Question of the Day

When a coach asks “What should I know about you?” or “Tell me what me about yourself.”, what should you say? I was asked this question and completely froze because I had no idea how to respond. Please help! I want to be prepared next time.

Ugh, this question. I’ve frozen too when I’ve been asked this and in that nanosecond before I start bullshitting my way through answering it I question why such a simple question has to be so annoyingly difficult. It gets easier though once you’ve actually thought about it and have it in your head what you want to say.

Some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten on how to answer this question came from a coach that I was riding along with one day during Harvard’s summer camp. She said that you should always aim to keep your answer around two minutes long, give or take, because anything less typically isn’t enough and anything more is too much. Since you’re talking to a college coach they’re going to care about two main things – academics and rowing – so those should be the two things you focus on. Ideally you should sit down and think about your accomplishments and essentially put together an outline or a script of how you want to answer this question.

From there you can practice it (with a friend, sibling, parent, your friendly neighborhood blogger, etc.) and get feedback on how it sounds. Obviously you don’t want it to sound rehearsed or like you’re reading from a script so practicing it in a conversational tone with the standard ebbs and flows is important. Actually speaking the words is important too because what you read and say in your head rarely ever comes out the same when you say it out loud.

Here’s an example (this isn’t based on anything/anyone in particular, it’s just what I came up with on the spot):

“I’ve been a member of the _____ team for the last three years and this past year was elected captain, which was the first time in ___ years that a junior was nominated for that position. This spring I rowed 6-seat in the lightweight 8+ that won the Southwest Regionals and placed 2nd in the A final at Youth Nationals. Those were the highest finishes our light 8+ has had at those regattas in ___ years so it was exciting to be a part of that. I also competed at CRASH-Bs in February and finished with a time of ____ which put me in the top 10 for the junior women’s lightweight category. At school I’ll be taking four AP classes this fall in addition to acting as vice-president of the ____ club, which I also helped form last year. My goal is to major in _____, which is one of the reasons why I’m taking AP _____ and _____. I really liked what I read about the program when I was researching schools, particularly about the ___________, so that’s one of the main reasons why I chose to apply here. I was also really impressed with how well the team did at Eastern Sprints and NCAAs this year and how the freshman crews have consistently been in the mix for medals the last couple of years. I’d really like to be able to say that I helped my team win an Eastern Sprints or NCAA title as a freshman so it’s definitely a goal to get a seat in the 1F by the time spring rolls around. I definitely think I’m capable of that too, especially given how much work I’ve put in over the years to get to where I’m at now.”

The key is to highlight your accomplishments and goals while staying concise and to the point. Try to avoid straying into “this is my life story” because that kinda just shows that you haven’t really thought about the question or prepared an answer for it. The only time I’ve mentioned something “biographical” is if it’s something that the two of us have in common, usually in the form of something relating to my hometown or where I went to school. I always try to do a bit of research on the coach(es) before I talk to them and, for example, if I see that they went to Marietta College or coached there at some point then I’ll mention that that’s where I’m originally from and that I rowed out of the boathouse beside MC’s. It’s a great icebreaker and an easy way to transition into whatever I was planning to say.

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