Devaluing the College Alumni Interview

College Interview, Interview for College, College Interviewing

The college alumni interview isn’t as important as many people think it is.

The college alumni interview isn’t as important a component in the highly selective college admissions process as it was decades ago. There, we said it. Well, we’ve actually been saying it here at Ivy Coach for many years. But when other folks devalue the college alumni interview in the press, we feel the need to shine a spotlight on their writing because they’re telling it like it is and we always appreciate folks who tell it like it is when discussing admissions. In a piece entitled “The Futility of College Interviews” in “The Atlantic,” Hayley Glatter does just that — she tells it like it is and is spot on.

The College Alumni Interview Isn’t As Important As You May Think It Is

Now don’t get us wrong. If a student says something homophobic or racist or makes any kind of egregious comment during a college alumni interview for that matter, you bet it’ll hurt that student’s case for admission if the alumni interviewer happens to record the comment in his or her evaluation (and that kind of comment is certainly likely to be documented!). And, yes, a student truly impressing an alumni interviewer with great intellectual curiosity can certainly positively impact his or her case for admission (slightly!). But so many folks write in to us expressing their anxiety about the college alumni interview. Their anxiety is misplaced and perhaps instead of freaking out about the interview, the students should have been freaking out about submitting terrible, horrible, no good, very bad college admissions essays — because those matter big time unlike that college alumni interview! Big time.

College Alumni Interviews Please Alumni

As Glatter writes in her terrific piece in “The Atlantic,” “Interviews, which kick off for some schools just after the January 1 regular-decision deadline, are in some ways like other aspects of the college-application process: stressful and mysterious. But unlike elements such as transcripts and personal essays, they’re often extraneous. In its 2017 State of College Admission report, the National Association for College Admission Counseling found that just 4.7 percent of colleges view interviews of ‘considerable importance’ in admissions decisions—meanwhile, 46 percent of schools said the conversations were irrelevant.” That’s right. Irrelevant.

Would it surprise you to know that a big reason why college alumni interviews still exist is simply to please alumni, to make them feel as though they’re a big part of the decision-making process at their alma maters? These are the people who give money to these institutions. These are the people who fund so many students who need financial aid in order to attend college. What’s it to an institution to make the alumni feel as though they’re a part of the admissions process, to make them feel like they’re ambassadors? As you (or your children) prepare for college alumni interviews this coming year, certainly prepare. You want to present the best side of yourself that you can. You want to present that engaged, intellectually curious side of you. But in the back of your head, do remember that in the grand scheme of the admissions process, the alumni interview isn’t nearly as important as those grades, test scores, admissions essays, activities, and more. Please keep that in mind.


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