A typical job interview question when applying for an entry-level position is, “Why did you choose your college?” When it comes to a job interview, this question may seem a little off-topic, but giving a strong response may just help you land the job.
Learn why interviewers are interested in your response and how to respond effectively (along with what not to say).
What Interviewers Are Looking For
The interviewer hopes to learn what makes you tick by asking questions. Understanding why and how you made a significant life decision provides insight into your priorities and decision-making process.
Choosing a college is one of the most important life decisions for many entry-level applicants, so it’s a natural choice for interviewers.
How to Respond to “How Did You Choose Your College?”
You should walk the interviewer through your decision-making process in your response.
This way, you can demonstrate that you made a deliberate and informed decision rather than simply flipping a coin. If you can link your decision here to the role at hand, do so! If you’re applying for a job at a smaller company, you might mention the college’s small size and how you thrive in smaller groups.
Here are some specific factors to consider based on the type of school you attended:
College of the Community
While you may believe you chose a community college out of necessity, you can incorporate the advantages of this type of school into your response. These are some examples:
- Reduced tuition costs
- increased adaptability
- Possibility of obtaining professional certificates
A big university
Some of the typical advantages of a large university include:
- A sizable and diverse student body
- More majors and specializations available
- More networking opportunities to aid in the acquisition of internships and jobs
Small Liberal Arts University
Some of the typical advantages provided by small liberal arts colleges include:
- An all-around education
- Reduced class sizes
- The opportunity to form close relationships with students and professors
Examples of Excellent Answers
Here are some sample responses to consider.
My university has a strong science department, and I wanted to learn from the best minds in the country. It also provided the specialization I was looking for, and I wanted to accelerate my education.
Why Does It Work? This response demonstrates the decision’s logic as well as the candidate’s goal-oriented approach.
Liberal Arts College is an example of an answer.
I chose a small liberal arts college because I wanted smaller class sizes and the opportunity to form close relationships with my classmates and professors. I thrive in a collaborative environment, and I appreciated the opportunity to interact with other students and collaborate on projects.
Why Does It Work? This interviewee explains the various reasons for the decision while also emphasizing a strength: collaboration. This is a good strength to highlight because companies look for employees who can collaborate with others.
Example Response: A large university
I chose a large university because I wanted to take advantage of my post-college opportunities while still in school. We have a large alumni network, which helped me land a fantastic summer internship.
Why It Works: This answer, once again, demonstrates the factors that influenced the candidate’s decision. Furthermore, this opens the door to discussing the internship.
Community College, for example.
I chose community college because I was self-supporting and needed a flexible and affordable college. While attending classes and working 30 hours per week, I was able to complete my associate degree in two and a half years.
Why It Works: This response conveys a strong sense of the candidate’s strong work ethic, as well as some of the priorities that are important to the candidate.
Community College, for example.
Starting at a community college was an excellent choice for me. I knew exactly what I wanted to accomplish, and this school provided me with the professional certificate I required to begin my career.
Why It Works: The candidate can use this response to highlight professional certifications—especially if these certifications are relevant to the job at hand.
What Should I Say?
Here’s what you should emphasize in your response:
- Your decision-making method: This interview question is your opportunity to demonstrate your ability to make a proactive and thoughtful decision about the direction you want your life to take.
- Relevant job characteristics include: It’s ideal if you can highlight something relevant to the job at hand, such as the opportunity for an internship or the school’s reputation in the company’s field.
What You Shouldn’t Say
Some of your responses may cast a negative light on you. Here are some things to avoid:
- Concentrating on a lack of options When asked why you chose your college during an interview, never say it was because it was the only one that accepted you. Even if that were the case, you could frame your response much more positively. After all, you selected the school that accepted you. So, consider what you hoped to gain from the school when you applied.
- Party school: You want to appear professional in your response, so highlight aspects of your school that employers value. If you say you chose your school because it is a well-known party school, you will appear unprofessional and unqualified.