4 years ago
Admissions Advice

College interview follow-up?

Hi, I'm hoping to get some advice for my son. He's applying to some competitive schools and has been asked to conduct interviews with alumni.

He has already finished one interview and he said it went poorly. I haven't gotten many details but I'm afraid it did actually go poorly and it's not jus my son being dramatic. I have a few questions. First, what's the best way to prepare for his future interviews? I've been hands off with the application process (he asked me to be) but I want to find some tips so the next interview can go well. Are there specific articles/videos/websites I should be looking at? Second, is there anyway to "save" this interview? My son already sent a follow-up thank you email but should they do more? Finally, if you had an interview already what was your experience like? I want to cheer him up but I'm not sure if that will help or make things worse.

Any information would be appreciated, thanks!


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1 answer

4 years ago[edited]

Since your handle is ScholarMom, I think besides giving some educational and instructional videos for both of you to watch, I truly believe that the college admissions process is not a meritocracy, otherwise, everyone who knows their National Rank would know where to apply to college. Some top Elite colleges have made this abundantly clear because if they were to just accept students with perfect grades and test scores, they could fill their Freshman quota 5 times over. Therefore, top colleges do not want a well-rounded person necessarily that ticks off all the checkboxes but a well-rounded class that supports the goals and aspirations of the college charter whatever that may be.

This is why even at Harvard, Stanford and UChicago there are many students who get accepted who do not have the Top GPA, Top Test Scores, or but are Top Humans for lack of a better term. In my understanding, a Top Human is someone that is excelling at school but is passionate about something greater than his rank and file, some cause or interest that is larger than himself, or something extraordinary that excites the college about bringing that person on campus because they are a, for argument's sake: a natural-born leader who organizes many people to change something, someone who does something impactful in their community, someone that has remarkable talents outside of the classroom (maybe they are a Nationally ranked rock climber or Ballerina or has fixed and donated 250 computers to marginalized kids that have no tech at home).

Since everyone is assumed to be smart that is applying to Top colleges, interviewers do not want to talk about the mundane like grades, classwork, degrees, future degrees, etc. They want to know if the person they are sitting across from them is a quality person who has something genuine to say that explains how they see the world through their lens and what inspires them now and in the future about how to use their voice, their talents and abilities to make some impactful difference in the world, their country, their community, their family, and lastly themselves.

When the interviewer says say something about yourself, that is the ultimate trick question out of the entire college process. They don't want you to talk about yourself as much as they want you to say something true that explains your unique narrative and how that might make a positive impact on their alma mater. After all, they all love their alma mater. They want the best for their school. So it's very important not to take things literally and make good conversation. I always ask my interviewer a difficult question at the end of their questioning. Sometimes I ask them if they had unlimited resources, how would they use their assets to improve the college? Sometimes they say, they would increase the budget for financial aid so more diversity can foster and make education more equitable. Sometimes they say something practical like we need a new gym or science lab. But they always appreciate being given the opportunity to talk about their school and sharing their thoughts.

Brooke Hanson (Stanford Alumnus) at SuperTutorTV does a great job of explaining the college alumni interview process.

Part 1


Part 2


Director of College Counseling from Phillip Andover Academy


KathPath (Junior who attends Stanford University)


Katie Tracy is a Sophomore at Cornell University


Zack goes to Princeton and here's a video where he interviews his alumni interviewer


With regards to recording the interview for future recall, I do not believe any interviewer will agree to give your son a copy of the Zoom Call for obvious reasons. They want to protect their privacy and guard their questions and style because if you think about it, it proprietary and they don't want others to know what questions are being asked. Companies do not allow you to record your interviews for the same reason.

If your son wants to record the zoom call audio on his phone, I suppose he can do that for future replay and learning but I wouldn't do that myself because you cross an ethical line in the sand if you don't have the interviewers permission to record. It's no different than if you were a reporter at AP or Reuter's and secretly recorded a phone call or source. It's crossing a code of conduct rule.

I think it would be better for both of you to watch some expert videos and perhaps do some role-playing where you are the interviewer taking notes objectively and asking him the hard questions.

Good luck to both of you.

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