Conducting interviews 101

<p>Hello wise parents who interview for your alma maters. I posted occasionally on the old board (with a name the new board doesn't recognize) but am mostly a lurkie-loo. </p>

<p>I've just received a mailing from my alma mater (a highly selective institution) asking if I would like to volunteer to conduct alumni interviews as part of the local recruiting effort. I haven't participated before but now I'm interested, and I'll admit that the fact that I have a high school kid who will be applying in the not too distant future prompts that interest. I figure that conducting interviews will give me insight into that part of the process. (Secondarily, perhaps my participation will make up for years of neglect of my alma mater on my part and will keep my kid in the legacy column on the tick sheet.)</p>

<p>So I have questions: How much time does it take to arrange, conduct and write up an interview? How much current knowledge about your institution do you feel you need, and how do you go about educating yourself about it? (I skim the alumni magazine, but I am ancient, so much has changed there over the years.) I assume I should request that I not interview applicants from my child's high school - correct? Any other useful advice? Thanks.</p>

<p>I suggest that you call your highly selective alma mater for answers to your questions.</p>

<p>I interviewed for an Ivy, and I was allowed to interview kids from my kids' high school, but NOT the same year they were applying for college.</p>

<p>Individual interviews were not time consuming - maybe an hour to 90 minutes each --- so it depends on how many you choose to do.</p>

<p>What I was told to do was 1) to look for were students with moral purpose who could give back to the community; 2) to see if the student REALLY wanted to go to the school and therefore knew something about it (had met with a professor, looked into research, whatever), or was just faking by asking questions that could be answered off the website or from the viewbook; and 3) to see if I could separate the wheat from the chaff in the ECs and find the student's true passion, if he or she had one, and to see how well integrated it was. I had to rate them on a 1-9 scale with 1 being the worst, and I DID give out 1's and 2's, often to people with huge laundry lists of ECs that showed them to be EC-grubs, joiners, etc. (not to say that "team player" is bad, but that's different from an EC-grub).</p>

<p>If you've been away for awhile, it would be good to go back and visit your school or read through the website, viewbook, etc.</p>

<p>I don't think interviews counted for much UNLESS THEY WERE NEGATIVE. I noticed that NO ONE I gave a bad rating to got in - and this was over YEARS. But it was not the case that everyone I gave a good rating to got in.</p>

<p>I have done them for my alma mater (a top 50 LAC)-I have been given a series of questions to use (which were not mandatory), as well as a sample evaluation form so I could get a little insight into what types of things to focus on. My school also sent me a fair amount of materials on current programs and student life so that I could field questions. If I cannot answer a question, I offer to e-mail admissions to get the answer. Interviews usually take from 1 to 1 /12 hours. I usually conduct them at my home, but have gone to the cafe area of a Borders or Barnes and Noble if that is more convenient for the student (they seem to be popular locations-my daughter interviewed with another LAC who stationed their admissions rep in the cafe for an afternoon!). I have enjoyed doing them.</p>

<p>I have interviewed for several years from my alma mater, an Ivy.</p>

<p>It has no rules about whether it's OK to interview from one's child's h.s. I, however, have a personal rule that I don't interview kids from my S's h.s. That's because I have a very strong bias in favor of those kids, and I also like to be available to answer their questions about prepping for interviews. I wouldnt' feel comfortable answering such questions if I also might be interviewing them.</p>

<p>I actually am fairly familiar with my alma mater because usually I visit it about once a year, including getting some info from administrators.My college also sends all interviewers updated info each year, including the same large packet of info that they send to prospective applicants. I do take the time to read the info.</p>

<p>Arranging the info doesn't take much time, just an e-mail or brief phone call to the student stating suggested times. Usually students will go out of their way to be available. I put aside an hour and a half for the interview. I try to keep them to an hour, but sometimes they run over. I take about an hour to write each report. I try to include direct quotes and telling details from the interview.</p>

<p>I do not suggest interviewing in your home, though I have done that. I have found that some students try to get extra time by having their parents drop them off. The student somehow thinks it may be to their advantage to keep talking after the interviewer is finished and would like to see the student leave. I also know of an interviewer who was greeted at her door one day by a disgruntled rejected student and his overbearing mom. They somehow thought it necessary to prove to the interviewer that the student deserved to get in. Fortunately, they tried to prove this by insisting that the interviewer look through a large scrapbook. This was, however, an unnerving experience.</p>

