Career and College Exploration

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Got an Interview?

Think about…
  1. How do I prepare for the interview?
  2. Should I practice beforehand?
  3. What to wear?
  4. What time do I get there at?
  5. What to bring?
  6. What to do with your phone?
  7. Who to know?
  8. What should my style be at the interview?
  9. What do I talk about in the interview?
  10. Why do I want his job/scholarship/position?
  11. What should my attitude be?
  12. What about body language?
  13. What kind of questions do I ask?
  14. How do I finish an interview?
  15. What do I do after the interview? Extra Tips
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Traditional Job Interview Questions (Sample)
  • How would you describe yourself?
  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • What are your long range and short range goals and objectives?
  • What specific goals other than those related to your occupation, have you established for yourself for the next ten years?
  • What do you see yourself doing five years from now? Ten years from now?
  • What do you really want to do in life?
  • What are your long range career objectives?
  • How do you plan to achieve your career goals?
  • What are the most important rewards you expect in your career?
  • What do you expect to be earning in five years?
  • Why did you choose this career?
  • How well do you work with people? Do you prefer working alone or in teams?
  • How would you evaluate your ability to deal with conflict?
  • Have you ever had difficulty with a supervisor? How did you resolve the conflict?
  • What do you consider to be your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
  • How would a good friend describe you?
  • Describe the best job you’ve ever had.
  • Describe the best supervisor you’ve ever had.
  • What would your last boss say about your work performance?
  • What motivates you to go the extra mile on a project or job?
  • Why should I hire you?
  • What makes you qualified for this position?
  • What qualifications do you have that make you successful in this career?
  • How do you determine or evaluate success?
  • What do you think it takes to be successful in a company like ours?
  • In what ways do you think you can make a contribution to our company?
  • Do you have any hobbies? What do you do in your spare time?
  • Have you ever been fired or forced to resign?
  • What qualities should a successful manager possess?
  • Do you consider yourself a leader?
  • What’s the most recent book you’ve read?
  • What two or three accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction? Why?

Personal Statements

10 Tips for Writing a Personal Statement for University Applications

The personal statement is a crucial part of university applications in the UK. It’s your chance to show what makes you unique, besides your birth name and UCAS ID. In just 4,000 characters you have to convince your chosen university that you are the best applicant, and that they should make you an offer immediately. These 4,000 characters are your only chance, so your personal statement needs to be good. Really good. Here are some tips on how to write a truly outstanding piece.


Make a draft without a character counter.

When I started writing, I thought it would be a good idea to start with the character counter turned on, so I wouldn’t go over the 4,000 limit. First mistake… After 3,500 characters I started panicking because I was only halfway through my story. So I turned off the character counter and continued writing. At the end I had 7,000 characters instead of 4,000, but I had written down everything I wanted to say, and I only had to delete some words and compress it. That’s far easier than inserting more ideas while keeping it under 4,000 characters at the same time. By the way, the final version was 3,999 characters!


Take your time.

Do not rush it. A superb personal statement will not be ready in a couple of hours. Or even a couple of days. It took me more than a month to complete the version I finally sent in. Sometimes it’s worth taking a break for a few days, then coming back to it afresh.


Find the perfect words and expressions.

It sounds more professional and elegant if you use ‘accomplish’ rather than ‘do’, or ‘presume’ rather than ‘think’. As an international applicant, it was even more difficult since English is not my native language, but there are some useful translation and synonym programs on the internet to help with this. I used Google Translate primarily, which includes a great deal of synonyms if you translate words from English to another language. But this synonym thing should be carefully performed, as using too many fancy words could make your statement sound overdone and difficult to read.


Concentrate on your strengths.

In these 4,000 characters you are trying to sell yourself to the university. A perfect product proposer is all about how great that thing is, and it’s the same with your personal statement. You should write about your experiences, your knowledge and your future plans. You should NOT write, “I wanted to learn Spanish but I gave it up after a week” or “I am not very good at maths, but I think this is understandable since I hate it so much.”


Find the perfect opening sentence.

Starting with something funny, interesting, unusual or surprising will give a good first impression. But do not try to squeeze something funny out of your brain; that is useless. The perfect opening sentence will just hit you in a random moment, when you have already worked hours and hours on your personal statement. So, just wait and do not overthink it.


