The alumni interview is a tool that the Admissions Office employs in a variety of ways throughout the admissions process. The alumni volunteer provides the prospective student with information about Middlebury and gathers information about the student that will be helpful as the Admissions Committee evaluates that student’s candidacy. The interview is an ideal opportunity for a student to meet someone who has attended Middlebury.
In many ways, the volunteer serves as an extension of our office. Specifically, the information that is gathered assists the Admissions officers in our mission to go beyond the statistical information in an application and to discover the more intangible qualities of an applicant. The interview serves as a mechanism to add dimension to an applicant’s file and provide insight into the applicant’s passions and personal qualities. The majority of our candidates are academically qualified to attend Middlebury, so often we must distinguish between candidates by placing a greater emphasis on personal qualities and how talents of the applicant will add to the Middlebury community. As an alumni interviewer, we ask that you try to uncover these passions and gain insight into a student in order to assist us in this process.
In general, we prefer evaluative comments over descriptive comments. All students submit grades and test score information along with lists of activities and leadership positions. You do not need to list this information, but it can be helpful to refer to these in your write- up when commenting on the depth of commitment the student has made to their activity. Make sure to qualify your adjectives rather than just list them. If something strikes you as positive or negative, feel free to comment. Feel free to share short anecdotes in your reports, and take the time to write at least a page, but don’t write us three pages! Also, the physical appearance or attractiveness of the student is of little importance to us.
As Middlebury continues to be highly competitive, we have the challenging task of not admitting students who are clearly capable of adding both strong academic and personal qualities to the campus. As an alumni interviewer, it can be disappointing when a student you felt was a good match with Middlebury is waitlisted or denied. Last year there were 9,109 applicants. Only 19% of that pool were offered admission. We encourage alumni to provide us with as much information as possible, but also to realize that there is a larger context within which these interviews occur. There are many other pieces of information in a file which may influence our decisions and which you, as an alumni interviewer, are not able to access. This may include teacher and counselor recommendations, disciplinary information, personal circumstances, etc. Staff members experience the same sort of frustrations or disappointments when a student whom they have met on the road is also wait-listed or denied by the Admissions committee due to additional pieces of information.
How to Contact Students
After you receive your interview assignments, please contact your student as soon as possible. Most students use e-mail, but we recommend that you call AND e-mail the student to set up the interview. It is important to give your name, graduation year, and explain that you are a Middlebury alum contacting them about an interview. Don’t forget to leave contact information!! It is your responsibility as the interviewer to initiate the contact with the student as soon as you receive their information.
Here is an example of how to reach out to students--printed with permission:
I am a Middlebury College alumni interviewer, and your name was forwarded to me as an applicant. If you are available to meet at some point during the next couple of weeks, please let me know. Since you and I both live in Wheaton, I would suggest Starbucks versus meeting at my office in Deerfield. Mornings before work are ideal for me, or possibly a mid‐Morning Saturday.
Pierce Hollingsworth (BA, 1976)
Director, Special Projects
155 Pfingsten Rd., Suite 205
Deerfield, Illinois 60015
Arranging a Time and Place to Meet
Arrange a time and place to meet with your student. For face-to-face interviews, we recommend that you meet in a public/neutral location. Suggestions for neutral sites include the public library, school, a quiet coffee shop, or a bookstore. Feel free to conduct a phone or Skype interview if the applicant lives an hour or more away by car, and keep transportation issues in mind. It is always a good idea to leave your cell phone number with the student in case of an emergency!
The interview should take place at a time that is convenient for both the applicant and the interviewer. Please DO NOT ask a student to miss school for an interview! The interview itself should last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, but no longer than an hour. It will vary depending on the personality of the student and how many questions s/he asks. If you do meet at a café, please offer to pay for the student’s beverage. You may also want to give a description of what you will be wearing or what you look like so the student can recognize you in a public place.
If a student asks what s/he should wear to the interview, let him/her know that the most important thing is to be comfortable and that there is not a dress code to follow. Students do not need to bring any additional information to the interview. As you are scheduling interviews, make sure you leave a few minutes between interviews if you plan on conducting them on the same day so that the students don’t overlap as they come in and leave the interview site.
The goal for the alumni interviewer should be to create an environment in which the candidate can put his or her best foot forward, and to ask the kinds of questions that will enable the candidate to talk about his or her most compelling interests and passions. We want candidates to look upon the interview as a positive experience that will help the Admissions Committee to get to know them well.
Alumni Interview Pointers (Do’s and Don’ts)
Do offer a smile, be friendly, and re-affirm the student’s positive assets.
Do pick a quiet and informal meeting place in a neutral location.
Do be honest and sincere about Middlebury’s strengths and weaknesses.
Do pay for the student’s coffee or tea if you offer to meet at a coffee shop (clarify ahead of time).
Do submit your interview reports as soon as possible.
Do answer the student’s questions about your experiences.
Do leave time for questions.
Do not predict the student’s chances of admission.
Do not speak negatively about other colleges.
Do not do a lot of the talking. This is an opportunity for you to learn about the student, not vice versa.
Do not ask about student’s grades, academic rating, class standing, SAT or ACT scores. We obtain that information from other sources.
Examples of Possible Interview Questions
- What experience, academic or otherwise, has had the most impact on you?
- What is something unique that you could bring to Middlebury with respect to academics, extracurricular work and/or something about you personally?
- Why would I want to be your college roommate?
- What is your passion?
- Do you have any siblings? (If they do, have them tell you more about them and some of the things learned from them.)
- What interests/excites you about Middlebury? What are you looking for at Middlebury?
- What extracurricular activities/organizations/groups would you be involved in if you attended Middlebury?
- How do you see yourself contributing to the richness of campus life at Middlebury?
- If you could re-live your high school years, would you do anything differently?
- How will a Middlebury education benefit you in 10 years and where do you see yourself?
- If you could take time off between high school and college, what would you do?
- Define a good life for yourself—your ideal life over the long term.
- If money were no object and you could do anything in the world right now, what would it be?
- When you read for fun, why/how do you choose a book?
- What is your opinion on …. (a current news topic)?
Please keep in mind that this is only a guide, so feel free to deviate from the list, add your own questions, or ignore it altogether. Make sure to ask open-ended questions to keep the discussion flowing. The time you spend should be relaxed and resemble a conversation more than an interview. Don’t forget that sometimes what students do not say also carries meaning! Begin with easy questions that will give the student an opportunity to “warm up.” Some examples to start with are “Tell me about your school” or “What did you do last summer?” or “How did the fall semester go at school?” Asking about the school will also give you some context for the student. From these questions, you will probably get some good ideas of what the student would like to talk about. Follow up with anything that seems relevant. If a student gives an answer that is somewhat generic, try to get him/her to expand upon his/her answer.