<p>After hearing about that, I have decided to interview students at a conveniently located coffee shop. It's worth peace of mine to me to pay for their drink.</p>

<p>I thoroughly enjoy interviewing the students. It's fun to talk with interesting teens. The only sad part is that I know that odds are that anyone I interview will not be accepted because my college is so darned selective. Thus, I always try to tell each student something that I was impressed with about them. I also remind them of the sad fact that odds are my college won't accept them even though they are fine people.</p>

<p>I have run into students afterward whom I had interviewed who had gotten rejected. Fortunately, my way of interviewing them seems to work as the students seemed happy to see me again. On such occasions, I also have emphasized how impressed I was with the students, and I have told them that I feel that their college is very lucky to have gotten them. </p>

<p>One last piece of advice: No matter how impressed you are with a student, never predict that your college will accept them. It's impossible to predict with selective colleges will do. Better to have a student's acceptance be a happy surprise than to have the opposite occur.</p>

<p>From an observer - while I never felt uncomfortable dropping my son off at an alumni interviewer's house (this was because son didn't drive - it wasn't a ploy to get extra face time) it has occurred to me that parents of daughters may not feel the same way. I never accompanied son to door and never sat outside the whole time - our routine was I would leave for 30 minutes. I never wanted interviewer to feel s/he had to invite me in and play host. It worked very well except the time son was bitten by interviewer's dog - but that belongs under another thread. DH has interviewed for his alma mater (Ivy) and is given enough information to do the job. How many interviews you'll be asked to do depends on the part of the country you're in and number of applicants/other interviewers. We've had maybe 15 students come to our house (we keep our dog out of sight) and have never had a bad experience like the one Northstarmom refers to, but it could certainly happen to anyone. If you're a single male, sad to say, maybe you're better off in a public place. Our local library will let interviewers reserve rooms.<br>
One last comment about interviews. I found that it was universally a positive thing for my kid. No one is trying to trick you, you're just sitting down and having a conversation with an interested adult. Students can learn things about themselves and gain confidence. It's nice, as an adult, to be able to connect with kids at that place in their lives and maybe help them get where they want to go.</p>

<p>Thanks to all for your suggestions. Lefthandof - over what time frame have you had those 15 students come to your house? I like to think that I might be able to help some applicants feel good about the interview part of the application process. NSM, the specific, positive but realistic comments you make to interviewees I find particularly thoughtful and sensitive. I will certainly keep that approach in mind. I would be reluctant to interview students at my kid's very small high school for fear that the students or their families might expect more of me than I could deliver, either in terms of influence or in terms of feedback. I could see it becoming awkward.</p>

<p>I also interview for my alma mater and have been doing so for about ten years. I feel about the same as every other poster above about this experience. For one thing, I have been unable to give financially back to my college (as I don't have money for my own kids' college funds as it is), but I feel that I am giving back with my time instead. I happen to really enjoy doing the interviews. I never thought of it in terms of my own kids eventually ever applying as I started when they were in primary grades and it was furthest from my mind. </p>

<p>I enjoy just meeting and talking with a variety of kids. One personal benefit for me is that I meet kids from the surrounding region of my part of my rural state and over the years, I learned a lot about the various high schools in the area and all the differences, all of which piqued my interest. I learned a lot about what kids applying to a selective school are like and are involved in. When my kids were growing up, they would ask me about the kids I interviewed and in a way, they gained some perspectives of what older kids did or had done prior to applying to a very good college. One thing that became daunting to observe was how time and time again, the majority of what seemed to be some really fantastic kids did not get in. It opened not only my own eyes but my kids as they were eventually in high school and observing the outcome! In '02 and -03 combined I met with 12 kids and none got in and several were outstanding in my view, including valedictorians and sals who were very active outside of school and so forth. It was really an eye opener! </p>