Make it your own work, voice and ideas.

I suggest that you should not read any other personal statements before writing the first few drafts of yours. It will simply give you a false idea. You are most definitely unique, and it is worthless to follow some set rules or patterns, or someone else’s ideas. After all, this is about you, not somebody else.


Be honest.

Do not write that you are fluent in Spanish if you can only say “I love you” in Spanish. Do not write that you are good at problem-solving if your sole example is a trick of carrying five bottles in one hand. If you are good, you are good the way you are. There is no need to create a false image, and indeed the truth will always come out sooner or later.


Get someone to proofread your statement.

Your parents, your teachers, your friends, your enemies… The more people you show it to, the more feedback you will get, and the better the final version will be. Of course, some advice will be better and some less so, but it is easier to ask many people first, and differentiate later.


Read it out loud many times.

It helped me a lot when I read my personal statement out to my family and friends. When you are writing it sentence by sentence, you might not realize that there is no cohesion between your paragraphs. But when you read it out, all the vague parts will magically appear, so you can correct them.


Once you submit your university application, stop reading it!

I’d recommend not reading it for a few months once you’ve sent it in. You might feel it’s not as good as you thought previously, but this is normal. Waiting to hear from universities is the worst part of the whole process (even worse than completing the application form…). After you get the offer you wanted (which you will surely get, I know!), you will know that your application was just perfect the way you sent it.

To sum up, be yourself and write honestly about your experiences. Use your own voice, because that is who you are, and the universities are interested in you, not an ideal text based on a “how to write a personal statement” article…

More tips

  • Be prepared to write and revise and write and revise and edit and revise and rewrite and edit and…
  • Seek advice; talk with different people, listen to what they say, and then follow what feels right for you.
  • Every person is unique. What makes you unique? What can you share from your life that will help a stranger understand why you are different from anyone else that has ever applied to this school or business?
  • We are defined by the stories we tell; writing a personal statement is an exercise in story-telling. Think details, details, details. Better to focus on one or two primary issues/experiences rather than briefly cover many.
  • Avoid self-promotions (e.g., it does not help to claim: “I am an intelligent, compassionate, and caring person.”)
  • Keep your guard up and avoid cliches “like the plague.” Cliches obscure your unique message.
  • Always avoid phrasing like “I’ve always wanted to be a _______.”
  • Always avoid “always.”
  • Avoid the flippant, glib, or cute.

– Be wary of humor. If you are compelled to be funny, try for the subtle or ironic: attempts at humor often come across as evidence of immaturity (evidence of that quality in this handout?). No whining.

– Avoid writing on personal problems or excuses for failure.

– Do not criticize past teachers, other programs, other businesses, or KoCom’s CEO.

– Avoid emphasis on monetary reasons for your motivations.

– Be wary of egocentricity; commend yourself without bragging about yourself.

– If asked to describe weaknesses, discuss ones that can be seen as strengths.

– Eliminate sexist language (predicting your future contributions to “the brotherhood of man” will probably not help your cause).

– Avoid unnecessary Capitalizations of Nouns.

– Use language that feels right for you. Look up questionable words in a good dictionary.

– No handwritten submissions.

– Use conventional font choices and sizes: emphasize clarity and readability.

– No speling, gramatical–or typographical erors.

– Look up any questionable grammatical or stylistic constructions in a good reference book (the most widely accepted authority is the Chicago Manual of Style).

– If appropriate, reveal you know something about the company or school to which you are applying.

– Ask at least one skilled, demanding reader to proofread your “final” document. Be prepared to revise your “final” document.

– Perfect personal statement: not too short; not too long.

Time Management

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Make a to-do list every day

Put the most important tasks at the top, even if they’re things you’re dreading, and tackle them first. Include things you want to do on your list too, so you have items you’re looking forward to. Try motivating yourself with a reward if you get to everything on your list.

Keep your work with you

That way, if you find yourself with extra time—while on the train or bus or waiting for an appointment—you can get something done.

Don’t be afraid to say no

It’s OK to say no if your friend asks you to go to a movie one night but you have a test the next morning. Instead, find a time that works for both of you and go see the movie then.

