Tip 8: During your college interview, do show depth

This article is part of a series, 10 Tips for Acing Your College Interviews.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss in The Hunger Games

I hope you see how many of these Do tips overlap. You stand out by being prepared. As a consequence of preparing—of thinking about who you are, about what matters to you and why—you’ll start to show depth.

I’m going to let you in on another secret.

One of the, if not the key purpose of college is to train you to bring intellectual rigor to your studies—and ultimately, to your career and life.

What’s intellectual rigor? It’s the capacity to listen, read, talk, and write about a particular subject in a way that:

  • is sustained
  • accounts for multiple perspectives
  • and is logically coherent.

When admission officers evaluate your application—and during the interview, you—they’re looking for signs that you already have or show the potential to develop intellectual rigor. The good news is that you don’t need to limit bringing intellectual rigor to your coursework, such as chemistry or world history or English. Sure, taking academically rigorous courses in high school is an important part of preparing for college.

But intellectual rigor means something more that academic rigor. You can practice intellectual rigor in anything you do, even listening to Beyoncé albums, playing World of Warcraft, or watching The Hunger Games.

The bad news is that when an admission officer asks you why you love The Hunger Games, it’s not enough to say, “I liked it. It was cool. Jennifer Lawrence is hot.” You need to show depth in your answer. For example, “I like The Hunger Games because it effectively uses a science-fiction dystopia to externalize and subvert late-capitalist stereotypes of teenage angst.”

Actually, that’s something an English professor would say, not a high school student. How about: “I like The Hunger Games because it doesn’t condescend to its young adult audience. It portrays the psychological toll of violence, especially in the ambiguous ending.”

Dr. Sean

Dr. Sean

Co-Founder at Readerly
Dr. Sean has over a decade of teaching experience at universities in the US and Asia. He earned a BA with honors from Columbia University and a PhD from the University of London. You can read more about his teaching and research here.
Dr. Sean