The Ivy Coach Daily

March 24, 2023

Devaluing the College Alumni Interview

Tom Cruise's character, sporting sunglasses, is interviewed by a Princeton interviewer in a living room in the movie "Risky Business."
The college alumni interview has become increasingly less important in elite college admissions.

Originally Published on December 28, 2017:

Around this time every year, students get excited when they hear from an alum of a school to which they applied to schedule an interview, thinking it means their application is under strong consideration for admission. Likewise, students often get anxious when they don’t hear from an alum of a school to which they applied to schedule an interview, thinking it means they’re unlikely to earn admission. But are these students right? And is the alumni interview of diminishing significance in the elite college admissions process? Will other elite universities soon announce the permanent elimination of alumni interviews, as Brown University announced the end of alumni interviews in October 2022?

The College Alumni Interview Isn’t As Important As Many Think

Let’s start with the students who either think it’s a good indicator that they secured an interview or an ominous indicator that they have yet to hear from an alum to set up an interview. Just as receiving word from an alumni interviewer is not an indication of the strength of that student’s application, not hearing from an alumni interview is not an indication of the weakness of that student’s application.

Instead, it just means, for the student who heard from the alum, an alum was available to meet with them (typically virtually since the pandemic). And it just means an alum wasn’t available in the student’s geographic region for the student who didn’t hear from the alum. Or maybe the alum got busy with work or their spouse and children. Or perhaps they forgot to check their interview assignments in their inbox.

While it’s impossible to discern why a student doesn’t hear from an alum about setting up an interview, what’s important to know is this: it will not be held against a student if an alum doesn’t reach out to set up a chat. While America’s elite colleges endeavor to interview as many students as they can worldwide, they can’t interview all students. Unlike in MBA admissions, there’s also nothing to read into not receiving an interview in college admissions.

Alumni Interviews Will Likely Carry Less Weight in the Future

So are alumni interviews of genuine value in elite college admissions, and are they here to stay? Six years ago, in its report, the National Association for College Admission Counseling found that a mere 4.7% of colleges view interviews of “considerable importance” in admissions decision-making. Meanwhile, 46% of colleges said the interviews were irrelevant.

In its 2019 State of College Admission report, NACAC cited that interviews were of “declining importance.” That year, 49.8% of colleges surveyed said the interview was of “no importance,” 28.3% said it was of “limited importance,” and 16.4% said it was of “moderate importance.” 

And while, as of the date of this publication, NACAC has not published a “State of College Admission” report since 2019, the trend since the pandemic is clear: alumni interviews are of diminishing importance. Brown University went so far as to even eliminate alumni interviews, citing issues of equity and “frequent complaints” from interviewers.

Alumni Interviews Are Designed to Keep Alumni Involved

So why is the alumni interview a component of the elite college admissions process? It’s a way of keeping alums involved with their alma maters. After all, alums donate money to their alma maters. By allowing them to have a voice in the admissions process to these institutions, they remain connected to the schools that seek those critical donations.

It doesn’t mean the alumni interview carries no weight in the admissions process, that it’s merely to satisfy the egos of alums. But it doesn’t hold the outsize weight that many alums so often profess during these very interviews. And while it’s undoubtedly worth preparing to ace the alumni interview, there’s no reason to stress out — whether you hear from an alum to schedule an interview or not.

Ivy Coach’s College Alumni Interview Prep

While the alumni interview has diminished in importance, particularly since the pandemic, it’s always important to prepare for the chat since alumni interviewers do submit reports to the admissions committee. If you’re interested in Ivy Coach’s alumni interview prep, fill out our free consultation form and we’ll be in touch.

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