Don’t #13: During your college interview, don’t be pretentious

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

A photo of Burnett’s son Vivian wearing one of two Little Lord Fauntleroy suits that his mother made for him; one of the suits is on display. The Fauntleroy suit – of velvet, lace, and silk – caused a fashion sensation

This tip overlaps with the ones about not being boastful, contentious, or mendacious.

Actually, that’s a pretty good definition of pretentious: someone who’s simultaneously boastful, contentious, and mendacious.

It’s someone who puts on air, who thinks all too highly of himself and his own precious opinions.

Again, the “character” you’re shooting for in this little performance is someone who’s confident yet considerate. Someone who’s accomplished yet modest. You’re not Little Lord or Lady Fauntleroy. You’re ambitious, yes, but also, as they say, down-to-earth.

As such, during your college interview, try your best to avoid disparaging things you find déclassé—like McMansions, Disney films, or country music.

If you happen to have a strong opinion about some artifact of popular culture, try to be sensitive to its perceived value, however absurd, to its principle consumers.

Also, avoid pontificating on matters obviously well beyond your ken. Even the Pontiff himself would come off as pretentious if he offered up a long-winded and—inevitably—inaccurate disquisition on superstring theory.

In short, don’t pretend to be someone important. Yes, we’re all unique and special snowflakes. But therein lies a paradox. If we’re all so special, being special becomes ordinary. Under such conditions, how can we distinguish ourselves?

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