What to Expect from an Alumni Interview

The college application process is stressful under any circumstance, but what if you have to do a face-to-face interview? College applicants generally expect to fill out forms, send in personal statements, and gather other important documents for colleges to look at. But you might be surprised to learn that students who want to attend some prestigious schools should expect an alumni interview. Such interviews with an alumnus are especially common if you apply for early decision or early action.

It can be nerve-racking going into a college interview with alumni, but we’ll help guide you through this process. We’ll tell you what you can expect during your alumni interview and give you some helpful pointers for this important part of the college admissions process

1. You Will Receive an Interview Request.

The first thing students should do is look for an interview request. If an alumni interview is a part of your admissions process, expect to be contacted by the alumni directly. Look for an email containing details about your interview. Don’t forget to periodically check your spam folder, in case important college emails have accidentally been marked as spam. 

If you missed the email, don’t worry. You can still reply to reschedule, or your interviewer may try to reach you by calling you, but it’s better to be proactive and reach out yourself. 

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2. Your Interview Will Take Place in Either November or January.

Your alumni interview will take place during different times of the year depending on when you apply to college. Students who applied early decision or early action should expect their interview to take place in the fall, usually in November. 

Interviews for students applying for regular decision will take place sometime in January or February.

3. Expect to Have Your Interview in a Public Place.

Regardless of when your interview takes place, you should know that your interview will happen in a public space. The alumni who contacts you should ask you to meet at a coffee shop, office space, library, restaurant, or other location that is acceptable for an interview. 

Never go to an alumni interview at someone’s house, and report any alumnus that suggests you meet at their home. 

4. Alumni Interviews are Optional at Some Schools, but You Should Still Accept Them.

Alumni interviews aren’t always mandatory for students applying to college, but we still recommend that you take this opportunity to present yourself to your chosen school in a favorable way. An alumni interview won’t guarantee you an acceptance letter, but it will help you make a good impression. 

It’s true that some alumni interviews don’t have a huge impact on your application, but they can still help schools learn a bit more about you. If a college is interested in accepting you but wants to know what you’re like beyond your application, they will have an alum contact you. An alum’s report might be the difference between a rejection or acceptance, and while this isn’t always the case, if you choose to reject an interview, it won’t send a good message. 

5. You Should Bring a Resume.

If you do decide to do an alumni interview, prepare a resume. Not all interviews require resumes, but, because alumni are not given access to your college application, they will need to know more about you. 

A resume can also help you look more professional and aid you in the interview process. Expect interviewers to ask pointed questions about your academic and extracurricular accomplishments to see if you are the right fit for your chosen college. 

6. Know Why You Want to Attend Your Chosen School.

This should be a given, but you should know why you want to apply to the college you’re applying to. Importantly, you want your reasons for applying to be concrete and to, in significant part, relate to your academic goals. Your interviewer will want to know why you think you are a good fit for their alma mater. Be prepared to answer this question in detail.

7. Your Interview Could Take Up to an Hour.

Every interview is different, and (unlike on-campus interviews) many alumni interviewers have to come up with their own questions, which means that alumni interviews can differ dramatically, depending on who is interviewing you. Some alumni interviews only take thirty minutes, while others might take up to an hour.

8. Act Natural During Your Interview

It’s normal to feel nervous during any kind of interview, but we recommend that you do your best to act naturally, answering questions honestly and smoothly. Most alumni interviews tend to be informal, more like a conversation than an interrogation. Of course, you need to prepare ahead of time, but don’t sound like a robot, and don’t feel like you have to memorize answers to questions. This will create a better impression overall!

9. Expect Your Interviewer to Write a Report

Finally, most alumni interviewers will report back to the admissions office. Their report won’t be the deciding factor in your admissions decision, but it can have some weight. 

If an alum writes positively about you and their report matches your presentation of yourself in your application, you’ll be that much closer to getting into your chosen school. Keeping this in mind, make sure that your application is accurate and that you are truthful. This way, when it comes time for your interview, you won’t have to worry about consistency between the alumni report and your college application

Overall, you shouldn’t have too much to worry about: most interviews result in positive reports. Just be confident and act natural and you’ll ace your interview!

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HelloCollege CEO Andrea Emmons has spent the last 15 years guiding students and families across the country on their path to college. Andrea knows the profound impact proactive college planning has on the lives of students and is passionate about mentoring families through the process.
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Inspired by his parents, Kevin’s journey from a first-gen, diverse, low-income background to Northwestern University shaped him. After experiencing challenges, including student loan debt, he founded HelloCollege and has spent the last 25 years helping students successfully navigate college admissions.

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