A redesigned alumni portal, an increased number of alumni volunteers and virtual interviewing capabilities have allowed the University to extend interviews to a greater number of prospective students this year.
Last September, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions launched a new interview portal for its Alumni Schools Committees — the groups of alumni volunteers that interview Yale applicants in different areas of the world. Associate Director of Admissions and ASC Program Director Bowen Posner said this was the first technological update the portal had undergone in a decade, allowing alumni to submit their interview reports with increased ease during this admissions cycle.
“The alumni portal is the single biggest change to the ASC program in years,” Posner said. “This was a massive technological overhaul of the online system that supports alumni interviewing, and considering the scale of the enhancements, I am quite pleased with how the new system has functioned and been received.”
Posner added that when redesigning the portal, the office aimed to address the most common deficiencies that alumni volunteers had identified with the old system. The new portal has streamlined interviewing and the processes surrounding it, he said, with a more intuitive log-in process, an easier way to access interview assignments and file reports and a “proximity tool” that allows ASC directors to locate the alumni volunteers who are closest to each applicant.
Additionally, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan said the office has designed an improved interview report form to provide better guidance to alumni when crafting their reports.
“After having done this for more than 10 years, I would say that this is the best set of interview reports that I have ever seen in the committee room,” Quinlan said. “This is very important to us because we have very difficult decisions to make between very highly qualified candidates, and to get that additional perspective from an alum, and to get it in a more robust write-up than in previous years, is certainly more helpful.”
Moreover, the new portal indicates which volunteers have opted in to “Virtual ASC,” a virtual interviewing program that was launched last fall in conjunction with the new portal, Posner said. Virtual ASC allows alumni to conduct interviews with applicants via Skype, facilitating connections with students who were previously unreachable due to geographic constraints. Posner said he expects 8 to 10 percent of all interviews to be conducted virtually this year.
Young alumni tend to gravitate towards the same seven cities after they graduate, Quinlan said, resulting in a disproportionately large number of interviewers in places like Manhattan, and a dearth in more rural areas. The goal of Virtual ASC is to encourage alumni who grew up in places like Kentucky and have since moved to New York after graduation to get on Skype and talk to applicants from their home state, Quinlan said.
“That regional and personal connection can be powerful for the applicant and interviewer alike,” Posner said.
Feedback for Virtual ASC has been mostly positive, Posner said, as many volunteers appreciate the convenience of being able to conduct an interview from the comfort of their home or office.
Director of the Dakotas ASC Dominique Fenton, who interviewed students in the Bronx before moving to South Dakota, said interviews with Bronx applicants were typically conducted in person. However, Fenton said he is now the director of a region that is comprised of two states, two time zones and 147,816 square miles, which makes conducting virtual interviews a necessity.
“This year 24 percent of our interviews were virtual, but all were firmly grounded in reality,” Fenton said.
He added that this year, the 15 volunteers of the Dakotas ASC interviewed every single applicant from both North and South Dakota.
Roughly 3,700 Early Action applicants were interviewed this year — an increase from previous cycles, Posner said. Quinlan said 6 percent of these interviews were conducted virtually. As the office approaches the end of the interview season, Posner estimated that nearly two-thirds of the Yale applicant pool will be interviewed by the time admissions decisions are released.
Both Quinlan and Posner said ASC interview reports are one of the most frequently viewed documents in the committee room, as they reflect insights about a spontaneous interaction with an applicant. This is especially crucial in an age when college applications are often crafted and groomed by students, parents and hired consultants, Quinlan said.
Five of seven students interviewed said they considered their alumni interview to be a major contributor in their admission to Yale.
Students who did not receive interviews said they were unclear about the amount of weight the University places on this aspect of a student’s application and the method by which students are selected for interviews.
“It’s really easy as a high school student applying to a highly selective school to read into little things like not being asked for an interview,” Lucas Riccardi ’17 said. “If not everyone is being contacted for an interview, the Admissions Office is either admitting that the interview doesn’t matter, or they’re not providing equal opportunity for all their applicants.”
However, Posner said limited regional coverage was the primary reason for applicants not receiving interviews in the past, as opposed to disinterest in the applicant by the University.
Quinlan said 18,000 of the 31,000 applicants to Yale College last year received alumni interviews.