"Tell me a little about yourself?"
You look at your Blue and Gold Officer (BGO) and think . . . What should I say? How do I address this question? When will this be over!
As a candidate for the US Air Force Academy (USAFA), US Military Academy (USMA), US Naval Academy (USNA), US Coast Guard Academy (USCGA) or US Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA), you will undergo a number of interviews. Some may be in person and others may use the phone or a video platform. An interview will be conducted on the behalf of each service academy appointment that you seek. The BGO conducts the USNA evaluation. The AF Academy Liaison Officer (ALO) does the same for USAFA. Often, the Field Force Representative (FFR) conducts the USMA interview. The AAP, or Academy Admissions Partner, conducts the interview for USCGA. And, an admissions officer typically will interview candidates for USMMA. Note that USCGA and USMMA will only interview select students.
Bottomline: prepare! You should prepare for your interviews by reviewing potential questions, including research about the school itself, the career path of the military service you choose, and the student lifestyle and responsibilities. What's more, you should be able to answer the big 'things':
Why are you seeking this particular appointment?
Do you understand the details around the path that you are choosing?
What experiences qualify you for an appointment?
How have you prepared for the physical, military and academic rigors that you will encounter at the Academy?
Do you understand the Academy's honor code, and how are you prepared to support it?
Although your preparation can seem daunting, a candidate should simply 'start' the process of digging into the details. First explore and be able to articulate your motivations. You may want to review my blog, Why do you want to attend the US Air Force Academy?, which discusses some good pointers around this BIG question for all of the Service Academies. Telling your story is important.
Another set of questions will focus on your knowledge of the 'path' you are choosing. Have you visited the websites, read books or other materials about the school and the career path of a commissioned officer in the Army or in the Coast Guard? What do you think you will study at the US Naval Academy? Have you ever visited the campus of the US Air Force Academy?
Educate yourself on all aspects of the cadet or midshipman experience, and then articulate why you are interested in this journey. A cadet must keep herself in top physical condition, meet all military standards throughout her training, and complete a Bachelor of Science degree, which includes an extensive core of curriculum. The interviewer will want to understand how your past and current performance demonstrates that you can succeed in this environment. Concrete examples, such as leading a money raising project for a school club, or completing your Eagle Scout project, will go a long way in convincing the interviewer of your qualifications.
A portion of your preparation should be 'practice.' Use the video camera on your laptop, or other device, to practice your responses to questions. Focus on articulating your responses clearly. I often tell students to be conversational, tell stories, use full sentences and relax! The last bit of advice will come with preparation. As you explore, reflect and practice, you will gain confidence.
I also recommend that you bring copies of your résumé to an in-person interview. It allows you and your interviewer(s) to use a common point of reference as well as remind you of important points to share with the interviewer(s).
Remember, the interviewer's job is to learn more about you and your motivations. The AF Admissions Liaision Officer (ALO) and BGO are not trying to 'trip' you up or 'trick' you into giving a bad answer . . . they truly hope for your best performance! As an ALO, I interviewed hundreds of candidates for the AF Academy. My goal was to do all that I could to make the experience a positive one for the student. I'm sure your interviewer will do the same.
"Tell me a little about yourself?" will be the start of a fulfilling experience and a successful interview. With preparation, you will be relaxed as you respond with a remarkable, personal story!
[ I would welcome a chance to discuss details with you. I offer tailored coaching services to prepare you (and your parents!) for your Academy interviews as well as for the entire application process ... including running you through mock interviews! Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, 503.515.7406 or use my contact form on this website. ]