Find your productive time

Are you a morning person or a night person? You’ll be more efficient if you work when you’re at your best.

Create a dedicated study time

Set up a time devoted only to studying or homework. Shut off your phone and respond to calls or texts when your work is finished. Don’t check email or surf the Web (except when you need to for the work you’re doing) during this time either.

Budget your time

Figure out how much time you usually spend on your activities and then create a weekly schedule to follow. Determine how much free time you have before you add any commitments. And don’t forget to schedule time to relax.

Don’t get sidetracked

If you find yourself wasting time on unimportant things, stop, check your to-do list and get back to what’s at the top. Maybe you’re procrastinating because you’re not sure how to move forward on a school project. If that’s the problem, check with your teacher to clear things up so you can get moving.

Get a good night’s sleep

Your brain needs rest to perform at its peak. If it’s time to sleep, list the things you still need to get done on the next day’s to-do list and go to bed.


Letter of Recommendation

Colleges often ask for two or three recommendation letters from people who know you well. These letters should be written by someone who can describe your skills, accomplishments and personality.

Colleges value recommendations because they:

  • Reveal things about you that grades and test scores can’t
  • Provide personal opinions of your character
  • Show who is willing to speak on your behalf

Letters of recommendation work for you when they present you in the best possible light, showcasing your skills and abilities.

Get recommendation letters from people who know you well

When to Ask for Recommendations

Make sure to give your references at least one month before your earliest deadline to complete and send your letters. The earlier you ask, the better. Many teachers like to write recommendations during the summer. If you apply under early decision or early action plans, you’ll definitely need to ask for recommendations by the start of your senior year or before.

Remember that some teachers will be writing whole stacks of letters, which takes time. Your teachers will do a better job on your letter if they don’t have to rush.

Whom to Ask

It’s your job to find people to write letters of recommendation for you. Follow these steps to start the process:

  • Read each of your college applications carefully. Schools often ask for letters of recommendation from an academic teacher — sometimes in a specific subject — or a school counselor or both.
  • Ask a counselor, teachers and your family who they think would make good references.
  • Choose one of your teachers from junior year or a current teacher who has known you for a while. Colleges want a current perspective on you, so a teacher from several years ago isn’t the best choice.
  • Consider asking a teacher who also knows you outside the classroom. For example, a teacher who directed you in a play or advised your debate club can make a great reference.
  • Consider other adults — such as an employer, a coach or an adviser from an activity outside of school — who have a good understanding of you and your strengths.
  • Perhaps most important, pick someone who will be enthusiastic about writing the letter for you.
  • If you’re unsure about asking someone in particular, politely ask if he or she feels comfortable recommending you. That’s a good way to avoid weak letters.
Your teachers will do a better job on your letter if they don’t have to rush.

Some teachers write many recommendation letters each year. Even if they know you well, it’s a good idea to take some time to speak with them. Make it easy for them to give positive, detailed information about your achievements and your potential by refreshing their memory.

Here’s how:

  • Talk to them about your class participation.
  • Remind them of specific work or projects you’re proud of.
  • Tell them what you learned in class.
  • Mention any challenges you overcame.
  • Give them the information they need to provide specific examples of your work.
  • If you need a recommendation letter from a counselor or other school official, follow these guidelines:
  • Make an appointment ahead of time.
  • Talk about your accomplishments, hobbies and plans for college and the future.
  • If you need to discuss part of your transcript — low grades during your sophomore year, for example — do so. Explain why you had difficulty and discuss how you’ve changed and improved since then.

Whether approaching teachers, a counselor or another reference, you may want to provide them with a resume that briefly outlines your activities, both in and outside the classroom, and your goals.

Final Tips

The following advice is easy to follow and can really pay off:

  • Waive your right to view recommendation letters on your application forms. Admission officers will trust them more if you haven’t seen them.
  • Give your references addressed and stamped envelopes for each college that requested a recommendation.
  • Make sure your references know the deadlines for each college.
  • Follow up with your references a week or so before recommendations are due to make sure your letters have been sent.
  • Once you’ve decided which college to attend, write thank-you notes. Tell your references where you’re going and let them know how much you appreciate their support.