped for answers.
Questions about you can be asked in a variety of ways. Here are a few of the most common ways this question might be asked, why a college might ask this question, strategies for answering and examples.
QUESTION 1: "Tell me about yourself?"Purpose of This Question
Colleges want you to think about and reflect on who you are, how you spend your time and what is important to you. Ultimately, it’s the combination of the activities that engage and occupy you most that makes you UNIQUE.Strategy
Your goal is to be conversational about two or three interests,
activities or passions to which you’ve dedicated most of your time.
Solid practice in discussing these passions will help to set the pace of your interview and will prompt the interviewer to ask more questions relevant to your experiences. Throughout your preparation, ask yourself how you would like your interviewer to remember you.
How Would You Talk About Your Passions? (click examples to see more or less)
- Your motivation.
- Commitment duration.
- If applicable, positions held and awards or commendations received.
- Any challenges you faced, and what you did to overcome it.
- The most important thing you learned about the activity as a result of your involvement.
- How you want to continue this activity in college (if possible, list specific college organizations that accommodate that activity).
Example 1: Academic Interest
Interest: I am interested in biology and chemistry as related to human physiology. Motivation: I have always been curious about biology and when my father was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, I decided to help find a cure. Duration: During middle school and high school. Positions: Co-Leader of the Pre-Med club. I competed at the state level of the science fair. Challenges: Having enough time to research and keep grades up to remain competitive while taking on many of the responsibilities that my father used to do. Having to balance several responsibilities has made melearn the value of time management and how to concentrate on my goal. In College: I want to major in biochemistry and continue my cancer research. After college, I'd like to go into research or apply to medical school.
Example 2: Nature Enthusiast Interest
Interest: I love being outside and enjoying all aspects of the natural environment. I like teaching others about the bio systems of animals and plants. Motivation: Helps me gain perspective and develop a sense of calm and health. This has been a family tradition. I love being outside. Duration: K-12 Responsibilities: Coordinate hikes on the Colorado Trail. Recruit and organize groups of people to hike different sections of the trail for the last 2 summers. Challenges: Planning the route, food, levels of outdoor experience and fitness, people who are unable to complete the hike. What I Learned: As a leader, I learned how to decide what is best for each situation. I learned planning and leadership skills, how to stay calm in emergencies and understand group dynamics. In College: Start or join the outdoor clubs, be a trip leader, study abroad, pursue a degree in outdoor education, biology and environmental science.
Example 3: Athletic Interest
Interest: Girls Basketball Motivation: I come from a family of basketball enthusiasts and have grown to love the intricacy of the plays and skills that are needed to be competitive. Duration: I have watched basketball for as long as I can remember and have played since 3rd grade. Positions: Center Challenges: Our school team and league are so competitive that it takes constant practice and strength-building to remain on the varsity team. There are long hours and weeks of travel. I play club basketball during the spring and summer so it is a year-round sport. It is a challenge to keep up with academics. What I Learned: Skill building is year round. I never really stop practicing. When not on the court, I am often going over the plays mentally. In College: I want to play all four years in college and may major in business.
Example 4: Performing Arts Interest
Interest: Vocal/Musical Theater Motivation: Performing and being involved in choir and theater is my life; what I most enjoy in and out of school. Duration: I received a toy microphone for my 4th birthday and have been performing ever since, in elementary and middle school pageants or performances. Now in high school, I take every opportunity to get into a choir, get a part for theater, or help run support crew. Positions: Member of Thespian Club. Liaison to choir parent organization, leader of alto voices in A Capella ensemble. Challenges: It's very competitive to be chosen for choirs and theater parts. No guarantees. Have to regularly practice and prepare, year-round to have a chance at being selected. What I Learned: I have to constantly improve my vocal and acting skills, but also I have to “bloom where I am planted.” Whatever I am chosen for, I need to make the most of the opportunity and be supportive of others in the productions and choirs. In College: I want to major in musical theater and be as involved as possible in singing and acting.
Example 5: Social Justice/Activism Interest
Interest: Providing financial support to the education of young women in Africa. Motivation: I have come to realize that the way to help people come out of poverty is to provide funding and education for training in sustainable income and leadership opportunities. Duration: 3 years Positions: Vice President of our school club that raises funds for a girls school in Africa. Challenges: Getting potential donors to believe in this cause. Making sure our funds are being used to meet our goal of supporting the young women we are targeting. What I Learned: How to present the facts, speak to groups, provide data to support the results of the effort. In College: I want to study non-profit business administration and policy-making to know more about how to reach larger organizations and create fundraising plans that will help hire administrators in Africa and other similar projects in order to sustain and fulfill the goals.
