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How to Use the STARR Method to Ace Your College Interviews

Interview season is upon us, folks. I want to share a well-known but oft-forgotten approach to answering any interview question: The STARR Method. Okay, it’s really the STAR method, but I’ve added another R to emphasize the importance of reflection. What is it, you ask? Let’s get started.

The STARR Method is a technique you can use to properly and straightforwardly answer almost all interview questions. It’s used frequently in the world of recruiting, but for some reason it hasn’t caught on with regards to college interviews yet.

STARR stands for: Situation, Task, Action, Result, and Reflection. If you’ve read any of my past posts on college interviewing, you may have noticed that I regularly emphasize the importance of adding anecdotes and examples as support for your claims. Interviews are rooted in stories; in order to lend credence to your points and to connect with your interviewer, you must share personal stories. It’s easy, however, to let yourself get lost in the story — to jump around, ramble, and lose sight of your point.

This is where STARR comes in. STARR will serve as your guide through each interview question.

Let’s give it a try with a common college interview question: Tell me about a time you overcame a challenge.

S - Situation Present the “situation” by giving the interviewer necessary background information. For example: “I am the student body vice president. I am responsible for working with school administrators to organize school events, such as the prom.”

T - Task Explain the problem or responsibility you had to overcome.

“Most years, we would begin planning prom in February or March and hold the event in late May. Because of Covid last year, we had to plan a virtual prom. As you might imagine, this took creative thinking, an understanding of technology, and buy-in from both students and administrators. Overall, we were extremely worried about how (or whether) we would be able to pull it off.”

A - Action Detail the steps you took to address the task.

“I called a student body meeting and broke everyone into small teams. One group was in charge of recruiting students, one was in charge of liaising between students and admin, and one group was in charge of finding and managing an online system. The president and myself were responsible for managing these teams and ensuring effective communication between all parties.”

R - Results Tell what came of the actions you took.

“Although it was completely different from any other prom we’ve held, it was a success. 90% of the student body attended our online prom, which included breakout rooms for dates and small groups, music, “food”, games, and crowning of Prom King and Prom Queen.”

R - Reflection WIth regards to college interviews, this is the “bread-and-butter” of your response. To be honest, admissions committees are far less interested in the “what happened” than in your ability to show maturity and introspection by reflecting on what you learned from the experience. This is where you demonstrate personal growth.

Discuss how your experience changed your worldview, relationships, personal values, trajectory, etc.

“This was the first time in my leadership experience where I was really forced to let go and trust in my team. Even though I was responsible for communicating between the different project-teams and administration, many crucial decisions were made that I was unable to participate in due to the unique circumstances and timeframe. It helped me become more trusting of the people I work with, and I think that lesson really helped me move forward in my academics this year with school being virtual. Trusting others to complete assignments well and efficiently has helped the work go smoothly. I suspect this experience has also made me a better leader because I am able to let my teammates work on their own and I don’t feel the need to micro-manage.”

💗💗💗 If you want help from an expert, contact World Awaits to set up mock-interview practice. The feedback and advice will set you up for an amazing, enjoyable experience and get you one step closer to admission. And if you feel the information in this post could benefit others, please share it. Our goal at World Awaits is to make the admissions process as transparent and smooth as possible for all students.

Good luck, applicants!



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