It’s that time of the year again. As alumni interview requests hit students’ mailboxes, it can seem like the onset of a second wave of college applications-induced stress. For those not familiar with the concept of alumni interviews, certain colleges offer interviews with alumni in applicants’ hometowns. An additional factor considered in your admission, alumni interviews give students the opportunity to go above and beyond their application, giving schools a better idea of who applicants are. Typically available from October through March, Alumni interviews are not only useful for admissions officers, but also for students. In an interview, students can ask plenty of questions about the college, providing valuable insight that can’t be found online.
Stressed about any upcoming alumni interviews? Don’t be. When I applied to colleges a few years ago, I accepted every alumni interview I was offered. At first, they were stressful. After all, they are a part of your college application. With time, though, they became not only manageable, but enjoyable. Once I moved past the pressure to have the perfect interview, I began having interesting and engaging conversations that made me really excited about my top schools. Walking out of my Northwestern interview after bonding with my interviewer over our shared love of Parks and Recreation, I remember thinking “Wow. This is the school for me.” Fast forward a couple of years, and I’m writing this article from my Northwestern dorm room.
If you’re still stressing, here are some tips that’ll help you rock this alumni interview season.
Research Interview Protocols for Your Top Schools
Interviews are a great way to show demonstrated interest in a school, making them something to consider for your top schools. Beyond whether schools even offer interviews to begin with, there’s a breadth of protocols on how to schedule an interview. Some schools called my home phone to schedule an interview, while others had to be requested and scheduled using a form on the admissions office website. Information on how to go about requesting an interview is typically available on admissions office websites. Once you submit your applications, take a short break to celebrate a major accomplishment and start thinking about whether you want to do interviews.
While interview scheduling practices vary by school, a majority of interviews are scheduled via email. Accordingly, it’s important to check your email regularly and respond promptly. Be sure to respond at reasonable times too. If you’re up working on homework at two in the morning, that may not be the best time to respond to an alumnus.
When structuring an email response to an alumnus, it’s important to find a balance between being formal and friendly. I always structured my emails professionally but began them with “I hope you’re doing well!” Play around with different greeting and be sure to proofread. I also included an email signature with my pronouns and attached my resume. Be sure to save emails for your contacts, so you can send them a personal thank you note after your interview.
So, what should you expect from an alumni interview? When I applied to college, I remember feeling so stressed about alumni interviews, only to have most of them be casual and enjoyable. They typically took place at local coffee shops and lasted anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour. Though no strict dress code is enforced, business casual is best practice. I wore clothes I felt comfortable and confident in, because looking good helps me feel good.
What should you expect from your interviewer? Remember that your interviewer is typically an alumnus of the school, and not necessarily an admissions officer. They’re a normal adult, just as your parents and teachers are. They’re not out to scare you, nor do they want to see you fail. They’re there to assess your strengths and determine whether you’re a good fit for the school. Following an interview, alumni write a letter of recommendation, which is considered as part of your application. It’s important to remember that an alumni interview is only one part of a much bigger picture; odds are that it won’t make or break your application. One bad interview doesn’t rule you out, just as one great interview doesn’t guarantee an acceptance.
With these things in mind, take a deep breath. Alumni interviews aren’t as scary as you think they are.
For confidence and easing nerves, light preparation may be a good idea. While it’s important to prepare, it’s also important to allow your answers to be genuine, not scripted. I recommend reviewing your common application to the school. Typically, interviewers do not have access to your application ahead of time. Reviewing your application allows you to refine aspects that you want to emphasize and expand on in your interview. I also recommend re-researching the school, as it’s very likely that alumni will want to know why you want to attend the school.
Although you are the one being interviewed, alumni interviews are also great opportunities to learn more about a school. While you’re researching, prepare a couple of questions you’d like to ask your interviewer about their experience at the school. Not only will their answers give you valuable insight, but it’ll also make the interview feel more conversation-like, which most alumni will enjoy.
On interview day, do whatever you need to do to de-stress. Mindset is everything in interviews. Approach interviews with a light heart and confidence, and you’re sure to start off on the right foot.
For those of you interviewing soon, best of luck. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to do alumni interviews- they’re a great resource to learn more about schools and to supplement your application. I hope these tips are helpful as you head into interview season!
[by: Preeta Kamat]