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Is the College Interview the Ultimate Expression of Love?

There is no better way to show a college that you love them than having an interview, right? And because you want to show them the LOVE, you wait and wait for them to reciprocate with something. It's only Valentine's Day and most of the colleges won't be releasing decisions for another month. So the one thing that will give you some peace of mind is to have an alumni interview and make them realize how much they LOVE you.

But what happens when they don't reach out about an alumni interview? Do they not love you back? Is something wrong with your application?

If you are like tens of thousands of high school students, the waiting feels like unrequited love. As each day passes, you understand that there is less and less of a chance that you will get an opportunity to interview. Why, though? 

Many of the mid-sized and larger universities don't have the staffing to offer on-campus interviews with admissions officers. Instead, they rely on a network of alumni interviewers across the country (and the world). These alumni interviewers take time out of their day to set up the interview with the applicant, meet with them, and then write a report that gets added to a student's application file. Besides a few colleges that insist on the interview, most indicate that it is an optional piece of the process. But it's only optional for them. If a more reserved student decided to decline the interview, that would be the end of their chances at a highly selective college.

"If a more reserved student decided to decline the interview, that would be the end of their chances at a highly selective college." TWEET THIS 

But for those students who desperately want an interview, their chances of getting one are dwindling now that applicant pools have doubled or tripled over the past decade. There is sometimes not enough alumni interviewers to interview everyone who applied or there is simply not enough time to get all of the interviews done by a certain date.
So here is what you need to know:
  1. Interviews are assigned at random to alumni interviewers usually in the student's hometown area. 
  2. Some colleges will say that a student's chances of getting an interview increase the sooner they submit their application, but this doesn't hold true for a lot of places. This may have something to do with interviewer availability and processing issues on the part of the college. Either way, it can really rock a student's confidence if they know that someone from their high school who submitted their application later got an interview and they didn't.
  3. There is no screening process for getting an alumni interview in the admissions process—all applicants have a shot of getting an interview.
  4. Once the alumni interviewer gets an assignment, it is up to them to reach out and arrange the interview with the student.
  5. If the alumni interviewer does not follow through in a timely manner, the student usually doesn't get a shot to interview with someone else.
  6. Most interviews need to be done by mid-February for Regular Decision in order for the interview report to be considered.
  7. For students who don't get offered an interview, some colleges will permit them to provide an "update" through email or the admissions portal as a substitute for the interview.
  8. Because only a portion of the applicant pool is getting interviewed, most colleges put very little weight on the interview process. 
  9. If a student values the interview as a way for the college to see things that aren't represented in the application, they should be looking at colleges that offer on-campus interviews by staff members. These on-campus interviews are weighed more than the ones conducted by alumni interviewers, and they are much more common at small liberal arts colleges. 
  10. Alumni interviewers almost always write positive reports on students. But the admissions committee rarely learns something new about the student in these reports which makes the alumni interview less influential even for those students who get one.

It is for all of these reasons why a number of elite colleges are offering alternatives to alumni interviews or eliminating the interview from the process entirely. Starting this year, Johns Hopkins and the University of Chicago dropped alumni interviews altogether. I anticipate more colleges will eliminate interviews in the coming years. Alumni interviewers are getting frustrated that they put so much time into interviewing students on a volunteer basis, and very few or none at all get admitted.
The random process is also sending mixed messages to students. If they submitted their application early, ensured that all of their required pieces were submitted by their high school, and they are checking their email and messages religiously, they feel like they deserve this chance.

FREE GUIDE: The Top 10 Questions Asked During College Interviews

On this day of love, I encourage all of us to give ourselves a little love. Validation from an alumni interview isn't necessary when you are informed about how colleges view it. The only validation students need right now is knowing that they have done everything they can. In the end, the ultimate expression of love isn't riding on one thing or one day. It is the long-term commitment that goes both ways that means more than anything.