College Interviews, Part 3: How to answer the “Tell me about yourself” question

Post By: COYD Staff

college interview questionsThe “Tell me about yourself question” seems to be a straightforward and easy question but most people think it’s one of the hardest questions in a college interview. It’s hard because it’s such a general question and there isn’t only one way to answer it. For instance, if you are on a date, then that question would have a different answer than answering it on a college interview. In order to successfully answer this question, here are a few things you need to take into consideration:

1. Tone and Audience

Even within a college interview, you will have to figure out your audience. Sometimes the college interview is conducted by someone from the admissions office on campus. Other times, the college interview will be conducted by an alumnus at his/her house or at a coffee shop in your city.

If it’s with an admissions officer at the admissions office, you should be more serious and professional. If it’s a more casual interview at an alumni’s house or a coffee shop, you probably want to ease into the serious tone. Since the “Tell me about yourself” is usually the first question asked, it could be used as an icebreaker from the interviewer.

All in all, it depends on the person. You have to read the person carefully. See if it’s just an icebreaker question where a funny tidbit about yourself should work, or you might need to go straight into a more serious interview tone. Pay attention to the interviewer’s body language. Is the interviewer sitting upright? Is he/she cracking jokes at the beginning of the interview? If he/she is laid back and cracking jokes, you don’t want your answer to be too serious from the onset.

2. Length

It should be quick. Don’t give your whole life history. Think of it as an introduction, a 2-3 minute snapshot of who you are.

3. Content/The Wow Factor

Like in all introductions, there should be a wow factor. A good introduction should grasp the audience’s attention and determine the direction of the rest of the conversation. Talk about things that you want the interviewer to focus on. You can direct the conversation the way you want it to go. Usually the interviewer will play off the things mentioned in your answer to this question. The content should be something unique to you. Don’t use adjectives to answer this question. Use examples and use great detail. Be as specific as possible.

If you started a club or a non-profit, mention the name, the mission statement, how you started it.

If you love sports and you were an excellent athlete, start off talking about how you love that sport and how you have spent a lot of time training and travelling. Talk about what you’ve learned from your involvement and dedication to this sport.

If you had a unique upbringing (i.e. 1 of 10 kids), talk about your family and how it has affected your life.

Basically, this is an opportunity ashow your unique side. You want to bring something new and fresh to the table.

Note: I wouldn’t advise mentioning any particular hardships at this time. It might be too much to present it thatearly on in the conversation. However, it is important to mention these hardships especially if they contributed to any low scores or grades. You can organically talk about these more serious topics later on in the conversation if the interview asks you about any experiences that have influenced your life or obstacles that you had to overcome.

If you want tips on how to answer other common interview questions, please e-mail us at


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