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Can my admissions alumni interviewer own his private high school?
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Hi!

I am a current senior. I am international and I applied to a US college. I got contacted for an alumni interview and I found out the interviewer and his family own a private (elite) high school that is pretty well known here. He has the role of consultant director of the school.

My question is, shouldn't this not be happening? Isn't it conflict of interest since he has his own students apply to the same school as I do? Should I report this to the admissions office, or ignore it and continue with the interview as I would normally do?

Thanks!

alumni
Interview

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Great question! While I can't give you much input on whether this "should" happen or not (you, the college, and your interviewer may have different perspectives on this), the reality of the situation is that the college almost certainly already knows about this interviewer's primary job. Decisions on what count as a conflict of interest, if anything, in alumni interview programs are school specific - while one school might not want to bring on a certain alumnus as an interviewer, another school might have no problem with it.

There are a few things to remember here. First of all, alumni interviews are not the most critical part of the admissions process. A good or great alumni interview is expected of all students who apply to elite schools, and even a truly fantastic interview probably won't help your chances of admission in a significant way. While a very bad alumni interview will definitely hurt your application, the majority of these interviews at most schools have little effect on an applicant's chances. This is all to say that it is quite possible that this given alumni interviewer is not just trying to get students from his family's school into his alma mater while keeping everyone else out. Alumni interviews just aren't the most effective way to accomplish this kind of gatekeeping. The interviewer may do these interviews just as a way to stay involved, meet potential new students, and act as a resource for them in their application and decision processes. The interviewer may be somewhat biased towards students who attend his family's school, but he is not alone in this. All people and thus all alumni interviewers have internal biases. This leads me to a second point: college admissions are not always fair. Consider legacy admissions, for example.

When you consider whether or not to report this, you'll have to do some risk-benefit analysis. In this situation, the benefit is relatively low. The best case scenario (you getting a new interviewer and a better recommendation letter based on that interview) probably won't do much to help your chances of admission. The risk, however, is relatively high. In all likelihood, the school already knows what this interviewer does for work and won't get rid of him just because you complain. The school may consider your complaint annoying or self-righteous, and it's definitely preferable not to have anyone in admissions think poorly of you.

While I wouldn't advise you to report this (IE. call the school the school out and try to get this interviewer removed), if you are extremely concerned about this situation, you can definitely attempt to request a different interviewer. In non-COVID years, this might not be possible - outside of big cities, there aren't usually too many interviewers from a given school in a given place, and they're usually busy. Because many of these interviews are being done online this year, though, it is conceivable that it might be easier for the school to match you with someone else. Whether or not the school would be willing to do this for you depends on their specific policies and the availability of their alumni interviewers. While I've never personally heard of a student asking to switch interviewers before, I'm sure it does happen in certain situations.

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No one on a CV blog has the specific details of what that specific college's rules and guidelines are for alumni interviewers. That is because each and every college makes up their own college admissions process unless they are part of a large public university consortium like the UC System in California so there probably are some restrictions and guidelines that all UC schools have to follow.

If you think that the college you are applying to wants to know this information, and you feel they do not realize it is potentially a conflict of interest, then you have to figure out who to bring this up with at the admissions office. Again, the opposite might be true and they already know who this interviewer is and know that he is part of another private high school. If that is the case, then you will look silly but raising a false red flag to something they are completely aware of and have no problem with.

No one on a CV can weigh in and tell you what do to. You could be doing the right thing and possibly be thanked for bringing it up to them or blacklisted for being a gadfly and disrupting their normal process.

It's a tough call. And I suppose you could have someone in your country contact the school anonymously but since each alumni probably only interviews a handful of applicants each cycle, they will be able to narrow it down back to you and a couple of other people, so that might be problematic for the lot of you.

Hopefully, this is not your top choice college and you are applying to perhaps another 10 schools or more.

Good luck.