Was test optional, ultimately, a disservice to kids or was it the right choice?

Like any interview, it also biases the selection in favor of in-person sales skills, which may be intended or desired, or may not, depending on the situation.


An interview can be focused on any aspect of an applicantion. If presentation skills are germane to the applicant’s chosen field of study, maybe they should be evaluated. However, for most applicants, that shouldn’t be what AOs need to focus on. Even after having read the entirety of an application, there have to be additional questions an AO still has about an applicant. An interview would help address those questions.

adcoms have said they can make the decision without an interview, hence why it’s optional for most colleges. A few may use it in evaluation, agree, maybe for borderline candidates.

An interview may not be required for every college or every applicant, but it could be very helpful. Few companies hire on the basis of resumes alone. Fewer, AFAIK, will ask for a video from an applicant unless it’s relevant to the job.

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It has been like pulling teeth to get DS to do his video…he commented, “why can’t they just leave me alone…” :wink:


Oooh. I find an interview report to be vital. It’s almost always the only face-to-face (unless, eg, an AO had met a kid.)

Ime, not officially “requiring” it is a recognition not all kids can schedule one. Saying they can decide without an interview doesn’t equate to it not being important.

Just when we thought it was over, more interview emails coming in. I do agree that those are likely helpful for AOs but the process has been so protracted. The kids run out of steam eventually.

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DS has had quite a few interviews and at this stage he does not mind those at all. He really enjoyed the last one he did this weekend and would happily do an interview as opposed to sorting the video out.

We’re talking colleges, not companies, there’s no way a college can interview every global applicant, so it would be selecting between kids that interviewed.

There was a blog by a Yale interview who I think said he evaluated ten or so applicants to be like the greatest thing, can’t miss for Yale (paraphrasing), all were rejected, he stopped being an interviewer. Similarly Stanford stopped interviewing CA residents, because of the volume and because it didn’t make much difference.

If you get one, sure, you want to do your best, but it’s not as important as rigor, grades, scores (non-covid years), ECs, recommendations. And once you factor in public colleges, it becomes even less important in the overall landscape.

Of course not. I was talking about interviewing the final candidates.

I am a Stanford interviewer in CA. Stanford has a unique history with interviews that differs from HYSM… For a long time, Stanford did not offer interviews as part of their admission process. ~8 years ago, they made the decision to add an optional interview, but they offered them at different times in different areas.

For example, in 2014-15 interviews were only offered in Chicago, Raleigh-Durham and Washington, D.C, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming. Interviews were not offered in CA, as well as in the majority of other states.

As I recall, interviews were added in CA during 2017-18, making CA one of the last states to get interviews. I suspect CA being later than most other states largely related to logistical challenges. Stanford gets tens of thousands of applicants in CA and has a huge number of alumni in CA. This makes it more awkward to coordinate and structure interviews than in other states. Another contributing factor is CA applicants tend to be more familiar with the college than applicants from other areas and are more likely to have known someone who attended the college. This can make interviews less beneficial for the student.

Prior to COVID, Stanford offered interviews throughout the CA, the United States, and dozens of other countries. However, this year they dropped interviews for students in the Bay Area (still offered in rest of CA), presumably due to urban areas of CA being hit hard by COVID, and the Bay Area kids expected to be more familiar with the college.

I wouldn’t assume all highly selective colleges treat interviews the same way Stanford does. I expect most are very different. For example, interviews tend to be especially influential at MIT and tend to be much more involved. MIT interviews may last hours.

Many colleges have said they offer inter views, as available and feasible, to applicants who pass First Cut. These won’t be a pool that necessarily makes it to “finalist,” gets to committee.

I understand interviewers’ frustration when what they see as great kids are rejected.

But they’re only seeing one slice of the applicant.

“There was a blog by a Yale interview who I think said he evaluated ten or so applicants to be like the greatest thing, can’t miss for Yale (paraphrasing), all were rejected, he stopped being an interviewer.”

Anecdotal of course, but I know two Ivy alums (not Yale) who stopped doing interviews because they saw so many outstanding applicants get rejected. I think they even felt a little guilty about it. When you have so many top candidates chasing after so few admission slots, that’s bound to happen, but they didn’t want to be part of the process any longer.

