Harvard College, shame on you! Many highly selective colleges, including Harvard, offer students the chance to participate in alumni interviews. In most instances, the evaluations from these alumni interviews aren’t given an incredible amount of weight in the admissions process and they’re as much to satisfy alumni (who seek to get involved in the admissions process) as they are to evaluate applicants. That said, a student, for instance, who makes an offensive comment on an alumni interview can certainly jeopardize his or her case for admission. And it’s not just students who say the wrong things during the alumni interview process either. Over the years, we’ve heard many stories of alumni who say the wrong things. The really wrong things.
And that’s what brings us to sharply criticizing Harvard. Highly selective colleges have alumni clubs in many geographic regions and indeed some folks involved in these clubs, notably alumni club officers, have got some power. In one such region, an alumni interviewer for the Harvard Club of D.C. who so happens to be the owner of a software company that created a program to not only match Harvard applicants to alumni interviewers but also has access to the interviewers’ evaluations of candidates for admission, has said some unfathomable things to students (as has been reported to us). In one such instance, this alumnus said to a group of students at a prestigious high school in the region (as it was relayed to us), “Let’s face it. Not many of you in this room have a chance at getting into Harvard. If you’re thinking about engineering, don’t apply to Harvard. Just apply to MIT.” During another session, this person said the following (as relayed to us): “Just because you go to Harvard doesn’t mean you’re going to be successful. A lot of people I knew ended up failing.”
The role of alumni interviewers and alumni who give talks at high schools is to encourage students to apply…not to discourage them from applying. And it’s certainly not to encourage these students to apply to a rival institution like MIT. And why would this representative of the Harvard Club of DC say such things? Well, this alumnus likely wanted to discourage students from applying so as to improve his own child’s odds of getting in. After all, this alum’s child did apply to Harvard this past year and this student did earn admission.
Harvard, we encourage you to better police who you have representing your school. Alumni should not be saying such things while representing your institution. It’s not right and we encourage you to take action. Perhaps you should send out evaluations to students and school counselors at the end of each admissions cycle so that you can learn of these stories and stop them from ever happening again.