The Alumni Interview: What Is It & How Do I Prepare?

Erica Cirino, Varsity Tutors' Contributor

September 03, 2015

The Alumni Interview: What Is It & How Do I Prepare?
Prepare to conquer this aspect of both your college search and the college admissions interviewing process.
Would you like to know what it’s like to attend your dream college before applying? It turns out you can, by chatting about the topic with someone who has already completed a degree there. The alumni interview, required by some colleges and offered optionally by others, connects high school seniors with local alumni in one-on-one meetings. These interviews are casual conversations normally held in public places like libraries and coffee shops and are meant to give high school students the opportunity to learn more about a given school through the experience of someone who has studied there.
Yet, such interviews are a two-way street. Besides helping students shape their college choice, they’re also meant to help colleges decide whether or not a given applicant is right for their school. At the culmination of such an interview, a college’s alumni representative often reports back to their alma mater and fills them in on their conversation. Depending on the college, the alum’s impression of a prospective student may play into a college’s decision to admit that student, to a varying degree. Thus, going into an alumni interview, you’ll want to be well equipped to make it a positive experience.
Now that you know all about what the alumni interview entails, use the following tips to help you prepare:

1. Do your research

The more you know about a given college during an alumni interview, the better. You’re not necessarily going to be quizzed, but the key here is to ask your interviewer good questions about what you know about the college they represent.
Say you’re interested in pursuing biology and know that a college offers a work-study program in animal research in a local nature preserve (which you would love to be a part of). In this case, you would do well to ask your interviewer whether he or she has ever participated in that work-study program and if they have any experience with the college’s biology program more generally. Students who can demonstrate their sincere interest in a college tend to impress alumni interviewers the most. Focus on using what you know about a college – their academic programs, facilities, clubs, etc. – to discuss how you would fit in there as a student.

2. Act natural

Though you may feel nervous during an alumni interview, allow your conversation to flow smoothly. An alumni interviewer will most certainly ask you questions, but those questions are rarely predictable – meaning there is no way to memorize the “right” answers to their questions. And, there really are no right answers: the purpose of such interviews is primarily to help you determine whether or not you like a given college. Remember to be polite, not reserved. And, importantly, remember to smile and thank you interviewer at the end of your conversation.

3. Dress to impress

There’s no need to dress black-tie for an alumni interview, but you should appear neat. Wear what you would if you were attending an interview with the president of your hopeful college, or as you would look for an oral report. Dressing nicely for an alumni interview, much like doing your research about a given college, makes a positive impression on your interview. Appearing sloppy – wearing fraying jeans or scuffed sneakers, for instance – can convey that you don’t really care about the interview (even if you do).

Erica Cirino is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, the leading curated marketplace for private tutors. The company also builds mobile learning apps, online tutoring environments, and other tutoring and test prep-focused technologies.

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