I used to be an alumni interviewer for Cornell University. I enjoyed meeting the students, and I hope they got a good impression of the school from me.
Alumni interviews aren’t going to make or break your college acceptance, but they will add another dimension to your college application and give you a direct connection to the school you might not otherwise have had.
Here are 6 Tips for Interviewing with an Alum:
1. Dress nicely. Don’t wear anything too short, low-cut, or cut off. Pull out the khakis, collared shirts, dress slacks, skirts and dresses instead.
2. Arrive on time. Offer a firm handshake and greet the interviewer by name. When you leave make sure to say thank you.
3. Be prepared to discuss why you want to go to that school. The more specific you can be, the better, so do your homework. If you’re vamping, the interviewer will know it.
4. Be ready with questions. Asking questions shows curiosity and interest, so don’t be shy about asking for information. Prepare two or three questions in advance that you can ask at your interview. Alumni are very interested in sharing their experience and knowledge, and will go out of their way to get your questions answered, even if they don’t know the answers themselves. I’ve set up phone calls with sports coaches and found names of specific instructors for students who have asked.
5. Target some of your questions based on when the interviewer graduated. If the interviewer graduated recently you can ask about specific teachers he or she would recommend or the dorms to stay in. If the interviewer is older you might ask how alumni remain active after graduation, or how his or her degree helped prepare for a career.
6. Follow up immediately with a thank you note. Email is, and handwritten note is always a nice addition. Don’t be too casual when you write. Say “Dear ____.” Mention something the two of you talked about, and say that you enjoyed the experience — that will leave the interviewer with a good impression.
I’ve been greeted at my door by students wearing cut-offs and flip-flops. I’ve been told by students that they don’t have any questions for me. When you’re an alum you know when students are interested in your school and when they’re not. Be interested.
Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut. A Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee, Sharon teaches students around the world how to master interview skills, write resumes, and transform their goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. She works with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, FaceTime, Skype and email. Visit my website for more info. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.