A post by Dr. Michele Hernandez
If you want a really sobering (but great) admission read about the Ivies, pick up Jerome Karabel’s The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. It might surprise you to learn that college interviews were started so that the Ivies could discriminate against certain groups (Jews, minorities). We are not making this up! In the 80’s and 90’s, interviews at top colleges used to carry more weight, but partially in reaction to the disturbing history of interviews, the interview is MUCH less important now. In fact, most of the Ivies don’t even offer on campus interviews anymore. It’s mostly the small liberal arts colleges who still offer interviews to prospective students (because they are not overwhelmed with a million students) rather than the larger colleges.
When I worked as an Assistant Director of Admissions at Dartmouth, I spent almost my entire summer interviewing 4-5 students a day (as did the other officers). The bad thing was that only maybe 20% (or fewer) of those students ended up actually becoming applicants. Colleges eventually realized that it was not a good use of their time to spend that much time interviewing so many students who ended up not even applying. Now it’s much more likely that you will have an alumni interview ONCE YOU HAVE APPLIED to a college. Let’s say you apply to Yale early action – typically an alumni interviewer would contact you to arrange for an interview. Keep in mind that these interviews are just alums of the schools, not highly trained interviewers, which is part of the reason why colleges don’t put too much stock in them. Basically, it makes the alums feel useful and gives the admissions office a more 3-dimensional picture of the applicant. What an interview will NOT do is jettison a B student with 600 level scores into the range of a top tier college. If you are not in range of a college in terms of scores and grades, don’t count on the interview making any difference. If you ARE in range, the interview can help shed light on what you are passionate about and if you are a good fit for the school. The bottom line is that for small liberal arts schools, you should check their websites and schedule an on campus interview when you visit if they offer one. For larger schools, you should accept the offer of an alumni interview once you have applied, particularly to your ED or EA college.