Many students are getting calls and emails from alumni interviewers these days. We so often hear from parents and students something like this: “My daughter got an email for an interview at Princeton. So they must think she is a strong candidate…” While we do hate to burst bubbles, some bubbles need bursting. Seriously. Securing an alumni interview at any highly selective college is no indication — no indication whatsoever — that one has a good or poor chance of admission. It’s no indication of anything with respect to one’s candidacy. All it’s an indication of is that there is an alumni interviewer in your area who didn’t drop the ball on setting up your interview.
We also sometimes get emails like this: “My son had his Duke interview and it went amazingly. So he must have a really good shot at getting in.” Wrong again. Bubble bursted. Doing well, or doing not so well, on an alumni interview is very little indication of anything (not to mention, just because you think you might have done well doesn’t mean you actually did well — it’s often quite the opposite indeed). The major purpose of alumni interviews is to satisfy the alumni, to make them feel as though they are a part of the admissions process.
Does that mean that if you make a racist remark on your alumni interview that it won’t hurt you? It sure can. Does that mean if you knock the interview out of the park that it won’t help you? It can, but likely not as much as you may think, based on our experience. In our view, parents and students completely overvalue the alumni interview. And they completely undervalue the rest of the application — like the admissions essays, activities, letters of recommendation, etc. And that’s misguided indeed. So misguided!