What Will You Contribute to Our College?

A Discussion of This Frequently Asked College Interview Question

College interview
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For nearly any college, your interviewer is going to be trying to assess what it is that you'll add to the campus community. Some interviewers will try to get at this information indirectly, while others will simply ask the you bluntly, "What will you contribute to our college?" Below you'll find tips for answering this question effectively.

Numerical Measures Aren't a Contribution

This college interview question is asking for some vital information. The admissions folks will admit you if they think you can handle the work and if they think you will enrich the campus community. As an applicant, you may find yourself focused largely on numerical measures—good SAT scores, a strong academic record, AP scores, and so on. Grades and test scores are certainly important, but they aren't what this question is about.

The interviewers want you to address how exactly you will make the college a better place. As you think about the question, picture yourself living in the residence halls, participating in extracurricular activities, volunteering your services, and interacting with the students, staff and faculty who make up your community. How do you fit in, and how will you make the campus a better place for everyone?

Again, think about the question carefully. A 3.89 GPA and 1480 SAT score don't contribute to a college. Your passion for science fiction, your baking skills, and your ability to fix bicycles can, in fact, make the college a better place for everyone.

Weak Interview Question Answers

As you think about how to answer this question, you should also consider how others will respond. If your answer is the same one that most other applicants might give, then it won't be the most effective answer. Consider these responses:

  • "I'm hard working"
  • "I like to be challenged"
  • "I'm a perfectionist"
  • "I'm good at managing my time."

While these answers suggest you have positive personal qualities that might lead to college success, they don't actually answer the question. They don't explain how your presence will enrich the campus community. Also, your high school record will provide evidence of these personal qualities, so you don't need to state them.

Good Interview Question Answers

The question asks about the community, so your answer should be community-oriented. Think in terms of your hobbies and passions. What are you likely to be doing outside the classroom when you are in college? Are you likely to be serenading your classmates as a member of the a cappella group? Are you hoping to start a D-League intramural hockey team for students who have never skated before? Are you the student who will be baking brownies in the dorm kitchen at 2 a.m.? Do you have ideas for a new recycling program that you think would benefit the college? Are you bringing your camping gear to college and looking forward to organizing outings with classmates?

There are dozens of possible ways you could answer the question, but in ​general, a strong answer will have the following qualities:

  • Your response focuses on an interest or passion that can make the campus community a better place.
  • Your response focuses on something that makes sense at the school for which you are interviewing. For example, you wouldn't want to discuss your tuba playing skills if the college has no music ensembles.
  • Your response is something that doesn't apply to 90% of applicants. You don't need to be unique, but you do want to make sure you focus on something that isn't generic.
  • As part of your response, you explain why your particular talent or interest will make the campus community a better place.

In short, think about how you see yourself interacting with your classmates and other community members. The admissions officers have your grades and test scores, so they know that you are a good student.

This question is your opportunity to show that you can think outside of yourself. A good answer illustrates ways in which you will enhance the college experience of those around you. It's tempting to think that you need to shine a light on your own accomplishments when you interact with college admissions personnel. Let the application do that. When interviewing, it is more effective to demonstrate that you are a generous person who is thinking about the broader college community.

A Final Word on Your College Interview

One way or another, your interviewer is going to try to figure out what it is that you will contribute to the college, so make sure you enter the interview room with a sense of how you'll fit into the campus community. But that will be just one piece of your interview. Be sure to think through your responses to other common interview questions as well, and work to avoid interview mistakes that can jeopardize your application. Also be sure to dress appropriately for your interview so that you make a good impression (see advice for men's dress and women's dress).