How to Describe Your Most Personally Rewarding College Experience

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When you are applying for an entry-level position, an internship, or a college job, a typical job interview question is "Describe your most rewarding college experience." 

When answering this question, you want to be honest, but you also want to focus on an experience that demonstrates a skill or quality that the employer is looking for in a candidate.

It's hard to answer this question on the spot, so preparing an articulate and honest answer in advance is important and could put you ahead of the other applicants.

Tips for Answering Questions About Your College Experiences

Focus on the values of the company. When preparing an answer for this question in advance, look back at the job listing. Identify some of the key skills or qualities mentioned in the listing, and think about college experiences that helped you develop those skills.

You can also look at the “About Us” section on the company’s website to get a sense of their mission and values. Think about college experiences that helped you develop any of those key qualities.

Explain why the experience was valuable. When answering the question, don’t simply say what the experience was. In a sentence or two, explain why you found it so valuable. Again, try to connect what you got out of the experience to values or qualities the company is looking for in a candidate.

Be honest. While you want to connect your college experience to the job, you also want to sound sincere. Don’t make up an experience, or say you loved an activity or event that you actually hated. Employers can tell when you are simply telling them what you think they want to hear.

Check out sample answers. A way to start preparing your answer is to find a sample interview answer you can edit to fit your personal experiences and background. Check out these sample experiences and sample answers to get a sense of how you might respond to this interview question.

Sample Answers

Volunteering as a Writing Tutor
During my senior year, I volunteered to be a tutor at my college's writing center. We offered free help to all students in every facet of writing. It was such a rewarding experience to see students who came to us stressed, anxious, or out of ideas leaving the center feeling relieved and, even better, more confident in themselves as writers.

Pre-Orientation "Outward Bound" Program
My most personally rewarding college experience occurred even before I arrived on campus as a freshman. Two weeks prior to orientation day, the college offered an "outward bound" program that first-year students could participate in. During those two weeks, I overcame fears, made lifelong friends, and gained the self-confidence I needed to start my college journey. The next year, I even served as a leader in the program. I valued the chance to encourage other first-year students to challenge themselves.

Being Academically Challenged Every Day
Getting my diploma was my most rewarding college experience. I chose my college because it was a school that was going to give me a great education. I was challenged every day by my courses, and I worked very hard to earn my degree. I dedicated myself to my studies for those four years, working hard in class and seeking out help whenever I needed it. I have never felt as proud as I did at my college graduation.

Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone and Exploring the World
I was fortunate enough to be able to spend the fall semester of my junior year studying abroad in Paris. As someone who has always wanted to see more of the world but who also struggled with foreign languages, not only surviving but thriving in another country and language for four months showed me that I am capable of more than I had ever dreamed and that I can rise to challenges. As a result of that experience, I now make a point of stretching beyond my comfort zone on a regular basis, which has led to many more incredible experiences.

Joining a Sports Team
As someone who was not very athletic in high school, I didn't expect to be part of a sports team in college. However, my freshman year roommate encouraged me to join him at trials for the badminton team, and to my surprise, I made it. Being a part of a sports team for the first time not only taught me to value my physical health and well-being, prioritizing sleep and my diet for the first time in my life, but also reinforced everything I knew about teamwork and the importance of each person in the group.