Don’t #10: In your college interview, don’t be mendacious

This article is part of a series, 10 Tips for Acing Your College Interviews.


If you feel pressure to boast, you may also feel tempted to lie, since you may not be convinced that the interests and accomplishments you do have measure up. Certainly, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t outright fabricate things about yourself or things you’ve done.

Depending on how outlandish they are, the admission folks might actually take time to verify them.

There’s a famous bit of apocrypha that circulates around college admission offices about a young man who claimed, in an interview, to have discovered a comet. Needless to say, the officer who heard this was so impressed he took the trouble—all of 10 seconds—to Google the claim. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether a claim of this nature may or may not be true.

An important angle to consider though, should you be tempted to lie in a college interview or on your application, is, even if you don’t get caught, how much the lie would advance your cause to get in. Unfortunately for you, the more likely a lie is to bump you up the pile, the more likely you are to get found out.

This article is really not the place to have a philosophical discussion about the morality of lying. But there’s another temptation that’s arguably more pernicious. It’s the temptation to spin. As you know, to put spin on something is to frame a claim in a way that risks misrepresenting it. This may be spin by exaggeration or spin by omission—or some combination of both.

I leave it to you assess how much of what you say to your friends—and to the authority figures in your life—has spin on it.

Unfortunately, there’s so much spin in our culture these days, it’s hard to know the boundary between a fair claim and bullshit. Consider, if you will, the Horror Story entitled, “The Bullshitter.” You can read it in our free app Foyl.

Dr. Sean

Dr. Sean

Co-Founder at Readerly
Dr. Sean has over a decade of teaching experience at universities in the US and Asia. He earned a BA with honors from Columbia University and a PhD from the University of London. You can read more about his teaching and research here.
Dr. Sean