When you apply for an entry-level position, a typical job interview question is, "Why did you choose your college?" This question may feel a bit off-topic when it comes to a job interview, but giving a strong response may just help you land the job.
Find out why interviewers are interested in your response — plus, get tips for the best way to respond (along with what not to say).
What Interviewers Want to Know
By asking, the interviewer hopes to find out what makes you tick. Understanding why and how you made a major life decision provides a certain level of insight into your priorities and decision-making process.
For many entry-level applicants, selecting a college is one of the bigger life decisions they've made, so it's a natural choice for interviewers.
How to Answer "Why Did You Choose Your College?"
In your response, you want to walk the interviewer through your decision-making process.
That way, you can show that you made a deliberate and informed choice (and didn't just flip a coin). If there's a way to connect your decision here to the role at hand, do so! For example, you may want to call out the college's small size, and talk about how you thrive in smaller groups if you're applying for a job at a smaller company.
Here are some specific factors that you can tease out depending on the type of school you attended:
While you may feel you chose a community college out of necessity, you can incorporate the benefits this type of school offers into your answer. These include:
- Lower tuition costs
- Greater flexibility
- Opportunity to earn professional certificates
Some of the typical benefits of a large university are:
- A large, diverse student body
- More choices of majors and specializations
- More networking opportunities to help land internships and jobs
Small Liberal Arts College
Some of the typical benefits small liberal arts colleges offer are:
- A well-rounded education
- Smaller class sizes
- The chance to build close relationships with students and professors
Examples of the Best Answers
Here are some sample answers to review.
My university has a very strong school of sciences, and I wanted to study under the best minds in the country. It also offered the specialization I was seeking, and I wanted to fast track my education.
Why It Works: This response shows the logic behind the decision, as well as the candidate's goal-oriented approach.
Example Answer: Liberal Arts College
I picked a small liberal arts college because I wanted smaller class sizes and the chance to establish close relationships with other students and my professors. I thrive in a collaborative environment, and I relished the opportunity to engage with other students and work together to complete projects.
Why It Works: This interviewee explains the many reasons behind the choice, as well as emphasizing a strength: collaboration. Since companies seek out employees who are skilled at working with others, this is a good strength to call out.
Example Answer: Large University
I chose to go to a large university because I wanted to maximize my post-college opportunities while still in school. We have a vast alumni network, and this helped me land a great summer internship.
Why It Works: Again, this answer shows the factors that influenced the candidate's decision. Plus, this opens up a potential path to talking about the internship.
Example Answer: Community College
I chose community college because I was supporting myself, and I wanted a college that was both flexible and affordable. While I was attending classes, I was also working 30 hours a week, but I still managed to get my associate degree in two and a half years.
Why It Works: You get a real sense of the candidate's strong work ethic from this response, as well as some of the priorities that are important to the candidate.
Example Answer: Community College
Starting at a community college was a good option for me. I knew exactly what I wanted to achieve, and this school allowed me to earn the professional certificate I needed to start my career.
Why It Works: The candidate is able to use this response to call out professional certifications—if these certifications are relevant to the job at hand, that's a nice point to call out.
What to Say
Here's what to focus on in your response:
- Your decision-making process: This interview question is your chance to show your ability to have made a proactive and thoughtful choice about the direction you wanted your life to take.
- Aspects that are relevant to the job: It's ideal if you can emphasize something about your decision that's relevant to the job at hand—such as the opportunity to get an internship or the school's reputation in the company's field.
What Not to Say
There are some responses that could paint you in a poor light. Here's what to avoid:
- Focusing on a lack of options. When asked about why you chose your college during an interview, you should never reply that it was because it was the only school that accepted you. Even if that was the case, you can frame your response in a much more positive way. After all, you chose to apply to the school that accepted you. So, think about what you hoped to gain from the school when you applied to it.
- Party school: You want to seem professional in your response, so call out aspects of your school that are respected by employers. You'll appear unserious and like a poor candidate if you say you selected your school because it's a well known party school.
Possible Follow-Up Questions
- Why did you choose your major? — Best Answers
- What motivates you? – Best Answers
- Why do you want to work here? Best Answers
EVERY INTERVIEW IS AN OPPORTUNITY. Consider the ways you can align your choice of school with the job you are applying for, and then incorporate that into your answer.
SHARE YOUR DECISION-MAKING PROCESS. This will help interviewers understand how you weigh different factors and your thought process.
KEEP YOUR RESPONSE PROFESSIONAL. There's no need to share how the social aspects of the school influenced your decision.