Archive | November, 2010

Alumni College Interviews

12 Nov

Many colleges will conduct admission interviews over the new few months.  Some of these interviews will take place at the school while others will be conducted by alumni in the student’s area.  My friend, Susan Warner, who interviews high school applicants for her alma mater, has kindly agreed to answer some questions regarding college admission interviews.  I hope you will find it useful.

1.  How long have you been interviewing and why do you do alumni interviews?

I graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 1990 and I have conducted alumni interviews the majority of the twenty years since graduation.

Alumni interviewing is personally rewarding on many fronts.  I enjoy meeting young people applying to college; overall, the applicants are impressive and interesting.  Certainly in the last ten years or so, the applicants have “taken it up a notch” in terms of what they have accomplished during their high school experience.  I often find that I learn new information that enriches my sphere of knowledge.  Also, I believe it is important to volunteer and give back to the University and conducting alumni interviews is a great way to show my appreciation for the superb education I received at Johns Hopkins.

2.  What kinds of questions do you ask?

Each interview takes on a life of its own but there are baseline questions I ask every interviewee and then there are other questions that naturally arise from the applicant’s answers.  I ask about the student’s high school experience.  What was challenging about high school?  Was there anything unique about his or her high school experience?  In addition to academics, I want to find out what the student does when he or she is not in school.  I want to know about school based and non-school based extracurricular activities, volunteer and community activities, and how they spend their spare time.  What is the student passionate about?

Also, I want to determine their level of interest in Johns Hopkins.  I always ask whether the student has visited the University or other colleges that are serious possibilities.  What do they think they want to major in at Hopkins?  In addition, I ask about special awards or recognition the student may have received.

I do not ask about test scores or GPA.

Usually, I end by asking the student if there is anything else he or she would like me to know and if he or she has any more questions.

3.  Is there anything you are looking for?

Each applicant is a unique individual.  I am looking for the “real” part of the student–what truly defines the person.  Does his or her extracurricular activities show longevity, commitment and leadership?  Are there challenges the student has overcome?  Does the student really want to go to Johns Hopkins or is he or she applying there because of other reasons, such as parents wanting the student to apply here?

Each interviewee is a potential future student and I want to ask questions to determine if the interviewee is the type of student who will thrive at Johns Hopkins.

4. What does the university do with the interview information?

I take extensive notes during the interview and then fill out an evaluation that is sent electronically to the University.  The results of the interview are taken into account when the student is evaluated for admission.  There is a numerical rating scale for several questions and then a substantial narrative section.

5.  Do you have any advice for prospective applicants?

Yes!  Do practice interviews at home.  Have someone ask you typical interview questions.  Think about and then talk out answers to more subjective questions.  How will you answer if an interviewer asks you what your five closest friends would say about you?

Visit the colleges and universities that are serious contenders.  I know it is very expensive and time consuming to visit many different places, but I highly recommend visiting to get a feel of the campus and the surrounding environs.  I strongly suggest the student asking questions of themselves while they are visiting a school – can I see myself here?  Is this the right size for me?  Am I comfortable with the campus, the students, the distance from home?  What are the alternative majors offered if I decide to change majors?  Do I feel comfortable being in a big city or small town?

Be prompt about responding to a phone call or email to schedule an interview.  I know students are busy, but I find it bothersome to have to wait too long to get a response from a student I have contacted for an interview.  Also, send a thank-you note.  It is so easy to email a thank-you and many students neglect to do so.  I appreciate receiving a thank-you note and an email one is fine.

Come prepared for your interview.  Know about the school where you are applying.  Show up on time or a few minutes early.  Be neat and clean.  Elaborate on your answers.  Don’t give a several word answer and wait expectantly for the next question.  If you have done something that sets you apart from other candidates, tell me because I want to know.  You are in a competitive market for getting into college and you need to make your case for admission.

A Daughter’s Reaction

5 Nov

I was hesitant about showing my daughter my blog post from last week.  After all, by publicly confessing that a part of me wants her to attend a brand name college, I was going against what I had assiduously preached to her.  How was she going to react?  Was she going to be disappointed, feel betrayed, or become confused even?  I imagined her turning to me with reproach in her eyes and recrimination in her voice, perhaps accuse me of being disingenuous or duplicitous.  Worse yet, was this going to put additional pressure on her, the very thing I wanted to prevent?  A friend who had read the post beforehand urged me to share it with my daughter for those reasons.  So as she read my post, I watched her face anxiously for her reaction.

When she finished, she turned to me and said, “Ok.”

Ok.  That was it?  Ok?  I asked again, just to make sure I heard correctly.

“Are you ok with this?”

“Yeah,” she answered.  I started to explain my post, about why I was feeling conflicted between what I was telling her and how I felt, but that I really, really believed in what I was saying to her.

“Uh huh,” she replied.  “This is about you, not me.”

With that statement she drew a healthy boundary line separating her mother’s neuroses from her own.  I was also relieved because I had already spent much time writing and re-writing the post trying to strike the right tone.  But then she had some advice for me:

“You should end on a positive note.”  So as she sat next to me, patiently waiting for me to finish up so she could use the computer, I tried out different endings.  I read them out loud and looked to her for her approval.  When she finally nodded, I knew I was done.


I am grateful for readers’ public and private email comments on last week’s post.  When some of you wrote that you share similar feelings, I felt comforted knowing that I was not alone. I also don’t understand how this works, but by writing about it and putting it out there, I have felt less twisted up inside.  In lighter moments I wonder, is this how recovery groups work?  Maybe I can start Ivy League College Anonymous: “Hello my name is _____ and I am addicted to brand name colleges.”

But seriously, I’m not so optimistic to think that I will be completely free from desiring the prestigious name.  At least for now – this week – it has less power over me.  And like most recovery programs, it’s a one-day-at-a-time thing.


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