How to Answer the Worst Alumni Interview Question (for College Admission)

How to Answer the Worst Alumni Interview Question (for College Admission)

September 18, 2019 11 By Ronny Jaskolski


VIDEO Hi. It’s Dr. Bernstein, the founder and
director of Get Yourself Into College, and in this video I’m going to give you an example
of how you can gracefully and effectively answer one of the worst questions that’s
often asked at the very beginning of alumni interviews. It’s a really simple question. In fact,
it’s not even really a question. It’s the old “So tell me about yourself” opener
that often gets things off to a wobbly, anxiety-ridden start, especially because your all of a sudden
forced to narrow things down and can’t think straight because you’re stressed and nervous. For now, though, I just want to give a little
“before and after” makeover of a student who decided she wanted to talk about her desire
to attend a college that has small class sizes. Obviously, you might have a very different
part of yourself that you want to share, but if you listen to her anecdote, you can get
some good ideas for how you might go about developing your own. So, let me give you the before scene: The interviewers says, “Hi. It’s nice
to meet you. I’m a 1999 alum of x college. So to get things started why don’t you tell
me a little bit about yourself?” The student was originally just going to say,
“Well, I’m really interested in x school because it’s known for small, intimate classes,
and I tend to be a bit reserved, so this kind of environment is good for me.” The problem with this answer is that the student
doesn’t set up enough context or reveal enough about herself. It could inspire the
interviewer to offer up a follow-up question like, “Why do you do better in smaller classes?,”
so her answer could spark more of a discussion, which I always think is a good thing. It’s
always nice when you can away from the grilling of an interview and transform into a genuine
conversation. However, the student should really be able to offer up more specific and
vivid descriptions that help the interviewer understand her better. So here’s the made-over version of her response: I go to a school where many of the students
are very vocal and outgoing, and it used to make me think there was something wrong with
me because I’m quieter and more introverted. I really started to see this part of myself
as flawed, but then I happened to hear Susan Cain’s TED Talk about her book Quiet: The
Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, and she really helped me see
that I can make valuable contributions in my own way. I’ll probably never be the person
who jumps first into big class discussions, but I like sharing my ideas in our small-group
discussions and with my teachers during one-on-one meetings. I know that college is going to
challenge me in some ways, but one of the reasons I’m so attracted to X school is
because I know there are a lot of smaller classes and one-on-one mentoring that’s
really suited to me and my style of learning. Once I’m in what Cain calls my “zone of
stimulation” that’s right for me, I become much more outgoing. When I came for my on-campus
visit, I sat in on a philosophy class. I’m planning on majoring in biology because I
want to get into scientific research, but I really liked how the professor gave the
students time to work in small groups to discuss specific passages and then had the class as
whole talk about their findings. I’d thrive in this kind of situation. It was really exciting.
What did you really like about the small classes at x? Now that’s an impressive response. Want
to get into my mind—the mind of a college English professor who’s served on an admissions
committee—to learn how to narrow down your answer, understand what makes this response
so powerfully effective, and use similar strategies to create your own anecdotes? Then, head on over to the blog on
my website: www.jenniferbbernstein.com, and
make sure to sign up to get access to two free sessions from within my online program. That’s it for now. . .see you soon!