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Three Things to Know About Alumni Interviews

If you submitted one or more college applications before the early application deadline (November 1), you have probably started thinking about the next stage of the application process: alumni interviews. This interview is where you, a prospective student, can speak with a graduate of a school you applied to ­– and though it does not usually significantly impact an application’s success, it is still important.

Alumni interviews matter for two reasons. First, while colleges do not penalize an applicant in any way for declining this optional interview, a positive interview could improve a prospective student’s likelihood of acceptance. Second, you can learn about what life at the college you are interested in is really like. The interview is a chance for you to ask questions about the college from a student’s perspective, and to get honest answers from someone who completed their degree there.

In light of this, it is always a good idea to take advantage of the opportunity to meet with an alumnus (or alumna). Here are three things you can do to make a good impression during the interview:

Be prepared to talk about yourself, your interests and your accomplishments.

In most cases, the alumni conducting the interviews are given very little information about the applicants they will meet with. More often than not, interviewers will only have a prospective student’s contact information, and will never see their application or essays.

When you meet with them, they will want to know about you: what you intend to study, what interests you in and outside of school, and why you would make a good addition to the college’s student body. Come prepared to talk about activities you engage in and things that are important to you – especially those relevant to your application, like your academic interests, awards you’ve won, or clubs you have started.

Take a turn to ask questions about your interviewer.

At some point during the interview, likely near the end, your interviewer will ask if you have any questions for them. It is a good idea to ask at least one or two questions about their experience at the school in question. Not only does this show your interest in ensuring the school is a good fit for you, but it also helps to develop a rapport with your interviewer, because it means you both get a chance to share information about yourselves.

Try to ask questions about things that genuinely interest you. Here are some examples:

  • What was your favorite thing about studying at this college?
  • What is one thing that you think the school does very well?
  • How would you describe your experience at this school?
  • Is there anything that surprised you about the school, that you wish you had known when you were deciding where to study?

Keep in mind that your interviewer volunteered to interview prospective students, which means they probably had a positive college experience.

Judge your success by how it goes, not how long it goes.

Alumni interviews can be quite short. In fact, in many cases they will not exceed 30 minutes. Although you may feel like the interview is a failure if you did not cover all of the things you wanted to talk about, that’s generally not the case. If you can cover the top 2-3 most important things on your list, you should consider the interview a success!


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