As part of a mounting effort to reach as many applicants as possible, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions is placing increased emphasis on the alumni interview component of the admissions process.
Over the past two years, the Admissions Office has been working to streamline the alumni interview process by instituting new technology that will allow it to reach more students. Last year, the Admissions Office rolled out a new online portal for the Alumni Schools Committee, which oversees the alumni interview process. The portal, which was developed with the help of an outside firm, has again been modified for this admissions cycle to make the process more efficient by increasing ease of communication between interviewers and ASC directors, who coordinate the activities of ASC volunteers in a given area. The updated platform allows ASC directors to send customized emails to alumni volunteers and to indicate the interviewers’ preferences, such as when they will be available to meet with applicants. It also allows volunteers to confirm their assignments with directors, taking a lot of guesswork out of the process.
Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan said since the portal’s debut, alumni interviewers have been provided with more qualitative guidance through the online platform, thereby improving the quality and decreasing the variability of the reports.
“Now that we have 30,000 applicants, of which many are incredibly strong, having that spontaneous interaction is increasingly important,” Quinlan said. “So we really value the student voice that comes through in the interview and the sense of the student that we have.”
Associate Director of Admissions Bowen Posner, who has been working closely with Quinlan to develop the new initiatives, said the interview provides a unique insight into applicants that may not come through in teacher recommendations or application essays, which are often highly edited.
One other key goal of the initiative is to promote ambassadorship among alumni during the admissions process, Posner said, adding that the interviews are meant to be informational in addition to evaluative. For many applicants the interview provides a window into a university that may seem remote, he said.
Alison Brody ’95, the ASC director for Oregon and southwest Washington, said the interview can open doors for students by helping them learn more about the college application process.
“When you’re the only Yale alum a student has ever met, and when that student goes back to her school with information about the remarkable financial aid at elite colleges and their openness to students of all stripes, that’s a powerful thing,” Brody said.
One ASC leader said he does believe an alumni interview gives a candidate an advantage going into the admissions process. Scott Williamson ’80, chairman of the ASC in Chicago, said applicants who are interviewed by an alumni volunteers are more likely to be accepted to Yale and more likely to matriculate if accepted.
Though the Admissions Office has increased its focus on the alumni interview, it has yet to significantly expand its reach. Quinlan said around 18,000 applicants were interviewed during last year’s admissions cycle, which is similar to previous years.
“Our goal now is to move that needle forward,” Quinlan said.
Over the past two years, the admissions office has also begun incorporating interviews via Skype and FaceTime to reach more students, especially those in rural areas. Posner said alumni who have ties to a specific region but may not live there will be called on to conduct interviews over video calls.
With 12,000 members worldwide, the ASC is one of the largest alumni associations at Yale, Posner said, adding that around 6,500 of those alumni are active interviewers.
Alumni interviewed spoke about the importance of the interview for more than just admissions. Steve Blum ’74, senior director of strategic initiatives for the AYA, said that for many alumni, interviewing is one of the first opportunities they have to act as a volunteer, making it a meaningful way for them to connect with the University after graduation.
Williamson said though only roughly one in 20 applicants will end up being admitted, he relishes the opportunity to interact with students and hear about their goals and aspirations.
Last year, Yale extended admissions offers to 1,962 students after receiving 30,237 applications for the class of 2019.