For many people, marketing themselves can be a challenge. Depending on your personality type, communicating with strangers about your personal interests, strengths, and goals can seem awkward. In two minutes or less, how would you formulate an answer to the question, “Tell us something about yourself?”.
This “Elevator Speech” will be important to your success as you interview for jobs, are considered for scholarships, or speak to a college admissions selection committee. The people asking this question are looking for what you value most, how you organize your thoughts, and if you are a good match for their team or community. I happen to love interviewing people and being the one interviewed. I see this as a means to share information in both directions.
Do Your Research on Your Intended School
One of the pitfalls experienced by many people is trying to anticipate what will be asked. I recently looked at the Common Application for Wake Forest University, and in their Questions Section, they ask certain unexpected items. Such as “Tell us more about the topic that most engages your intellectual curiosity” or after providing a theme, “Give us your Top Ten list”. The responses help paint a profile, and the school sees how a student thinks.
UNC-Chapel Hill has students complete short answer questions on topics like “If I had an extra hour in every day, I would spend it…” or “People who meet me are most likely to notice…and least likely to notice…”. As you can see, every school attempts to dig a bit deeper into the heart and minds of applicants, which is more than just looking at transcripts and test scores.
A way to better prepare for these questions is to do an inventory of what makes you distinctive. Every person has different goals, beliefs, ambitions, and hobbies. Many colleges offer students the opportunity to submit a resume of their academic, extracurricular, leadership, and employment experiences. This summary can take a variety of formats. But your goal is to show the reader what has helped form the person you are today, whether through your involvement in school, community, employment, or personal activities. It is not just about quantity, but the commitment you make to each area.
There is also a benefit to showing that you are not one-dimensional. Think of student-athletes who take time to do community service and advocate for issues in their cities. They are more than just athletes. You have the same opportunity to show the many facets of yourself. Maybe by diversifying your club and organizational membership list, working to attain leadership positions in these clubs, considering starting a business with friends, trying out for a school team, or finding time to volunteer to do something you love.
Think of your college resume as a summary of who you are today. Focus on the big things, not the minutia. This document can include academic achievements, advanced courses attempt, extracurricular listings, travel experiences, and employment history. Your resume gives you space to explain your accomplishments.
Having a diverse and planned profile can also demonstrate your ability to maintain balance in your life. Keep in mind that you will need to frequently update this listing as you progress through your high school years, as each version is only a snapshot of you at one particular point in time.
Strangers cannot read your mind, so it is up to you to demonstrate your value. You are allowed to be proud of your accomplishments because you have worked hard to achieve them. Showing someone a roadmap of your journey provides the chance to place a few billboards along the way to advertise what makes you the person you are today and hope to be in the future. Don’t sell yourself short!