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Everything you need to know about alumni interviews
Written by Jack Delehey on December 3rd 2021
If you have a senior in HS out there, one who is working hard this time of year to submit his many college applications, there’s a chance you’ve heard tale that, after submitting an application, the job isn’t 100% complete. Why is that?

Because, for many schools, high school seniors may have to complete an interview with a representative from the school (likely an alum).
But, if this is shocking news for you, have no fear. Below I’ll give you a succinct crash course on alumni interviews so you can feel prepared...and then you can go talk to your high schooler about it. And if your high schooler is a junior, sophomore, or freshman, this information will help you be on top of it when the time comes. Without further ado:
Alumni interviews: Everything you need to know
Alumni interviews: What they are
  • Just how they sound: An alum from the school to which you are applying (or plan to apply) interviews you
  • Who these alums are: Typically alums who appreciate the time spent at their school and want to give back in a volunteer manner. (I was one for Vanderbilt for several years).
  • Methods: Can be in-person (local Starbucks), over Zoom, over the phone. At most schools, the school will initiate the reach out if they want you to complete an interview. However, at some schools (typically more elite), they require the student to proactively book the alum. interview as part of the process. It is up to you, the student, to know each of your school’s specific alum. Interview methodology & plan accordingly.
  • ​Timing: Typically lasts somewhere between 20-60 minutes
  • ​Goal: For the interviewer to get to know you beyond a piece of paper & then report back to the school
Alumni interviews: When they happen
  • All over the map when they can happen: Before you apply, while you are applying, after you apply (most common, the school will reach out directly once they receive your app and send you an email with a link to sign up for an alum interview with someone in your area).
  • From PrepScholar: “More selective schools, typically those with required interviews, often want you to request an interview a few weeks earlier than your application deadline. MIT and Wellesley, for instance, set interview request deadlines in mid-October for students planning to apply early action and in mid-December for students applying regular decision.”
  • Up to you to research each of your schools and determine timing: It varies for every school.
Alumni interviews: Are they mandatory?
  • It depends on the school: Schools range everywhere from alum interviews “Not offered” to “Required.” Most common: “Optional”
  • Up to you to find out: Use this PrepScholar guide for your first check. Then, double check with your school-specific undergrad admissions website. This is the only place you can fully trust. If you still can’t find info, call undergraduate admissions..
Alumni interviews: How to prepare for one and knock it out of the park
  • Dress for success: Don’t have to be overly fancy or professional, but look put-together, even if the interview is remote/virtual.
  • Prepare for 20-60 minutes: Know about the school. There is a reason they volunteer for this: they love their school. Come prepared with basic knowledge about the school they love.
  • ​Come with a notebook & writing instrument: You don’t have to take notes, but you may want to jot down a few items during the interview
  • ​Research your interviewer beforehand: Google/LinkedIn. This will help with possible questions. The more you get the interviewer talking about themselves, the better (people love talking about themselves!)
  • ​Come prepared with 2-4 questions: Mix school-related questions with interviewer-related questions. People love talking about themselves. Ex: “How did you end up choosing (School)?
  • ​Realize this interview is really not that important: See next section. Be genuine, be willing to listen…and that’s about all you need to do.
  • ​Send a thank you note within 24 hours. Can be an email, can be 3-4 sentences. Nothing special, just thanking them for their time. Nice gesture & could help down the line if waitlisted.
Alumni interviews: Don’t worry, they’re less important than they seem
  • Very low on the totem pole of importance: An average, good, great, exceptional interview just passes you on to the next round of assessment. That’s it. An absolute horrendous interview (think: berating/insulting the interviewer) could get you rejected…but that’s about it.
  • With this in mind, think of this much more as an opportunity for you to really determine if this school is right for you. You are in the power position here. This school, and the interviewer, wants you to apply, get accepted, and attend. This is your time to really figure out if you want the same!
Alumni interviews: Keeping organized and next steps
  • Know each of your school’s interview policies:
  • Should I do it?: If it’s listed as “Recommended”, “Strongly recommended”, or “Required” you should absolutely complete an alum. Interview
  • ​Should I do it?: If it’s listed as “Optional”, and you are average or better at interpersonal/communication skills, you should do it. If you are below average, you should skip it.
  • Get in the right mindset before. Think of this as a time for YOU to assess THEIR school and you’ll be much more calm
  • ​Go knock it out of the park!
Was this quick, bullet-format blog helpful? Not helpful? Feel free to write back and let me know. I listen to feedback and adjust, making sure I stick to my ultimate goal: to provide the best possible college planning insight to as many high school students (and their parents) who will listen.

My formal college planning program has officially closed for HS seniors out there, so I hope this blog at least was helpful if you fall into this category. But if you have a HS junior, sophomore, or freshman, this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you do have more questions regarding alumni interviews or just want to discuss the college planning process in general contact me here (or pass the link onto a family who could use it!). I can’t guarantee we’ll be a fit...but that’s why my first college planning strategy session is always complimentary--it’s important we determine the right next steps for your child, whether that’s working with me, on your own, or with someone else.

Happy college planning,

Jack Delehey

Jack Delehey (Vanderbilt '14) is a college admissions expert originally from Concord, MA and now resides in Denver, CO.  It is his goal to pass on his college admission knowledge, strategies, and unique perspective to high school students in a young, fun, relatable, older-brother type manner.

The college application process is often confusing and stressful. But it just doesn't have to be that way! If you are interested in gaining clarity, peace of mind, and a detailed step-by-step program to help your child through the college application process, reach out and request a free strategy session today.
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