While the alumni interview is not one of the most important components of the highly selective college admissions process, it is a component and as such it would behoove all colleges that offer these interviews to maintain a better overall standard for how they’re conducted. Regular readers of our college admissions blog may remember when we made reference to one particular alumni interviewer for Harvard in the Washington D.C. area and called this interviewer out for not representing the school as we suspect Harvard would wish to be represented. That alumnus happened to have a child applying to his alma mater that year and so it wasn’t particularly surprising when he openly discouraged a student of ours from applying to Harvard. We subsequently applauded when Harvard took action by rendering all parents with children who are high school seniors ineligible to interview. It was a fantastic move.
A Call for Colleges To Better Police Alumni Interviews
But colleges can and must do more to better police their alumni interviews. While we love Harvard’s move of banning parents with children who are high school seniors from interviewing the same year their children are applying to colleges, it would behoove all schools to take not only that step but further steps to ensure these interviews are conducted fairly. At Ivy Coach, we don’t live in the world of the theoretical. We live in the world of tangible actions. So what can and should all colleges do to improve the alumni interviewing process? Here are some ideas:
- Students should be interviewed by only one interviewer. Not two. Not six. We can’t tell you how many students of ours over the years have — unbeknownst to them — walked into interviews in which they thought they were meeting with one alum only to enter a room with multiple alums in attendance. That’s intimidating for anyone, especially a high school student.
- Alumni interviewers should not ask students about the other schools to which they’ll be applying.
- Students should not be asked their SAT / ACT, SAT Subject Test, AP, or any other scores. It’s not an alum’s business. Admissions officers can see their information on their application, which alumni are not privy to.
- Interviews should be conducted in public spaces, like coffee shops or offices. Students should not have to go into an alum’s home. That can be scary. There are dangerous people out there! The Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, graduated from Harvard (though he’s in prison now).
- Alumni should not misrepresent their role in the admissions process. We can’t tell you how many alumni over the years have expressed to our students how much clout they have in the admissions process. Many have told our students they’ll be sure to put in a great word and that their word often does the trick. We then have to readjust our students’ expectations. We are all about underselling and overdelivering. Too many alumni do just the opposite.
- Alumni should not question a student’s ethnicity. It’s not their business. We once worked with a Native American student who was asked if he could really prove that he was Native American. The student’s mother grew up on a Native American reservation. The student had a Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB) but he certainly didn’t bring this certificate to his alumni interview — nor should he have had to. Outrageous!
And that’s just a start. Do our readers have some other suggestions on how colleges can better police alumni interviews so these meetings better serve not only prospective students but also the alma maters of these alumni? Let us know your thoughts and ideas by posting a Comment below. We look forward to hearing from you!