Though many colleges don’t require an interview for admission, some students will be offered one as an option. Whether your interview is with an admissions representative or with a local alumnus of the college, it’s best to prepare thoroughly. Set up a mock interview with your CHCA college counselor or use the resources here.
Your interview with an alumnus:
Some colleges offer applicants an interview with an alumnus of the school who lives in their area. This is both a chance for the student to get an inside perspective from someone who attended the school as well as an opportunity for the college to learn more about a prospective student. Below are some helpful insights and tips from Barbara Wagner, a 1973 Yale grad and Greater Cincinnati Director of the Alumni Schools Committee for Yale University.
Purpose of an alumni interview
The purpose of the alumni interview is to get one more current view of the student (since it’s only ½-1 hour, a teacher recommendation carries more weight). Alumni are trying to learn something about the student (every college looks for something different, but some basic traits include: articulate, motivated, enthusiastic, thoughtful, mature, committed, etc.). They don’t want to know your SAT scores, they want to know what interests you, what you will bring to college and what you hope to get from college. Alumni are not trying to put students on the spot or put them down, so don't be nervous.
Significance of the alumni interview
Your application is going to be much more important than your alumni interview. Yale says that 80-90% of applicants have a strong (or weak) enough application that the interview won’t carry enough weight to be dispositive, so in only 10-20% of cases will the alumni interview significantly contribute to the application. However, since you may be in that 10-20%, it’s certainly worth doing the interview.
Location for the interview
The goal is a one-on-one interview without parents dropping in to talk about how talented their child is. The location should be convenient to both interviewer and interviewee. The recent trend is for interviewer and student to meet in a neutral location such as school, library, coffee shop, etc., where neither will be interrupted. Note: Avoid a coffee shop where all your friends hang out.
Questions an interviewer might ask you
Note: All of these are obviously first questions in what could be an ongoing discussion on a particular topic.
- What have you enjoyed most out of your high school experience? Why?
- What extracurricular activities have you participated in?
- Which activity has been particularly meaningful? Why?
- What is your favorite course? Why? [or least favorite]
- What teacher do you like the least? Why? [or most]
- What accomplishment has made you most proud? Why?
- Describe your family (siblings, etc.). (Opens up possible line of questioning like whether you’re the first to go to college, last to leave the nest, used to cooperating, have watched older siblings going to college and their experiences, etc.)
- What is the most important contribution you made to your school and/or community?
- What changes would you like to see made in your school? Why?
- What will your teachers remember about you after you graduate?
- What do your friends value most about you?
- What are some of your interests outside of school?
- What particular interests or skills are you looking to develop in the next few years? Why?
- Tell me about something you have read recently that was not required reading for a class.
- What characteristics or qualities will you bring to (school) that will really distinguish you?
- What do you expect to get out of an education at (school)?
- Why did you choose to apply to (school)?
- Who do you most look up to as a hero or role model? Why?
- What is your biggest weakness?
- Do you know what you want to do after you graduate from college?
- What did you do last summer?
- What community service activities have you participated in?
- What issues are big issues among students at your school? Are there any controversies? What’s your opinion?
- Is there anything I can add to my report that may not be reflected in your application (e.g., recent honors, accomplishments, etc.)?