Are there things a student should never say during a college interview?

Application Process

Our counselors answered:

Are there things a student should never say during a college interview?

Peggy Wallace
Founder Making Conversation, LLC

Are there things a student should never say during a college interview?

People may forget what you said, what you did, what you wore, what the report looked like, who you worked for before, but they almost always seem to remember how you made them feel, especially if you say something that’s not quite right, even if it’s unintentional. Make them feel good. When you wonder should I? Shouldn’t I? Just don’t. You can also use my ethics guidelines assessment, If it were to appear on the front page of the newspaper in photo format, would it need an explanatory caption?

I like to call it tempered honesty. You need not be totally and brutally honest in all communications. With a nod to Colonel Nathan R. Jessep from A Few Good Men, consider whether the listener need “handle the truth”? It is not your obligation to state your opinion of everything to everyone. It often counter-productive to tell the brutal, uncensored truth as you see it, particularly as it applies to your prior employer.

Peggy Wallace
Founder Making Conversation, LLC

Are there things a student should never say during a college interview?

Want to know how to figure out what you should and shouldn’t say? In any communication, you usually don’t know what happened before they encountered you in person, on the phone or in an e-mail. Consider testing the waters and if you have a hesitation or concern about saying something, refrain from it. Content can be read in different ways depending on context and unless you have a solid relationship built on open communication, you may not truly “be there” to help explain its meaning. This applies most often when you are checking on the status of a job opportunity.

Peggy Wallace
Founder Making Conversation, LLC

Are there things a student should never say during a college interview?

Ask yourself, “Is it True, Is it Kind, is it Necessary, (and I would add as a modifier to Necessary, is it “Worthwhile”)? This is a modification to Socrates requirement that it pass through the three sieves of truth, good and necessity. Quakers believe in the Spiritual power of Silence, to speak means that what you say is worth breaking the silence to speak. "Before you speak, ask yourself: is it kind, is it true, is it necessary, does it improve upon the silence?" - Shirdi Sai Baba.

Peggy Wallace
Founder Making Conversation, LLC

Are there things a student should never say during a college interview?

Just slow down! Often, we have trouble thinking before we speak. In interviews you get nervous and can blurt something out.  In our fast-paced multi-tasking world it is hard to find the time to reflect on what we say before we say it. Of course, Making Conversation has a natural proclivity to promote conversation. But speak with care and be Front Porch Friendly. Stop yourself before you say anything that would be untrue, unkind or even unnecessary, if it could generate a negative reaction from the listener. Remember, once said, something can never be unsaid.

Nina Berler
Founder unCommon Apps

Are there things a student should never say during a college interview?

As someone who has conducted countless interviews for my alma mater, Brown University, I can say that there are a few items a student should not say. One is to talk in excess about the virtues of attending a university other than Brown! It's amazing how easy it is to tell if a student's interest is genuine! I would also be rather offended if a student spoke negatively of his or her schools or family. Some joking is okay, but outright badmouthing is absolutely something to avoid. I always like when students come prepared with questions for me. It shows that they thought about the interview (and hopefully the school) beforehand and might reveal something about the student's personality. That said, students should avoid any questions that are overly personal. As important as what not to say is to act polite, upbeat and respectful in the interview.

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

Common Sense

It all comes down to common sense. Use your good judgment when it comes to the words that you choose. But in case your common sense eludes you during times of stress, try to keep these things in mind. Don't bad-mouth other high schools or colleges. Don't bad-mouth other applicants. Don't tell your interviewer that they represent your "safety school." Don't lie about your accomplishments.

Megan Dorsey
SAT Prep & College Advisor College Prep LLC

Nothing Sinks an Interview Faster than Lack of Interest

Whether interviewing with a university’s employee or an alumni, remember that they love their school! Nothing sinks an interview faster than a lack of interest. “I’m applying here as a backup” or “because my dad made me” indicates you are unlikely to attend, even if admitted. Lack of interest also shows if you ask questions that easily would have been answered by looking at the school’s website before your interview. Finally, “Do I really need to study?” and “Yeah, I’ve got an easy senior schedule,” are comments that speak volumes about your lack of interest in higher education overall.

Nicholas Umphrey

More than seven dirty words.

Years ago, the late George Carlin made waves by releasing 7 Dirty Words you are not allowed to say on TV. If you are applying to a college or university, whether or not English is your first language or not, I'll bet you know what words I mean. In short, do not curse and refrain from using words that some may even consider inappropriate like "sucks" or "blows" because more than being offended, the interviewer will conclude that you are not verbal enough to convey this message without sounding like a pirate. Basically, if they are words you would not use around small child or an elderly person, then leave them in the locker room. This is just a good rule of thumb for any professional situation. You also want to be objective and thoughtful without sounding negative. In other words, an interviewer may ask your opinion on a controversial issues. From your response, they are more interested in your insight and thoughts as opposed to your actual stance.

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

Are there things a student should never say during a college interview?

Do not ask IF the interviewer likes the school. Obviously they do, otherwise they wouldn't be either working for the school or giving up their time to interview you on behalf of the college. Do not compare the school to another one--concentrate on talking about what interests you at the college and how you can add to the campus. Do not talk about your latest romantic entanglements or the last party you went to. Keep everything on a friendly, "professional" level.

Pamela Hampton-Garland
Owner Scholar Bound

What Not To Say

You should focus on being honest and sincere, not on canned answers.