Example 6: Family Responsibility Activity
Activity: I take care of my younger siblings after school, including driving them to activities and making dinner. Motivation: My parents both work and I'm the primary caregiver until 7pm. Duration: Sophomore year-now. Positions: N/A Challenges: My younger brother doesn’t always listen to me, but if I play with him he’s more cooperative. I struggle to finish my homework sometimes, so I get up early the next morning to compensate. What I Learned: I like children, I’m good at motivating them and I’d like to work with them someday. I’ve also learned how to be organized, budget my time and be flexible (for example, I do my homework while my brother is at soccer practice). I learned how to cook and I enjoy gathering people around meals. In College: Although I have not decided on a major, I thoroughly know how to manage my time and organize activities for others. I know how to be responsible for the safety and well-being of other people.
QUESTION 2: "What are your future plans?"Purpose of This Question
Colleges want to know if your experiences during high school have given you a sense of direction and have inspired you to pursue studies in particular subject areas. Though there is no expectation that you have a specific career in mind, this is a question that determines if the undergraduate programs offered by the college are a good fit for your immediate and long-term goals. Other ways this question may be asked include, “What majors/departments are you interested in?” or “What type of college are you looking for?”
Note that while colleges do not expect you to know your exact major or career plans, most students are drawn to general areas of study, such as the sciences, humanities, engineering or the arts. Remember that institutions are well aware that most students change their majors several times during their undergraduate years, but the ability to articulate your interests in the context of what colleges offer will demonstrate a sense of direction.Strategy
Make a short list of your favorite subjects and/or activities. Research majors and possible careers for your interests using resources such as The Book of Majors, the most current copy of which is always available in the Fairview College and Career Center.
Lastly, make sure that the college you are interviewing for offers your short list of majors. You should also review the strategies outlined in “Why Do You Want to Come to this College?”Examples of Career Interests (click examples to see more or less)
- Example 1: Science
“I’m interested in working in healthcare, and I’m thinking about applying to medical or dental school after college. Your school is strong in the sciences and is known for its pre-med advisors."
- Example 2: Humanities
“Political science is an interest of mine, but what attracts me to your school is my ability to explore a variety of majors and clubs related to this. For instance...” “I love to read and analyze literature, and the idea that I could go to a college where that’s what I get to do gets me really excited.”
- Example 1: Science
QUESTION 3: "Tell me about your high school experience?"Purpose of This Question
Colleges are looking for your critical assessment of learning environments. This shows that you can think deeply about college choices and that your decision to apply to this particular college is a meaningful one. The ability to present what you love best about your high school, and, only if you are asked, what could be improved will demonstrate an awareness for what matters to you and why.Strategy
Name one or two positive features of your Fairview experience. For each one:
- State specific example.
- What are the positive outcomes of this example?
Name one thing about Fairview that you would improve.
- State specific example in a positive & respectful way.
- What are the consequences of this example?
- What would you do to improve the situation? (Note: If you were proactive in bringing about change in something, this would be a strong example to present.)
- Positive Feature:
Fairview is a magnet for those who are academically, musically, artistically or athletically inclined. As a result, there’s a diverse and talented student body, where there’s a place for everyone. It’s as cool to win a math competition as much as it is to be on the state championship volleyball team or to have your artwork featured on the school walls.
- Area for Improvement
Sometimes it’s hard for a freshman to navigate through such a big school with so many activity and course choices. As a freshman, I signed up for too many things, and I had friends who didn’t get involved at all. That’s why I decided to apply to be a Knight Crew Leader, which is an organization that helps freshmen and new kids assimilate to the Fairview environment. I help students who are trying to figure out how to balance activity and class choices. When I become a college upperclassman, I’m sure I’ll continue to extend this kind of mentorship to younger students.
QUESTION 4: "What is your favorite book/newspaper/website?"Purpose of This Question
Colleges are trying to assess if you are independently driven to learn and pursue ideas deeply. Regular consumption of reputable publications, whether they are fiction, non-fiction, audio, digital or paper, is an indicator of your initiative in expanding your horizons. Daily, unassigned reading, whether it’s news or hobby-oriented, demonstrates a profound commitment to learning and self-improvement. In short, going to college is about discovering topics that resonate with you and pursuing resources that help you deepen your knowledge and understanding. The most critical vehicle toward this goal is reading.Strategy
Think of your favorite book, newspaper or website and answer the following questions:
- Why do you like this publication so much?
- How did it inspire you?
- Did a particular character or topic resonate with you?
- How did it change your character or behavior?
- Did it shape your perspectives or values?
