We don’t mean to be Debbie Downer, who interestingly was played on “SNL” by Dartmouth alumna Rachel Dratch. But students and parents who are not our clients have been emailing us some version of the following in recent days: “My son just landed an interview with Harvard. As this means the admissions office really likes his application, we are reaching out to you to help him prepare for his alumni interview.” There is so much wrong with this that we don’t know where to begin!
Congratulations on getting a Princeton interview. But is the fact that you secured this interview an indication that Princeton thinks you’re a great candidate? Not in the least.
For starters, unlike in the MBA admissions process, securing an undergraduate alumni interview is an indication of nothing. That’s right. Nothing. All it means is that there was an alum in your area who was assigned your child to interview. The admissions office hasn’t reviewed your son’s application yet. It’s November 6th. Applications were due on November 1st. That would be way too fast. Think about it. Whether your son has a great shot of getting into Harvard or no shot on G-d’s green earth, your son could have secured an interview.
Another major misconception that parents and students have about college interviews is their weight in the admissions process. Can a bad alumni interview hurt your case for admission? Yes. Make a racist remark and you can bet it will be included in the alum’s report to the admissions office. And, yes, that will likely cost you admission. But can an amazing interview secure your admission? No. It can help a bit but ultimately, the college interview is one of the least significant components of a student’s application. In many ways, college interviews are as much to make alumni feel as though they’re a part of the admissions process at their alma maters as it is to evaluate an applicant.
Can the evaluation of an alum confirm an admissions officers intuitions? Yes. Can a rave review from an alum make up for lousy admissions essays and subpar ACT and SAT Subject Test scores? No, not in the least. So while we don’t mean to dampen your excitement for securing a college interview, we also want students, and their parents, to have realistic expectations. So can we help your child prep for an alumni interview? You bet. Is the college interview the be all and end all? Not in the least.