What should you NOT say in an admission interview?

By Maxine Seya

What should you NOT say in an interview? Obviously name another school, etc. Something that throws you off.

– Adrianne

This was one of the questions submitted for the interview with Justin, one of Northwestern’s admissions directors. Even though it wasn’t selected, it’s a good question that we’ve gathered insight on after interviewing countless admissions insiders, including admissions interviewers.

Firstly, I used to interview applicants to Northwestern. My fellow admissions interviewers and I would ask our student interviewees “Why do you want to come to Northwestern?”

A response like this usually got the interviewee a negative report: “It’s a highly ranked school that’s on the Top 10 of U.S. News and World Report.”

Northwestern is a unique school in that it really values demonstrated interest. Of course it helps protect their yield rates, but having students who love Northwestern actually attend makes for a more engaged student body.

So when someone says they want to attend Northwestern merely because of what others have said about it or how it’s portrayed by the media, it shows that they didn’t do any research and therefore are not interested in Northwestern.

Additionally, here are what 3 other admissions interviewers say about how NOT to approach your interview.

SocratesPost interviewed Jerilyn, an admissions interviewer at Harvard, who emphasized self-awareness:

If I had to think of the least impressive candidate that I’ve interviewed before it would be one that was over rehearsed or was trying to just impress me as a person as opposed to demonstrating to me why they feel they would be a good fit for Harvard, for the community or culture there or a program that they’re interested in. I think there’s a balance between confidence and being overconfident and I think being overconfident does not show that the candidates have self-awareness.

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Maxine Seya
Maxine Seya is a former investigative journalist, college consultant, and admissions interviewer. She studied at Peking University (Beijing, China) and Université Paul-Valéry (Montpellier, France) and investigated for CNN and Huffington Post before graduating from Northwestern University. She founded SocratesPost to share the human stories behind the admission gates and offer parents clarity as they help their teens with college.