Interviews: What Is Your Interviewer Really Asking You?

At most schools, interviews take the format of a one-on-one discussion with a local admissions representative or alum. Most interviewers know that you are nervous so they attempt to break the ice with a friendly smile and some warm banter to help you get settled in. In this seemingly casual conversation, it’s often easy to mistake what interviewers are really asking you. Here is a quick translation guide for some common interview questions:

Interview Question: Tell Me About Yourself

What Your Interviewer Is Really Asking You: Your interviewer is not asking you to tell me your name, grade, school or how many siblings you have. Your interviewer wants to know what makes you special. What inspires you? What motivates you? What will you contribute to our college community and what impact will you have in the world after you graduate? This simple question is, perhaps, the worst-answered question in any interview situation. People mess this question up when they are looking for a job, when they go on a first date and, yes, when they apply to college. But, for the Complete Candidate, this question is a gift. It is your opportunity to tell the other person whatever you want them to know about you. So take control of the situation and tell your interviewer what differentiates you from every other smart talented student who is applying to your target schools.

Interview Question: What Is Your Favorite Book/Movie?

What Your Interviewer Is Really Asking You: Your interviewer is not really interested in the book or movie that entertained you the most. He or she is looking for a piece of literature or film that gave you a fresh perspective or changed the way you thought about something. So, stay away from Harry Potter and embrace works that stimulated your noggin.

Interview Question: Tell Me About Your Best Friend

What Your Interviewer Is Really Asking You: Your interviewer is less interested in getting to know your best friend than he is in getting to know you. By understanding why your best friend is your best friend, your interviewer gains insight into what you value in other people. So, stay away from talking about your crazy friend who streaks through the football field or doesn’t take life seriously at all and stick to describing the friends who have qualities you admire or those who have helped you learn and grow.

Interview Question: Why Do You Want To Go To My School?

What Your Interviewer Is Really Asking You: Every school wants to know why you are a good fit. That includes all the reasons they want you to become a part of their community but also all of the reasons you want to be there. Your interviewer is trying to determine whether you (1) have a true understanding of the culture and learning environment where you will succeed, (2) have gone beyond the rankings or advice of your friend/counselor/parent to really research that school, (3) how you will take advantage of the opportunities that school offers, and (4) how you will contribute to that community. So, do your research and convince your interviewer he or she would be doing the school a disservice if you aren’t admitted.

Interviews are a great way to add life to your paper application. So, look behind the question to understand what your interviewer is really asking you and make most of the opportunity to tell more about who you are and why they should want you.

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