<p>We are not supposed to interview kids we know and I do keep to that. Occasionally I have interviewed a kid whose name I recognize but do not truly know at all. I don't think I have interviewed any from our HS but then again, few even apply in the first place. As it turned out, my own daughter, when starting her college search with big college directories and her criteria list in hand, showed it to me and lo and behold, I see she discovered that she liked my alma mater, and I had no influence over that nor cared if she ever chose it. It turned out that the school met lots of what she wanted and she asked if she could have it on her visit list. It was really fun for me to go back and actually informative to sit in on the info. session, tour, etc. It actually was really helpful in my interviews the past two years as I now saw it from an applicant perspective and recent visitor. It was rather interesting for me to observe that my own child turned out to love this school and it become one of her favorites tied for first in her list of preferences and thus we returned for a second overnight visit in senior year and then a third time for the accepted student open house as she was still contemplating that school among some faves she got into. So, now I have been back three times cause of her and am really up on the school more than ever (she did not end up going there, however, which is fine by me). What she saw in it, was interestingly, pretty much what I had at her age. </p>

<p>Anyway, the college does send along a lot of information including current bulletins and catalogues, plus a great deal of information to help with the interviewing...suggested questions, sample narratives with critiques of what made them effective or not, etc. </p>

<p>I sometimes have students come to my house, but in more recent years, due to my own teens' very active schedules after school and in the evening (same times prospective applicants are available to meet) took me on the road to activities and so, I often would meet up at a different location/city where I was due to my kids' activities/lessons. As well, due to living in a rural area, I was interviewing kids from within about a 65 mile radius and so meeting at X city, which was not mine or theirs, but where I was for my kids', was often a half way spot for each of us, given the great distances. In those instances, we usually meet at a cafe and I find that works well. Like others on here, our interviews are usually 1- 1 1/2 hours in length. Then I write the narrative which takes me up to about 90 minutes to write, plus there is a rating we must file. For my school, we can let our regional committee chair know if we have a limit of the number we wish to interview. I usually do not go over seven or so, as it is condensed into a two month period pretty much. We try to interview every kid who wants one and so I try to say yes to ones given to me but did give a general count of what I could do ahead of time. One funny anecdote was that last year, my committee chair sent an applicant's name to me for me to contact for an interview and the applicant was MY OWN DAUGHTER!! She and I got a big laugh out of that. Naturally we had her reassigned and the chair realized the mistake....never really looked at the name, I guess....and it was quite funny. </p>

<p>I have really enjoyed getting to talk with these teens. In fact, I have almost enjoyed it more in the past two years or so that I now have kids involved in the college process and can get a feel for other teens going through it. I do get very disappointed to not see some very fine applicants get in. I also tell applicants what Northstarmom tells hers....mentioning that if they don't get in, it is not a statement of their qualifications or achievements (or not to take it personally so to speak) and that it is quite difficult to be admitted and if they don't get in, I am sure they will end up at a school they will enjoy and wish them much luck in this process. I keep it upbeat and compliment them but do not offer up any "chances" or hopes, though try to be encouraging or positive about the child. I also make it clear that I have no say as to whether they get in. And honestly some kids that I thought were outstanding did not get in. </p>

<p>If you think you would enjoy doing this, go for it. You could always find out just how much of a commitment it is. For me, it is not that huge of a one. </p>


<p>I think that starting to conduct interviews when your own child just happens to be about to enter the applicant pool is going to be fairly transparent to the institution and doubt that it will make a difference in the quality of your child's legacy rating. He/she will be a legacy but not a special legacy. I think that alumni interviewers who have served faithfully for many many years might get a bit of an extra nudge but I doubt that even that is much more than the proverbial tip over the fence.</p>

<p>Although your candor is refreshing, I hope that you have reasons for interviewing that go beyond your own parental self-interest. As a former interviewer (over a period of about 15 years) for my own "highly selective instituion"--I interviewed from the time I was in law school until the time my oldest child was 7--and now as a parent of a college freshman who did his share of college interviews--I would hope that interviewers are engaged in the process for the sake of the kids and the institution and only tangentially for their own edification as it applies to their child.</p>

<p>If I misunderstood your post I apologize.</p>

<p>I've been interviewing for my alma mater (New England LAC) for about a dozen years. I agree with the posters above that it's great to talk to such a great group of accomplished young adults every year, but it's also difficult knowing that maybe three out of the 15 or so students who apply will be accepted. Most of them (with an exception or two every year) have all the stats, ECs, you name it, to be admitted, too.</p>

<p>What the admissions office wants alumni interviewers to focus on is the potential fit of the student and college. A certain passion for learning beyond the classroom must shine through. The college also encourages an active, involved lifestyle while on campus - someone who sits in front of a computer 24/7 will <em>not</em> be happy at this college. We do not receive test scores, GPAs, or other stats, just the student's name, phone number, and high school.</p>

