Although there is no universal formula for admitting students, many colleges admit students based upon a combination of factors, such as class rigor, grades, standardized test scores, extracurriculars and application essays.
However, optional interviews allow students to show colleges another aspect of themselves and personalize their applications. An interview puts a face, character and personality to the numbers and letters on an application.
Every student is different and what may reflect directly on paper may fail to unmask the qualities that distinguishes one from the other. Although essays provide a means of creative expression and explain to colleges why one is different from all the other applicants, not all emotions and expressions can directly translate into writing.
While a list of extracurriculars, grades and standardized test scores can give some insight to one’s strengths and weaknesses, they only reflect a small portion of the real person behind the application.
Interviews give a student no place to hide behind and no one to seek advice to polish their words. It is just the student and the interviewer; because of this, the interviewer can get a better idea of the genuineness of the words the student is saying and gives the admission officers a better sense of a student’s particular passions and interests. Not every student’s strength is in writing essays and some struggle to find the exact words they can use to tell their stories and express their feelings.
Therefore, an interview can be more comforting for a more verbal speaker who can speak about their personal experiences rather than allowing their writing to speak for them. Public speaking is an important life trait; colleges should put an emphasis on how effectively people can communicate verbally and interviews are a way of allowing them to practice their communication skills.
Alumni interviews are a stepping stone that allow students to develop communication skills that is applicable in everyday life, such as the process of job interviews or pitching an idea to a potential client. Communication allows students to shine themselves in a different light and learn to explain an experience that caused them hardship during their school year or explain the story behind a possible mishap and what they did to overcome it.
Senior Kavya Ramakrishnan has recently had five interviews within the past month and a half and a total of ten college interviews.
“I think interviews are helpful for colleges with holistic admissions because it gives them an opportunity to learn more about your personality, passions and what you’ve learned from your experiences,” Ramakrishnan said. “It’s also a great way to showcase your interest in the school. In my experience, interviews are just conversations with someone who knows a lot about the college and is really looking to help you. “
Additionally, alumni interviews provide an opportunity for you to hear about your interviewer’s career path, so you’ll learn more about how the college has helped people post-graduation in terms of advising and networking.”
Not everyone has the luxury of money or time to take a trip to visit colleges they are interested in so interviews provides a means of allowing a student to reach out and show their interest in the school without visiting the school.
Although there may not be alumni base near a student’s home, some schools such as Wake Forest University, provide Skype interviews or phone interviews as options instead of in-person interviews for those who want to take advantage of this opportunity but are unable to make the trip.
The purpose of interviews is equally beneficial for the student to get to the know the school as it is for the interviewer and school to get to know the student.
Alumni interviewers, who have experience and knowledge about their schools, can answer any questions the students might be curious about and give those who are interested a more personal exposure about the school, which can allow them to make a decision on whether the school is a fit for them.