The director of admission at Harvey Mudd reveals what’s behind his questions.
Tell us something about yourself. This five-word question is one of the most common on college applications. It sounds harmless enough, but for many students it’s enough to cause some serious stress. The applicants reason that the colleges wouldn’t ask such a simple, straightforward question. It must be a trick. And even worse, they have no idea how to answer it.
We asked Peter Osgood, the director of admission at Harvey Mudd College and former associate dean of admission at Pomona College, why he asks this question on applications. We also wanted the truth about whether there was a hidden meaning to these types of general questions.
“We ask for two essays and give students a choice of several questions. The most obvious question is a simple tell us about yourself. It’s not a trick question. We really want to know something about you,” explains Osgood.
However, not any old answer will do. As Osgood cautions future applicants, “We don’t want to know something that we can get from your application. It’s too easy and too safe for a student to write an essay that is purely descriptive about what they have done and accomplished. All of that will be evident elsewhere in the application.”
But what happens if students write essays about their achievements without spending the time to go beyond what can be found in their resumes? According to Osgood, this would be a disaster. “That kind of essay won’t shake us up. It’s not going to tell us anything new. That kind of essay doesn’t help students at all. It’s a lost opportunity,” warns Osgood.
When you read a question, don’t get stuck on finding a deeper meaning or trying to second-guess the intentions of the college. Most questions are what they appear to be - just questions. Instead of searching for a hidden message, focus on how you will answer the question, adding something new to how you present yourself to the colleges. The admission questions will be straight ones. There will not be any hidden meaning behind them. Do not try to read in-between the lines. That will conly confuse and you will be toppled. Simply take the literal meaning of the admission questions and put forth your answers in simple sentences. That will do wonders.