<p>When I first call the applicant, I try to let them know that it's not a one-way interview: It's an opportunity for them to find out more about the college, as well. It's also a great way for the student to update the admissions department with information beyond the application. If the student declines to meet, it's not held against him/her.</p>

<p>I used to interview students at my house, but with two Jack Russells in the household now, it's calmer at our local coffee shop!</p>

<p>Still, you never know what the end result will be: Students I raved about were turned down flat, while other I never dreamed would get in were accepted. </p>

<p>I never experienced a conflict of interest, because as much as I loved going there and would go back again in a heartbeat, both of my daughters - the older one now in college - want to be somewhere warmer!</p>

<p>I'm another alumni interviewer (for Duke). I've been doing it for over 10 years in three states: Maryland, Pennsylvania and Indiana. I started doing it because, like Soozie, I couldn't give back financially but I wanted to give to the university. To this day, I'm thankful that Duke accepted me and I wanted to return the thanks. As others have mentioned on other threads, no way would I ever get in there today!</p>

<p>Duke has an entire manual they send to interviewers - complete with sample questions, facts and figures, etc. Each interview lasts approx. 1 hour and then writing the report takes ~ 1 hr. I STRONGLY suggest that you write the report immediately afterward, unless you have a terrific memory. I used to try not to take notes while I was talking to students, but I gave up when I couldn't remember what they said. One of the first things, I tell them is not to be worried about my writing while they're speaking. I explain that sometimes they'll tell me something that will trigger a follow-up question in my mind and if I don't write it down, I'll forget it. </p>

<p>The purpose of my interview is to get a feel for the person behind the numbers. The school has all the data: the scores, the numbers, the list of EC's, the essay. But it's still sometimes hard to get a feel for the person and thus, the interview. I can say that I don't think it matters much at all. We have a 1-5 scale, basically, and I've had a 1 (lowest) accepted and a 5 (highest) rejected. </p>

<p>I just don't interview kids or kids who have parents that I know. I do interview from my daughter's high school - but it's 3600 students so it's unlikely I'll know them. I also give the standard "can't predict chances but I'm sure you'll do well wherever you go" speech. Because I don't see scores, grades, etc. I really know nothing about them academically. They could be the strongest candidate or the weakest and I really don't know. That standard speech backfired on me once. Turns out the interviewee actually was an acquaintance of my daughter's (which I did not know) and the student took it as a "dismissal" of her capabilities. This kid got in everywhere and wound up at Harvard. Oops.</p>

<p>I also used to interview at home (particularly when my kids when little and I couldn't find a sitter) but I stopped that when I had a mom come to the interview (way too awkward for the student to answer questions freely) and when I had a mom sit outside in her car for an hour in dead of Indiana winter. Not good. So now I go to the library and one of their private study rooms.</p>

<p>I didn't interview last year when my own child was a senior. I didn't know if she was going to apply to Duke and I thought if she did it would be too much of a conflict of interest. I normally interview ~7 students a season. Some are ED apps so they're early, but most are crammed into a two month period - mid- December through mid-February. </p>

<p>I try and treat the interviews as conversation not interrogation. I try and factor out nervousness - a one-on-one interview with someone a student thinks actually has more power than they do is not always a kid's most shining moment. I tell them ahead of time on the phone when we're arranging the interviewer to dress "casually" and that this is not a formal interview but more of a conversation. I can tell you right now: boys always wear khakis and a button down shirt and girls always wear black pants and a sweater. Out there somewhere is a manual for teens on how to dress for an interview and they follow the rules religiously! Now if I could have gotten that one kid to turn off his cell phone...LOL!</p>

<p>I too interview for my alma mater, an Ivy. I have been interviewing on and off for about 20 years. My alma mater provides information for interviewers on an alum website complete with suggested questions, examples of evaluations complete with critique, etc. I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting young people. I am thankful for the opportunity I was given and like other posters, want to give back. For the last few years I have coordinated the interviews for the city where I work, which has five high schools. We try to interview with at least two alum and at a place of business - my company, a law firm, real estate office, etc. I am not sure if my DD, a junior, will apply. If so, I too may bow out of interviewing for the year. I have so enjoyed meeting these kids - they are amazing kids, all of them. Our state alum association keeps in touch with matriculating students with an end of summer cookout so we do see them again. We also call the accepted students to be of help in answering questions, etc. as they decide. We also may on occasion use some of the students to host overnights for kids from our state. Although it is commonly thought that these interviews do not carry much weight, recently the college has suggested they might be more helpful b/c of this era of grade inflations, private SAT tutors, etc.</p>

