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How to Answer the 10 Most Common Interview Questions
By: Gen and Kelly Tanabe

Let's start with some good news. If you are asked to do an interview for a scholarship competition, it means that you are a serious contender for the award. The same can also be true for college interviews. While many colleges interview every applicant, others only select their top prospects. But regardless of the situation, the interview means you are one step closer to winning a scholarship or getting into the college of your dreams. The bad news, of course, is that you will now undergo the nerve-wracking scrutiny of face-to-face communication with one or more interviewers. If the thought of this makes your palms moisten or you get a sinking feeling in your stomach, you are not alone.

The best way to overcome a fear of the interview is to have an idea what you will be asked. In this guide, we will share with you how to answer the ten most common questions. Having sat on both sides of the table, we can attest to the fact that an interview can provide significant insight into an applicant's persona. It's really important that you invest the time to prepare. Let's get started.

How have you been a leader or displayed leadership?

When you are asked to explain your leadership capabilities, you don't want to only list off a bunch of titles and positions. Instead, focus on a specific leadership position or activity and give enough detail to show the depth of your commitment. Citing concrete accomplishments like getting half of the dorm to participate in a scavenger hunt or giving toys to more than 200 families also helps the interviewer gauge the significance of your achievement. Remember that you don't have to hold an official title or elected position in order to show leadership. Describing how you organized something or motivated a group of people is just as impressive as any official title.

What is your greatest strength and weakness?

It's easy to say that your strength is that you work hard. But what will really prove this to the judges is an example. Use a particular instance to illustrate your strength so that the judges can see what you mean. It's not enough to say that you have leadership qualities. You must share incidents that show how you have led. What kind of results have come from your leadership? Why do you do it? Help the judges understand why you believe this to be your strength.

When talking about a weakness, be honest—but realize that it's important to show what actions you are taking to address what you consider to be a flaw. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging a failing, but it is very impressive to see that you are also taking steps to minimize and perhaps overcome that weakness. Certainly, you want the interviewers to believe that your weakness will not keep you from being successful as a college student.

Who is a role model for you?

When interviewers ask this question, their intent is to learn something about you through your answer. In other words, whom you admire says something about you. So be careful to explain your role model choice. If you just say that your role model is golfing superstar Tiger Woods but offer no explanation, you aren't sharing much about yourself. The judges won't know if Tiger is your role model because he's a good golfer, a Stanford graduate or something else. No matter whom you choose as a hero, be sure to know enough about him or her to explain what specific quality you want to emulate. Also, know that person's shortcomings (and how he or she doesn't let it interfere with success) since you may be asked about that as a follow-up question.

About the Author

Gen and Kelly Tanabe
Founders of SuperCollege and authors of 13 books on college planning.

Get Into Any College

By: Gen & Kelly Tanabe
The only how-to book which shows all students how to get into the school of their dreams. Based on the experiences of dozens of successful students and authored by two graduates of Harvard, this book shows you how to ace the application, essay, interview, and standardized tests.

Learn More

How to Write a Winning Scholarship Essay

By: Gen & Kelly Tanabe
More than anything else the essay and interview determine whether you will win a scholarship. Ace both with this new book. Includes 30 winning essays, 12 essays that bombed, and 20 sample interview questions and answers.

Learn More