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Tips for Your Alumni Interview

Posted by on Wednesday, October 20, 2010 in Application Process.

Interviews for college admissions can be a stressful experience.  Let’s admit it, a large portion of the college application process can be stressful.  Try to squash the stress.  This should be fun.  During your senior year of college you have the opportunity to dream about what could be, about the possibilities, and you can imagine yourself going down multiple paths. Admissions interviews are just one more way to dream along the continuum of this year’s journey.  Take control of the process by framing it as a chance to meet another interesting person and learn about another interesting place.  When you view the interview as a resource rather than a hurdle, you’ll find your stress level significantly decreased.

I do recognize that regardless of the framing, you may still be nervous.  Here are my tips for reducing interview day jitters:

If you are truly nervous, practice!  Sit down with your parents, your guidance counselor, or even your siblings and talk about your interests.  Even if you’re talking to a younger sibling who will not be able to provide constructive feedback, it’s still nice to practice talking about yourself.  Be cognizant of your nervous habits.  I, personally, gesticulate far too much when I’m nervous.  The most common bad habit is the use of words such as “like” or “um”.  Don’t be afraid to sit in a silent for a moment while you think about a question.  It’s better to be thoughtfully silence than to audibly fumble for words.

Be respectful of time.  Vanderbilt interviews are with alumni volunteers, these individuals gave up time at work or with friends and family to be with you.  Aim to arrive 5-10 minutes early just so you don’t arrive late.  Make sure you know where you’re going, map out the meeting place or drive the route a day before if you’re unsure. Most interviews will naturally conclude in about 30-60 minutes.  Even if you have more questions, be sure to wrap up the interview if you hit an hour.  You can always send additional questions to your admissions counselor.

Ask questions!  The most boring are one-sided.  Ask about the interviewer’s experience on campus or about their ability to find a job after graduation.  Tell them what type of social environment or food you love and ask them to give you recommendations.  Have a few conversation topics on reserve.  Think about a few ideas or issues on which you can converse easily and turn to one of those of there is a lull in the conversation.

Send a thank you note!  A hand-written note is always best.  Often times the alumnus will give you a business card and you can send the note to the address listed there.  If you don’t have an address, don’t stalk them.  Simply follow up with a well-worded email expressing gratitude for their time.

If you receive admission and choose to enroll at Vanderbilt, you’ll likely see your interviewer again.  Many of our interviewers will participate in VU & You events in April (our open house receptions for admitted students) and in our Summer Sendoffs before you move down to school!

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