As you submit applications to colleges, it is worth noting whether or not they offer the opportunity to interview with an alumni representative. These are people who graduated from the college or university and live in your community. This is a great chance to sit down with someone who attended the college, ask them questions about their experience, and share a little bit about why you might be a good fit for their school.
As an alumni admissions representative for Colgate University I have had the chance to conduct alumni interviews here in Colorado. Here are a few tips that I would like to pass along to you so that you can make sure your interviews are great!
Scheduling your interview: Some colleges may reach out to you to let you know there is an alum in the area available to meet. However, sometimes you may have to reach out and schedule these on your own. As you schedule, remember, interviews can last different lengths of time so allow for plenty of time to get to the interview on time and don’t be the one to have to cut it short. I have had students actually stop my interview mid-way through and cut it short to tell me that they had another commitment. Alumni interviewers know you are busy, but so are they. If they can take the time to dedicate to this interview and focus their attention so should you.
How to prepare in advance: Take time to do your research before you go to the interview. Alums who are volunteering for these interviews care deeply about the schools they are representing and want to know that you care too. If you have visited the college, refresh yourself on what you saw and heard when you were there. If you have not visited campus, review materials and emails you have received and go through the website. Show familiarity with the college so you can help the alum understand why you and the college are a good match. Pick out clear examples to use and make sure if you are doing multiple interviews that you have your schools straight! You can even do a little bit of research on who the alum is that you are interviewing with as it may be helpful to ask them a question or two about how the college or university prepared them for where they are now and their career. Also, prepare plenty of questions to bring with you (see below) because these interviews are often more conversational in nature than a traditional interview.
What to wear: No matter the setting, when it comes to an interview, you always want to make a good impression. You do not necessarily need to wear a suit but I do recommend wearing along the lines of what you would wear to a nice dinner, concert, or church. Overall, the dress should be a step above what you typically wear to school. No ripped clothing, hats, jeans, short skirts, low cut tops, etc. If you are coming straight from sports practice and don’t have time to change make sure to take a moment to explain ( I have had students show up in sweats before) so that the interviewer knows it is not that you are trying to be sloppy in appearance but that you are so committed to your extracurricular activity that you didn’t want to miss a minute of practice.
What to Bring: I always encourage students to bring a notepad and pen to the interview to take notes or refer to any questions. Depending on the interview some colleges may encourage, or discourage, you from bringing a resume. Pay attention to their directions. You may also want to bring some water. What shouldn’t you bring? Your parents. This is about you!
What to do when you arrive: First, make sure to arrive on time , or better yet – early! Second, introduce yourself. Shake the alum’s hand, make good eye contact and let them lead on where to sit. Sometimes, if meeting at a coffee shop, they may offer you a drink or a snack. It is okay to take them up on their offer but not necessary. Third, take a moment to situate yourself. Gather your notes and your thoughts for a moment before jumping in.
Be yourself: Don’t try to be someone you are not, or someone you think the interviewer wants you to be. This is your chance to tell the interviewer about who you are as a person, your unique qualities, and why you have decided to apply to their school.
Questions to ask: Interviews with alums are often a little different than traditional interviews. These interviews are typically more conversational in nature. Questions specific to admissions and financial aid are often best left to the admissions office. This is a great time to ask questions about the student and alumni experience. I recommend that students prepare at least ten questions in advance so there is plenty to choose from. A few examples might include: What did you study while you were on campus? What was your experience interacting with professors? What were you involved in on campus? How easy was it to get involved? What were some of your favorite traditions on campus? How has your experience been as an alum? Do you stay connected with the college? What role did the college play in helping you get where you are today?
Following up: You always want to follow up after an interview so make sure you get the alum’s contact information before you leave. This way, you can follow up with a thank you note. I encourage sending the note within a week’s time so you don’t forget.
For additional reading on the subject check out some of Montgomery Educational Consulting’s previous blog posts: preparing for an alumni interview , how to set up a college interview in your hometown, what questions will I be asked?, interview do’s and don’ts