Really short answer questions? What are those?
They are the REALLY short answer questions, meaning the answer is not much than a text message or a tweet.
Usually they require you to answer in a single word or phrase. You should be able to own these — they are tailor-made for your generation!
Unfortunately, many of you get a bit paralyzed when answering these questions because you think they are a trick or a trap.
You’re afraid that there are wrong answers to question like, “Who’s your favorite author?” or “What historical moment do you wish you’d witnessed?”
You can’t really believe that they truly care that Toy Story is your favorite movie.
But, we’re here to tell you that they DO because these are the answers that help them get a window into your genuine personality and what makes you truly one-of-a-kind.
The only way to go wrong with your answers to these questions is to try to game them or to be offensive. Other than that, you’re good. And if you want to go from good to great, keep reading and get a few more pro tips.
1. Look to your story for the best answer. Often you will have more than one good answer to the really short answer questions. Which one is the best of these? The one that reveals something related to your story. Go back to your story from Week 2. Pick an answer that emphasizes or reinforces something essential about you or shows a side of yourself that hasn't yet made it into your application but that needs to be there.
2. Personalize the clichés. Do you think you're the only applicant naming blue as your favorite color? Not a chance. But that's perfectly OK, as long as you personalize your answer. Examples: "My favorite color is the blue of my mother's eyes." "My favorite color is royal blue." "My favorite color is blue because I am red-green color blind, and blue is the only color that I see as others see it." There are infinite ways to personalize your answers. You can check out some other techniques in chapter 9 of our book.
3. Watch your tone. Tone can be problematic with really short answers. What might strike you as sophistication or dry wit might strike an admissions officer as arrogance or negativity. You don't want the admissions officer to draw the wrong inferences about you just because of tone. The best way to check your tone is to ask someone who knows you well to read all of your really short answers together. You've struck the right tone if that person starts smiling and responds, "That's so you!"— in a good way.
Anna Ivey is one of the founders of Inline. An experienced admissions consultant and a frequently cited media expert on the topic of college admissions, she is also co-author of the college admissions bible How to Prepare a Standout College Application. Learn more about Anna's background here.