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?

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.

Reena Gold Kamins
Founder College, Career & Life, LLC.

Avoid negativity and talking about other schools.

The addage is don't get a second chance to make a first impression. So, you want to go into your interview with a positive and confident attitude. You want to avoid being negative, both about your own performance and/or interests and, naturally, about the school and other schools. You don't want to put down other colleges or programs. You also don't want to criticize your parents or teachers. Saying you got a bad grade because the teacher didn't know what she was doing or that you can only apply to a few schools because you're parents don't want you going to far or can't afford other options will not make a good impression. Similarly, you don't want to rave about other schools. One of the goals of the interview is to show your sincere interest in the school. If you say you're applying as a safety or because another school you like better is too far away or too small, it doesn't make the school you're with feel like you really want to be there.

Reecy Aresty
College Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & Author Payless For College, Inc.

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

No foul or sexually explicit language, and don't mention other colleges or make comparisons!

Lynda McGee
College Counselor Downtown Magnets High School

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

There are a few things that could really turn off an interviewer, and most of them have to do with you saying things that offend or scare him or her. Avoid religious discussions unless you are applying to a religious school. Avoid politics also, because here's another place where you can easily offend. Also, don't ask an interviewer to compare their school to another, as in "Are you a better school that XYZ for pre-med?". And most importantly, don't use the interview to confess your deepest secrets or to share that you have recently tried to take your own life or that you just recently left rehab. While these things may have been a major influence on your life, they are something that should be shared with a medical professional, not some college interviewer. Talk about who you are, but spare the gory details.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

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

Beyond the hopefully obvious things like telling someone that you don’t really want to be there or you have no real interest in the school, but are only applying to please your parents, etc., there are no areas that are necessarily out of bounds. Indeed, the old truism about not talking politics or religion with people you don’t really know is not even applicable, for such issues can lead to thoughtful discussions which, given the academic context of the process, can make for a positive impression. Regardless of the nature of the interview, never forget that it offers an opportunity to make a good impression and expand on some of the things previously shared in your application. Share your passion and let the interviewer know what matters to you. Show yourself to be a thoughtful individual who will be a positive addition to the school community.

Tam Warner Minton
Consultant College Adventures

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

Yes! Don't say you don't really like the school but your mom is making you apply. Do not ask questions you should know the answers to: size of the college, the majors the college offers, or if they have a bungee jumping club. DO YOUR HOMEWORK, know the answers to these!

Owner Ellen Richards Admissions Consulting

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

When preparing for a college interview, students never know what to expect and that makes sense because you never do know what to expect from an interview. All interviewers are different, has their own style and may test you in ways that you never thought of. Best thing that any student can do is to maintain their composure at all times and make sure that anything they say or do or any way they behave that they wouldn’t mind the entire board of admission seeing or hearing that interview as a whole. For example, if an interviewer for any reason start cursing, that does not give the student license to curse as well. So therefore,if that’s not something that you deem appropriate then you certainly do not partake in that. And another thing students do during interviews are ask questions that are answered everywhere in the college literature. Even in this age of technology, colleges seem to be producing countless numbers of books and publications about their college and have a statistics and everything they can possibly front to try to get the best candidates to apply. Make sure you read those before the interview and make sure you don’t ask any of the questions that are already answered within that literature. All that does is show the interviewer that you have not done your homework and therefore you don’t care enough about the school to do your homework about the school before the interview. Next is a student asserts that he or she is very passionate about any subject. It’s best to make sure that you can back that up with examples and that you’re on top of anything having to do with that particular subject. For example, once a student mentioned how interested she was in politics and an interviewer then asked her a rather obscure question that one would – anyone who would be as interested as she claimed to be in politics would know the answer to. This occured during a political race. The interviewer happened to read the newspaper that morning and happened to pick up a few facts about what was going on and casually mentioned it to the student and in that case the student was able to appropriately answer or respond to the interviewer’s query. Make sure you know what you’re talking about. Finally, perhaps the worst thing a student can do during an interview is not ask questions. Asking questions shows interest. If a student cannot think of anything to ask about a school, then that means they’re not thinking about the school. Obviously, they can’t possibly be experts of that school, therefore there you can’t know everything there is to know about that school, therefore they must have questions about something. The best thing students can do is to make sure that they go into an interview equipped with piqued curiousity and lots of questions and make sure they that get some answered during an interview. So yes, definitely, students should sensor themselves to some extent during interviews and be careful about what they say.

Pamela Hampton-Garland
Owner Scholar Bound

What Not To Say

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

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.

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.