Auntie SparkNotes: How Do I Talk About Myself To Colleges?
Alright. I have a problem. I don't know how to talk about myself. At all. Every time I go to a college or college fair with my mom, she always ends up doing all of the talking because I never know how to say to college reps, "Hey, you should want me here because blah, blah, blah." (Also, my mom seems to butt in to talk for me whenever I'm at one of these college things, so it's not like I have a choice.)
I mean, it was bad enough when I was trying to write the CommonApp essay; I must've gone through five or six different essays before crafting one that my mom thinks best describes me. Now, I'm getting ready for interviews, and my first one is next week. How do I keep myself from sounding like an introverted loser with no self-esteem? More importantly, how do I keep myself from sounding like an idiot?
For starters? Leave your mom at home.
Preferably in a locked room, tied to a chair, and with her mouth duct taped shut.
...Or, okay: if hostage-taking isn't your thing, you could hand her a bag of Sour Patch Kids and politely ask her to wait in the car while you take care of business.
Because while we'll get to the part where you talk knowledgeably and confidently about yourself, we first need to get to the part where you talk, period. Even if you open your mouth and say something stupid, it would still be an improvement over the current state of affairs. And when you let your mother speak for you—and when you're looking to another person to help you craft an essay on you, the one subject in which no one else can possibly have more knowledge and expertise than you do yourself — then you look like an unconfident, useless do-nothing who can't handle the basic responsibilities of adulthood and almost certainly shouldn't be at college.
Trust me: it's better to sound like an idiot than to look like an infantile weenie.
The good news is, you're at the perfect moment to start speaking up: a college interview will almost certainly be a one-on-one meeting between you and the admissions counselor, one from which your mom is excluded. (If not, tell your mom kindly but firmly that you're going to be doing these interviews alone. It's time.) And while my guess is that you'll find it a lot easier to talk about yourself when you know that you won't be interrupted, you should also practice: in your room, in your car, in the shower. Come up with a handful of anecdotes or answers that complete the following sentences in a way that's compelling and personal to you:
"This school really stood out to me because..."
"During high school, I overcame the challenge of..."
"I've always been interested in..."
"In college, I'm looking forward to..."
...Remembering, of course, that you're not trying to sell colleges a bill of goods to convince them of your worthiness; you're just letting them see who you are, and whether you're a good fit for each other. If you're an introvert who prefers quiet focus to a blazing social life, say so. If you know that you need to work on your confidence and look forward to doing so in college, say so. There are no wrong answers when you're talking about your own life, experiences, and interests. There are only your feelings, and how articulately you express them—and the more you practice, the better you'll do. And while I can't tell from here which came first—your quiet awkwardness or your mom's steamroller behavior—I can tell you what comes next: you, alone, making the case for your college admission to the best of your abilities.
And if those abilities are stammering, inexperienced, and a little bit awkward? That's totally okay. It's okay even if your mom thinks she could do it better, and even if you're afraid she's right. Because the right place for you isn't the one you can't get to on your own; it's your life, it's your future, and it's your job to direct yourself onto a path that's right for you. And your best, whatever it is, will always be good enough for that.
Are your parents too involved in your college admissions process? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.