<p>It is really interesting for me to read what other interviewers have to say of the experience as it so closely mirrors my own and I have never spoken to other interviewers before. I second some things brought up in more recent posts. I also assure the kid on the phone when setting up the appointment that it is not a high pressure interview and that I won't be asking trick questions, but rather will be talking about things he/she would expect to and how it is also an opportunity for them to learn more about the college. (hint, they should be prepared to ask something specific and have already explored the school enough to be able to do that). As another person wrote, I also take notes during the interview. I ask the kid if it is ok and tell them that I am NOT writing down any impressions but rather factual information that will help me write a far better narrative report than if I had not. That the facts will jar my memory of whatever we spoke about that thing and in fact, anything I was writing down was of the nature that the student could see it him/herself. I usually do not write the report that same night but am able to write a thorough specific report from my notes soon after.</p>


<p>Thanks to all for relating your experiences. Very helpful and interesting. </p>

<p>Patient - I was mostly being tongue-in-cheek about the legacy thing. Certainly I know that my kid will never be a "special" legacy. (But do you suppose it's possible to fall off the legacy roll? ;)) Since I received a letter seeking volunteers, I assumed that I could be of value to the institution by pitching in, and that in the process I could learn. I also enjoy talking to young people and believe I have some skills in interviewing. I'm naturally more interested and involved in activities related to my kid's current stage in life: earlier it was wrapping-paper sales, chaperoning the trip to the zoo, etc, now it's college admissions in the style of the you know you're obsessed with the college admissions process thread.</p>

<p>*What I was told to do was 1) to look for were students with moral purpose who could give back to the community; *</p>

<p>Then, it should follow that Ivy grads are the ones who contribute the most to their respective communities--having been hand-selected for that job.</p>

<p>That's NOT been my experience, I must say. Actually, none of the top community "contributors" from my old academic community went to Ivies--in an academic community stuffed with those degrees. </p>

<p>Anyone else? Did your top community contributors graduate from Ivies?? Jsut curious....</p>

<p>Did your top community contributors graduate from Ivies?? >></p>

<p>Interesting question Cheers. In our community at least the answer is a resounding no. I can't think of a single Ivy grad who sits on any community organization board or even actively participates. But I can think of several who never received a college degree.</p>

<p>In figuring out whether one's top community contributors went to Ivies, it's also important to think of how many people in your community attended Ivies. There are very few places that have an abundance of Ivy graduates. Thus, simply counting the Ivy grads who are top community contributors would not accurately reflect whether Ivy grads on the whole are active in communities.</p>

<p>I know that my community has very few Ivy grads, so, understandably, few are represented in terms of community service.</p>

<p>Most of the Ivy grads whom I know are very active in their communities, however. </p>

<p>I also know that for my own Ivy, Harvard, one of the most popular extracurriculars was Phillips Brooks House, the student-run community service organization. It currently has 1,800 student volunteers and serves 10,000 people in the Boston-Cambridge area. </p>

<p>When I was a student, everyone I knew did some volunteer work there. I never remember anyone doing it because they were trying to pad their resumes or look good for grad school. Students volunteered there because on the whole students had a strong interest in community service.</p>

<p>Meanwhile, I am among Ivy grads who doesn't have a lot of money to make charitable contributions. I do, however, do lots of service work for my alma mater and for my community. I doubt, however, that most people in the community who know me as a volunteer have any clue that I went to an Ivy.</p>

<p>The community leader in my area that I find most influential has a BA from Wesleyan and a PhD from Harvard. I had no idea and looked up his vita after you posed the question.</p>

<p>It's an interesting phrase to contemplate from overseas. </p>

<p>The rest of the world is suspicious of the American tendancy to imbue themselves with 'moral purpose'.</p>

<p>Maybe it's just me, but looking for 'moral purpose' in a seventeen year old strikes me funny. I wish they were looking for kids with heart, smart kids with heart.</p>

<p>Cheers, in light of the present political situation, I share your concern with the term "moral purpose". To me, however, the concept works if I view it as "ethics."</p>