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Tell Me About Yourself

A Discussion of This Frequently Asked College Interview Question

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"Tell me about yourself."

It seems like such an easy question. In some ways, it is. After all, if there's one subject you truly know something about, it's yourself. The challenge, however, is that knowing yourself and articulating your identity in a few sentences are very different things. Before setting foot in the interview room, make sure you put some thought into what it is that makes you unique.

Certain characteristics are desirable, but they are not unique. The majority of students applying to selective colleges can make claims such as these:

  • "I'm hard working."
  • "I'm responsible."
  • "I'm friendly."
  • "I'm a good student."
  • "I'm loyal."
Granted, all of these answers point to important and positive character traits. Of course colleges want students who are hard working, responsible, and friendly. That's a no-brainer. And ideally your application and interview answers will convey the fact that you are a friendly and hard-working student.

These answers, however, are all predictable. Nearly every applicant could give the same answers. If we go back to the initial question -- "Tell me about yourself" -- we need to recognize that the answers any applicant can give do not successfully define what characteristics make you special. The interview is your best opportunity to convey your unique personality and passions, so you want to answer questions in ways that show that you are you, not a clone of a thousand other applicants.

So, when asked to tell about yourself, don't spend too much time on the predictable answers. Show the interviewer who you are. What are your passions? What are your quirks? Why do your friends really like you? What makes you laugh? What makes you angry?

Did you teach your dog to play the piano? Do you make a killer wild strawberry pie? Do you do your best thinking when on a 100-mile bike ride? Do you read books late at night with a flashlight? Do you have unusual cravings for oysters? Have you ever successfully started a fire with sticks and a shoelace? Were you ever sprayed by a skunk taking out the compost in the evening?

You are almost guaranteed to be asked to tell about yourself, and your interviewer truly is interested in getting to know you. Your answers need to take the question seriously and you need to answer sincerely, but make sure you are actually painting a colorful and detailed portrait of yourself, not a simple line sketch.

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