CASPer Personal Experience Questions and Answers
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Describe a time that you helped a friend through a time of bereavement.
My best friend at high school unfortunately lost their father when they were 16. I had little experience of loss myself, and therefore knew it would be hard for me to appear truly understanding or to be knowledgeable and helpful. I accepted this, and when I spoke to my friend I explained that I had no desire to impose my thoughts or feelings on them, and would simply listen to them as much as they needed, and offer input when they asked. For days, and then weeks, my friend would tell me stories about their father, and would break down in tears. I would listen and occasionally join in with a story of my own about their father, when I could tell that they wanted me to do so. In this manner I came to understand their grief to an extent, without being overbearing, and our friendship was stronger because of it.
Describe a time when someone let you down at school or college.
One of my good friends was assigned to a pair with me, and we had to produce a term presentation together. It was worth most of the marks for that course. However, he became very complacent, after realising that if he didn’t do the work, I would feel that I had to. I spoke to him about this attitude, after noticing that he was failing to help me through doing research or writing notes. He explained that as I could do it better, it made more sense if I did it anyway. His attitude upset me, and I struggled for the remainder of the term to convince him to do more work for the project. Whilst he did barely enough that I did not have to report him or his behaviour, his lack of empathy and disregard for our friendship hurt me, and I did not receive the mark in the project that I ought to, had I been able to work properly. This reinforced the importance of respect for one’s friends, and our friendships.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where a conflict of interest was possible?
I was selected to judge a $10,000 writing prize at my college. I was one of three assessors, the other two being professors. Of the final five entrants whom we were to judge, one was one of my closest friends. I realised that I could not hope to maintain a truly objective stance, and therefore revealed this conflict of interest to the other two judges. They understood my point of view, and for the judging of that entry they alone offered a score, and I remained impartial. I trusted them to provide a fair score, and whilst I would have liked to have been able to offer my input, I knew that being fair was of the utmost importance.
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Describe a time when you showed honesty in the workplace.
Whilst shadowing last summer, one of the other students’ reports was highlighted as being especially good during a hospital wide lecture. The doctor that led the lecture believed it was mine, and explained to the others that, as it was so good, they should do their best to help me during my shadowing attachment. I was embarrassed, as I had not been tasked with writing this report, and was in fact mainly in an entirely different area of the hospital at the time. I therefore spoke quickly to the doctor leading the lecture in a 15 minute break, and asked him to correct his mistake. He did so very smoothly during the next part of the lecture, and highlighted my integrity – asking the doctors to treat me just as they would treat the student who had in fact done the report.
Describe a situation when you needed support - be it financial, emotional, or other.
In my final year of high school, my parents divorced. I found it tough to concentrate in class, or to motivate myself for my extracurriculars. It was a crucial time for me, and I was struggling nonetheless. One of my best friends took it upon himself to support me. His own parents had divorced some years before, and he was able to relate his own circumstances and own very easily. He explained the process of near-grief he had been through, his anger and his disappointment. Over the course of some days he made me realise that I had to maintain my focus, or I would risk letting the divorce upset all the work I had done throughout my years of school. He pushed me to work again, play sports again, and re-integrate into school life. Through doing so, I was able to more readily move through the process of my parents’ divorce.
Describe a time when your ability to show empathy helped someone else.
When I was volunteering at a care home, I noticed that one of the residents frequently became quiet and sad after mealtimes. They were normally loud and talkative. I therefore spoke to them, to ask if they were alright, having realised that there was a pattern. They explained that mealtimes made them sad, because their husband had been a fantastic cook – and they therefore couldn’t help but look back at this time each day. I explained that I had thought this was the case – or something like it – as they were normally so upbeat. I talked with them about their husband for a while, and told them that I would think about him at mealtime each day. This seemed to cheer them up, and sure enough the next day when I caught their eye at lunch time they smiled, rather than looking upset. By paying attention to someone’s emotions, and considering what might be the case, I had made an impact on their day.
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Describe a situation where you had to make a sacrifice.
At college, I was offered a part time job, outside college, that would have provided me with a very good income. Taking it would have enabled me to travel through Europe, which was my goal for the final summer of college, and I believe would have helped my personal development hugely. However, the number of hours required would have jeopardised my college work. I therefore weighed up the pros and cons of either decision, and whilst the job was appealing in the short term, in the long term I believed that my college work was more important. I therefore sacrificed the job – and my trip to Europe – in order to ensure that I could do my college work to the utmost of my ability.
Describe a disagreement you had with a housemate, and how it was resolved.
One of my housemates would repeatedly steal my food from the fridge- again, a seemingly minor issue. However, over time it began to irritate me, as I had prepared the food and was reliant on it in order to go to my classes with food to eat. I therefore sat them down and explained that it was aggravating me, and that we should find a solution. In the end, we decided that I would cook some extra food, which they would put in money for, meaning that there was no problem with my food being used by them.
Describe a time when you tried to promote equality at high school or college.
At high school I was part of a group that tried to convince our principal of the importance of recognising diversity and other cultures – in a heavily white, middle class school, that was perhaps something more of a challenge than it ought to have been. We were rebuffed initially, but after creating a petition and receiving hundreds of signatures from other students, we managed to persuade him to create a diversity officer, and to recognise other religions’ holidays as part of the school year. I was proud to be part of this, and learnt a huge amount through doing it – I was able to reflect on my own privileges, learn to understand other cultures in a way I had not before, and work as part of a team of very different people.
Describe a time when you made an effort to understand another person.
One of the other students in one of my college classes was immediately dubbed as being ‘weird’ by other students – he had greasy hair, difficulty speaking, and dressed often in womens’ clothes. They all therefore avoided him. I became curious about him, and therefore made an effort to sit next to him. It turned out he had, despite his shyness and obvious differences to the other students, an incredibly interesting personality. He was able to teach me a great deal about gender and gender identities, something I had never truly considered or researched before. He was also far more gifted at the course itself than anyone else – and helped me to do well too. I learnt through him that one should never judge others, or avoid them because of perceived differences – instead, you should try to broaden your own horizons through speaking to them and learning from them, no matter who they are.
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