QUESTION 5: "What do you like to do for fun?"Purpose of This Question
Your personality is highlighted by how you amuse yourself beyond schoolwork. Having hobbies, interests and pursuits outside studying is an indicator of a healthy balance, your presence in a campus community, or what kind of roommate you’ll be. This question also gives the interviewer a better grasp of your interests.Strategy
Think of specific hobbies or interests that you pursue when you need a break from studying. If possible, think of the intellectual challenge or inspiration associated with that activity. Avoid general answers, like “hang out with my friends.”Examples of Career Interests (click examples to see more or less)
Example 1: Movie Fan
I love going to the movies with my friends. My favorite is watching the Marvel series, because the superheroes always have some moral dilemma to think about. For example, Chris Nolan’s depiction of Batman in The Dark Knight was so thought provoking, because his character is imperfect and grappling with his own vigilantism. Even criminals are portrayed as being more than one-dimensional, showing there’s a background or reason they resorted to immorality.
Example 2: Athlete
When I am not playing basketball, I still enjoy doing things that are related to basketball and other sports. I keep active in anything involved with practicing and playing, keeping up with sports news and teaching children how to play.
Example 3: Outdoor Enthusiast
I am totally restored by being outside and especially enjoy anything related to cycling. Our community has built extensive trails and bike paths for cycling, hiking, and running, so there is always opportunity to take advantage of these activities, no matter what season.
Example 4: Culinary Arts
I follow many blogs and broadcast programs that are related to food preparation. I am told that I began that interest with a play-kitchen in early childhood and have maintained that interest throughout. I especially enjoy making desserts and pastries.
Example 5: Sports Statistics
I love to predict wins and losses of sports teams, attending events, keeping a constant eye on the news, and tracking any sports stats related to major league sports. I have had fantasy teams for years and enjoy all of the competition involved in knowing all the facts and making good predictions. I love being right.
Example 6: Animal Lover
I volunteer at the Humane Society and two different veterinary clinics. I also take care of neighborhood pets and have developed a sort of small business around that. I love being with animals and knowing what they need and how to care for them. I am very familiar with different breeds, especially of cats and dogs, and am also learning how to care for our neighbors’ llamas.
Example 7: Reader
I love reading. I have read more books than any of my friends and especially enjoy fantasy plots and mystery novels. I have several favorite authors but am always looking for new ones. I also enjoy writing and can imagine this interest developing into a hobby or even a career. I am a great critic.
QUESTION 6: "What are your strengths & weaknesses?"Purpose of This Question
Your answer reveals a level of self-awareness critical to whether you will be able to contribute to a college environment as well as take advantage of learning opportunities presented to you in college. The interviewer will be able to gauge if you are capable of honest reflection about yourself, people around you, or past experiences.Strategy
Focus on at least two strengths that you can discuss. “Interview-friendly” strengths:
- Align with the values of the university
- Stated in a straightforward manner and with confidence
- Are relevant to being a part of an academic and engaged college community
- Credible and is confirmed by something you’ve accomplished
Identify ONE “interview-friendly” weakness AND how you’re working on it. An “Interview-friendly” weakness is:
Examples (click examples to see more or less)
- Something that can be readily improved in a college environment
- Something that you’ve been proactive about addressing
- Stated briefly in a neutral way (not too defensive or negative)
- Not too personally revealing (e.g., fetishes or paranoias)
- Not a liability to a campus (e.g., an addiction, severe depression, chronic disciplinary issues, extreme prejudices)
Examples of Interview-Friendly Strengths
“I’m proud of my writing skills and I think this makes me a good communicator. I can research complicated topics and figure out how to summarize it into something that’s readable and easy to understand. My contributions for our school newspaper have been thought-provoking and original. I won third place in a state writing competition recently.”
“Math comes very easily to me. I’m currently taking AP Calculus and I’m doing pretty well. When I’m working in a group, people rely on me to take on the more numbers-oriented roles or tasks. I’m senior class treasurer, and recently I did a cost-benefit analysis and produced fundraising projections and budget recommendations for some upcoming events. I also did a summer internship with a statistics professor at CU Boulder.”
Examples of Interview-Friendly Weaknesses:
“I need to be better at delegating. I really like getting things done well and on time, and sometimes I find myself just going ahead and doing something myself when I should have shared the task or taken the time to show someone how to do it. I realize when I do this I prevent someone on my team from learning, or I may actually slow down the project. I take group leadership roles when I can so that I can improve my delegation skills, and I’ve noticed that with each experience I improve as I let go of control. People are also appreciative that I’ve taken the time to share knowledge or skills. I hope I can find experiences like these in college.”
“I’m uncomfortable speaking in front of a large group of people, which tends to make me nervous. To help myself improve, I decided to take a public speaking class at my high school this semester. My teacher says that I get better with each presentation, and I’m definitely starting to see improvements.”