written by
Zoë Edington

Alumni interviews: So, how should college applicants prepare for these?

Admissions Tips 4 min read
Student prepping for an interview
Image: Student prepping for an interview | Photographer: LinkedIn Sales Navigator | Source: Unsplash

So you've submitted your Common or Coalition application, and now you're playing the waiting game. The idea of simply waiting after weeks of completing college applications and writing essays may initially seem like a huge relief; however, it's important to remember that there may be more hoops to jump through. By diligently checking your email or portal you may be made aware of time-sensitive items such as missing application documents, early decision letters, or even alumni interview invitations.

While they're not always guaranteed, applicants may hear from alumni during the fall when admissions committees are making decisions.

What are these alumni interviews all about?

These interviews are the chance for schools - and their alum - to learn about you as a person instead of just another applicant. Colleges and universities receive thousands of applications each year, and since so many of the applicants are outstanding intellectuals, it can be difficult for admission committees to differentiate between students. Instead of solely reviewing students based on numerical data such as GPA and standardized test scores, some schools have their alumni reach out to current applicants. These sessions give applicants the chance to express themselves in ways that may be harder to do on paper, and that are often far more personal.

Here are a few key tips from what I've learned during these alumni interviews

First, the typical format of the interview

After having my first few interviews with various alumni, I quickly became familiar with the pattern and knew what to expect. The first minutes were filled with the pleasantries followed by both me and the interviewer talking about our backgrounds, me explaining why I wanted to attend the school and what I would do there if admitted, and describing my strengths and weaknesses. The questions that I was often asked felt predictable; so after a few interviews, I was able to better refine my answers and sound more confident when talking about myself.

In my experience, the only part of the interview that varied was the more open-ended section when it was my turn to ask questions. Even though I usually asked the same set of questions to the interviewers, the responses were always different so it was common for them to go on tangents by telling me stories about their experience as a student. During these sessions, the conversation became less rehearsed and more genuine, which made me more likely to listen to stories that made it easier for me to visualize walking around the campus as a student.

Next, how to prepare for the interview

My mantra when advising applicants about alumni interviews is "less is more." When preparing for an interview, often the first instinct may be to obsessively research facts about said school (if they haven't memorized all the information already), and then spend the interview saying what they think the interviewer wants to hear. From what I've heard from alumni, this is not advised. The interviewer has probably spent countless hours listening to students give generic answers, so what they really want is to learn about you as an individual.

Be prepared to talk about yourself and have a genuine conversation. Telling the interviewer about your background, intentions for college, and any uncertainties that you have will make you not only a more honest applicant but also a more interesting person in general. You've already submitted your application, so now all you have to do is talk about your reasons for applying.

Student appearing stressed at their laptop preparing for alumni interviews
Image: Student appearing stressed preparing for alumni interviews at their laptop| Photographer: JESHOOTS.COM | Source: Unsplash

Okay, so how can I get an interview?

As mentioned earlier, alumni interviews are never guaranteed so you shouldn't be too disappointed if you don't receive an email request for one. However, if you want to increase your chances of an interview invitation, then you should apply to college early. Applying months in advance can give schools time to send your information sent to the alumni interviewers. By simply speeding up your timeline, you're increasing your chances of having the opportunity to get one last good word in about yourself before a final decision is made.

Something to remember...

Although the idea of meeting a graduate of your dream school to share why you'd make a great addition to the student body sounds intimidating, remember that these interviews are very informal and meant to be mutually beneficial. The interviewer doesn't work for the university, and so they have no say in the outcome of your decision. Instead, they are volunteers who want to learn about you as a person. They want to know how attending their alma mater will impact you, and how you'll leave your mark on the campus by the time you graduate. You've already done all of the hard work, now it's time to just have a conversation with someone who has been in your shoes before.

P.S. We've got more than 75+ alumni who'd all love to chat with you! Schedule a free session today to get your questions answered and learn more about schools you're interested in.

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