Welcome to College Confidential!

The leading college-bound community on the web

Sign Up For Free

Join for FREE, and start talking with other members, weighing in on community polls, and more.

Also, by registering and logging in you'll see fewer ads and pesky welcome messages (like this one!)

As a CC member, you can:

So..how much does the interview actually matter?

ilovecollege95ilovecollege95 Posts: 83Registered User Junior Member
edited November 2012 in Harvard University
Sorry if this has already been asked....
Anyway, I had my interview about a week ago and the interviewer told me that it doesn't really count for anything? Is this true, or was he just saying this so I wouldn't be nervous? He was not a young alum, but a pretty successful/old/established guy.
Thanks!
Post edited by ilovecollege95 on

Replies to: So..how much does the interview actually matter?

  • lovenerdslovenerds Posts: 161Registered User Junior Member
    the interview won't break/make you. Unless you had an extremely terrible interview, it doesn't really matter
  • slipperyrockslipperyrock Posts: 23Registered User New Member
    The purpose of an interview with alumni is to make the alumni think they are picking the next generations of students and will in turn donate more money to the school.
  • gibbygibby Posts: 6,267Registered User Senior Member
    ^^ I agree, but I will defer to the actual Harvard interviewers on this board: Sikorsky, JHS, and WindCloudUltra. What think you of your contribution to the process?

    Edit: I was agreeing with lovenerds and not slipperyrock.
  • T26E4T26E4 Posts: 16,973Registered User Senior Member
    I'm not a H interviewer but my school operates extremely alike. Here's a post I made before

    http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/9661936-post684.html
  • WindCloudUltraWindCloudUltra Posts: 1,761Registered User Senior Member
    @gibby and slipperyrock: It's probably a combination of a few things. Unless an alum is severely deluded, he or she is not going to think that we're actually the ones picking an admit. Out of a pool of nearly 35,000 applicants, there's no way any alum not working in the admissions office can remotely or properly do the job of selecting applicants. We don't know what the competition is, how an applicant compares to his or her peers, heck, we don't even get to see the application.

    At our best, interviewers function as an extra pair of eyes for the admissions office. Because of the volume of applications, the admissions office can only spend a certain amount of time with each app. We fill the gap by spending some time in person with the applicant. Most of the time, the interview report will probably confirm the first read impression by the admissions office. However, sometimes, we may spot something not present in the application--positive or negative--that can help the admissions office make a decision in particularly difficult cases. But most reports will probably have little actual impact (if only because they confirm the quality of the application).

    Every year, some 2000 or so applicants are admitted. I'll go out on a limb and guess that, of the 2000, maybe 200 or 10% might've been positively impacted by a good interview report. Most of the others would probably have been admitted without an interview. (Again, this is a wild guess)

    So, you're both right, in so far that the interview is only a very small part of the application process. You're also right that the alum interview process is a great way for the university to maintain a positive relationship with its alumni base, and a way to get alum to feel as if they're still involved with their alma mater.

    But there's also another related reason. Harvard (and its peer schools) has a brand to maintain with the world. There's a limited number of official admissions employees who can meet with parents and/or students interested in the school. AdCom members do travel to schools and make presentations/college fairs; but there's only a small window in the calendar when they can afford to have staff away from Cambridge (or whatever other city a school is located).

    The interviewer may be the only person with an affiliation with the school with whom most applicants will meet throughout the admission process. So in a way, alum interviewers also serve as free PR for the admissions office.
  • ilovecollege95ilovecollege95 Posts: 83Registered User Junior Member
    Thanks guys! I was just wondering (my interview went well). :)
  • T26E4T26E4 Posts: 16,973Registered User Senior Member
    WCU is spot on: "The interviewer may be the only person with an affiliation with the school with whom most applicants will meet throughout the admission process. So in a way, alum interviewers also serve as free PR for the admissions office. "

    Statistically, I know that it's likely that none of my interviewees will be admitted any given year. Therefore, I want the student to leave w/a positive encounter with my school, given the real likelihood of rejection later. I don't mean to sound so mercenary but there's no reason to make people needlessly feel our school is cold and heartless.
  • Dinosaur22Dinosaur22 Posts: 8Registered User New Member
    My experience as an interviewer is that admissions hopes for confirmation of impressions it has from the full application. Is the applicant as sparkling and articulate as her recommenders say she is? Is he as politically informed and astute as his essay suggests?

    Things can get interesting in close cases. And here, I think that a great or poor interview can help or hurt an applicant. Most applicants aren't shoo-ins for admission. In close cases, a strongly negative interview impression could hurt someone's chances. And, of course, a really strong report could improve them.

    In about 15 years of interviewing, all of the admits (save one described below) I've interviewed have been people I wrote very positively about. Of course, they were also excellent and had strong chances without my report, though in one case I did comment about the candidate's obvious great love of a specific academic interest that, in my opinion, more than compensated for an almost painfully quiet and shy personality and not outstanding (though still quite good) grades/SATs.

    I have had a "weak" report get admitted, but that was an athlete in a sport Harvard considers "important." It's pretty obvious to me that athletic recruitment completely changes the likely admissions outcomes at Harvard as it does elsewhere.

    I've also had people I advocated strongly for who got denied.


    Finally, I have had applicants with strong numbers and ECs get denied with so-so interview reports, including alumni legacies. Personally, I doubt that the interview report ALONE "did them in." Whenever I turn in a lukewarm evaluation of someone who's otherwise strong, I go out of my way to say that my experience could be idiosyncratic and that other evidence in the application (like recommendations and past record) should be considered more important (and I really believe that). I'm guessing that these applicants may not have had strong essays or recommendations, or that they are simply victims of Harvard's absurd selectivity.

    As an earlier poster noted, it's simply the overwhelming likelihood that the people I interview won't get in. Harvard turns away really great applicants every year, leaving the interviewers who recommend them scratching their heads. No doubt many of those denied admission will go on to do something outstanding that proves Harvard "wrong."
  • HannaHanna Posts: 11,426Registered User Senior Member
    I've had three interviewees get in over the years. They were, in my judgment at the time, the three strongest candidates, and got the three most enthusiastic letters from me. But who's to say whether that's the reason they got in?

    I have never sent a negative report. I have sent a few that amounted to, "Nice bright kid, I enjoyed talking to him, but I don't really see anything to make him stand out in the applicant pool. That said, I also didn't see any red flags that would indicate trouble." I would only give a thumbs down if the kid were obnoxious or seemed too terrified to handle the shark tank.
  • T26E4T26E4 Posts: 16,973Registered User Senior Member
    I have no qualms writing frankly if the applicant, IMHO, is average or mediocre in the context of my school's extremely competitive pool.

    While I enjoy seeing someone I've connected with briefly ultimately get admitted, I also see myself as eyes and ears for my college, not as an advocate for any single applicant. Thus I strive to be candid about my observations. I'm a cheerleader when the situation merits it. And not, when not.
Sign In or Register to comment.