Thursday, August 28, 2008

Admissions looks to add interviews at Stanford

Alumni interview pilot program will launch for the 08-09 applicant pool

The Office of Undergraduate Admissions is taking steps to add an element to its admissions process that has heretofore been conspicuously absent — the alumni interview.

Dean of Admissions Richard Shaw recently announced a pilot alumni interview program that will offer optional alumni interviews to 2008-2009 undergraduate applicants from Atlanta, Denver, London, New York City, Philadelphia and Portland.

The six cities were chosen because they offered an appropriate cross section of the applicant pool, geographical area and alumni network.

The admissions office cites three main reasons for the introduction of the pilot alumni interview program: to personalize the admission process for Stanford applicants, to add additional information on applicants for the admissions office and to further engage alumni in the admissions process.

“We want to take every opportunity to put a face on Stanford so that the students we really want have a harder time saying no to us,” Director of Admissions Shawn Abbott said in an email to The Weekly. “And we also want to make sure that the students we are saying yes to are really the right students for Stanford.”

Alumni across the six pilot cities are eager to participate in the new alumni interview program. Portland resident Steve Jewell ‘74, whose wife is also a Stanford alumna, is enthusiastic and said the alumni interview program will be beneficial for both the applicants and Stanford.

“I have gone to numerous send-off parties for newly admitted Stanford undergraduates, and I often hear students trying to decide between Stanford and other universities saying that they have had more personal contact with other universities that offered interviews,” Jewell said.

“Also, for students from the East Coast who may have concerns about the move, an alumni interviewer can answer questions about the West Coast and assuage the fears of students and their parents,” he added. “The alumni can be a goodwill ambassador of sorts for the University.”

Abbott too sees the pilot alumni interview program as a perfect extension of his ongoing goal to engage alumni in the work of the admissions office.

“Alumni interviews are just one part of our OVAL [Outreach Volunteer Alumni Link] efforts,” Abbott said. “We recognize alumni as a great, largely untapped resource for our office — especially in places far from California, where we often don’t have as many local resources as our peers.”

Abbott, however, emphasizes that the admissions office, not the alumni, will still be making the admission decisions.

“Alumni will be able to play an important role in corroborating the other information we have in the admissions file, as well as bringing to light information that might not otherwise be apparent in a written application,” Abbott said. “[But] every final admission decision rests with the admission committee.”

The admissions office also emphasizes that applicants not offered an interview will not be at a disadvantage. Because the alumni interview is still a pilot program, less than four percent of the applicants will be interviewed.

Furthermore, applicants from the six cities can choose to not be interviewed, though the admissions office encourages them to opt for an interview.

“The small size of the pilot allows us to implement a rigorous, systematic evaluation of each interview report,” Abbott added. “In the spring of 2009, we will analyze the hard data and also survey the participants in the interview process.”

Logistically, admissions will match eligible students from one of the six pilot cities with alumni volunteers, who will then contact the student to arrange a time and meeting place for the interview. Subsequently, the alumni interviewer will write up and submit an interview report via the Internet to admissions. Each alumnus will interview anywhere from three to five applicants between October and March.

“We’d like alumni to approach their meetings with applicants as less of a formal interview and more of a conversation — a back-and-forth exchange in which the alumna/us shares his/her experience of Stanford and in turn discovers what is outstanding about the applicant,” Abbott said.

As of late August, approximately 900 alumni had registered to participate in the six-city pilot interview program. The admissions office will hold interview program workshops during the fall in each pilot city to train the volunteer alumni interviewers.

Currently, over 2,000 alumni are registered as admissions volunteers, representing Stanford at various college fairs and information sessions across the globe. The Office of Undergraduate Admissions will announce future directions for the alumni interview program in the spring or early summer of 2009.

“For the applicants, the admissions office and the alumni, we think [the pilot alumni interview program] will be a win-win-win,” Abbott said.

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