There’s a fundamental difference between an interview by an alum and that by an AO. An alum intervewer typically has only, by design, very basic description of an applicant. S/he also isn’t asked to probe deeply. An interview by an AO after s/he has reviewed the submitted application should be much more substantial and different.

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D signed up for an interview at one of her reaches and I hope she gets one. For some kids, including her, I think it’s a plus! Can’t control, though, if you get an interview and S19 never got an interview at this school but maybe she’ll get lucky.

Again because you cannot guarantee an interview by an AO to everyone that makes the first cut, it would still be unfair to the kids who can’t interview, and colleges know that. If you’re in another country or can’t afford to visit the campus, the interview the AO gives would still be to confirm what they saw in the app, or to possibly compare kids that also interviewed, not to make a decision on an app, unless it was a red flag.

“Applicants who pass First Cut.”

I thought these statements of first cuts were not official from the college but more how it works and kids and parents tell each other. When I was applying it was definitely good news if you got an interview from an ivy, but those were done by alums even though we lived in upstate NY. I didn’t interview at any ivy, in case I’m accused of humble bragging, but the kids that did all had local interviews.

“dropped interviews for students in the Bay Area”

You might be right about just the bay area but for open for other CA residents, that makes sense.

I’ve always felt that the interview is more about the alum than the applicant. It’s keeps the alum connected to the college so they can continue to give donations to the college and they market the college to prospective students through the interview. Occasionally the interview can flush out a poor applicant or the diamond in the rough but 99% of the time its really about the alum staying connected.

Anecdotally, my close friend is a Brown alum and for years he interviewed dozens of highly qualified students and not a one was accepted even after many glowing recommendations. I think my friend wanted to interview, at least partially, to show the college that he was an active legacy and it might help his own kids when it was time to apply to college (and Brown). Btw - none of his three kids got in, two are at Vanderbilt and the other graduated from WashU.

Lastly, I don’t know if there is a correlation but he said that he never gave any $$ to Brown over the years, only his time, choosing to give to charities of his choice instead. I have always wondered if the legacy “bump” help more for families that donate $$ back to the college?


We were told by our guidance counselor that you must be “an active alum” in order to confer a legacy bump. The GC actually had a ranking system for the different types and amounts of involvement. According to her, if you do not donate–or donate only a small amount–your kid shouldn’t expect any advantage from their legacy status. Donor status trumped other forms of involvement.

Maybe it’s different at different schools, but that is what we were told regarding schools my husband and I attended but don’t donate to because they have $billion+ endowments.


Princeton (and I’m sure some other schools) classifies alums into categories by how active they are and how much money they give. More money and more involvement does put more weight on the scale come admissions time for the kids, but how much from year to year is really anyone’s guess.


It depends on the college, but for most colleges that do interviews, I don’t think this is accurate. One of the few colleges for which we have specific numbers is Harvard, due to the lawsuit analysis.

One of Harvard’s experts in the lawsuit created a model that was able to explain 64% of the variance in admission decisions based on ratings of applicants received in a variety of categories, and a variety of controls. The percentage of predictive ability lost by excluding ratings from one category were as follows. LORs and alumni interviews were grouped together in this model. The isolated pseudo r^2 numbers suggest LORs have ~1.5x the predictive ability of alumni interviews. Using this ratio results in the following approximate loss in predictive ability when excluding different parts of the application.

Excluding LOR Ratings: Lose 33-40% of predictive ability.
Excluding Personal Rating: Lose 19% of predictive ability
Excluding Interview Ratings: Lose 16-20% of predictive ability.
Excluding Academic Rating: Lose 17% of predictive ability
Excluding Extracurricular Rating: Lose 13% of predictive ability

This model suggests while interviews may not be tremendously predictive of decisions in isolation, they often add something to the admissions decision that is not duplicated by the other components of the application. The model suggests that Harvard admission decisions would be more likely to change if they stopped considering alumni interviews as part of their admission process than if they stopped considering test scores (information gained by test scores appears to be largely duplicated by other sections of the application). Consistent with this, the applicant files sometimes include comments about the “alumni IV” and suggest that it is influencing the decision.

As mentioned above, there is a good amount of variation by college. For example, some of Cornell schools state that alumni interviews are only for informative purposes, not influencing decisions. Others Cornell schools state that interviews are mandatory for nearly all admits. Statements on MIT’s website and CDS suggest MIT interviews are likely more influential than at Harvard. Different colleges use different admission systems.