Admissions Office launches virtual interview system

The Office of Undergraduate Admissions is stepping up its game this admissions cycle with a program that aims to virtually connect alumni with applicants from their hometowns.

The program is part of a series of technological rollouts that the admissions office has released over the past few weeks. In addition, the office has prepared a completely redesigned interview portal for their Alumni Schools Committees — the groups of alumni that interview applicants in different areas of the world. While the new portal is the framework through which alumni will submit interview reports, the Virtual ASC program is a way for alumni to conduct interviews using Skype and web technologies.

Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan said 18,000 of the 31,000 applicants who applied last year received alumni interviews. The new virtual program, he said, aims to increase this number — as the interview component is becoming an increasingly important part of the application process.

“It’s a very helpful and spontaneous interaction that we have with the students, and it’s one of the documents that we view most closely in the committee room, so we were trying to decide on efforts to get more of our applicants interviewed,” Quinlan said. “One of the ways to overcome some of the geographic constraints of making that happen is using technology.”

ASC Program Director Bowen Posner said Virtual ASC was piloted during the 2013–14 admissions cycle by only a handful of alumni committees. This year, 1,246 interviewers opted to use the new technology for the upcoming admissions cycle. Although this was a good turnout, not everyone who was offered the program accepted to use it, he added.

Quinlan said the purpose of Virtual ASC is not only to increase the number of applicants interviewed, but to connect more applicants with alumni interviewers from their same hometown or state.

It is common for Yale alumni to gravitate to the same cities when they graduate, he said, resulting in a large amount of interviewers in cities like Los Angeles, and a smaller number in more rural parts of the country.

Posner also said that while this pattern of Yale students moving to the same cities creates strong Yale communities in those areas, it makes sense for alumni who have recently moved to New York to interview applicants from “back home” instead of applicants from New York, because they have more shared experiences. Both Posner and Quinlan said the opportunity for virtual interviews will help counter this imbalance.

“We don’t need [more] interviewers in Manhattan or Chicago, but we do need more interviewers in Milwaukee,” Quinlan said. “What we hope now is that our young alums living in Manhattan and Chicago, who are originally from Milwaukee, will agree to get on Skype with other applicants from Milwaukee.”

Posner said that while he received positive feedback from the ASC directors who piloted the program — who said it provided them with a wider geographical reach — some had trouble adjusting to the idea of interviewing virtually.

“An interesting bit of feedback was that the people who conducted the interviews said the students who were being interviewed seemed very comfortable on screen,” Posner said. “And conversely, some of the interviewers said it took a little while to get used to the idea of interviewing on screen as opposed to face-to-face. They felt like [a virtual interview] didn’t have the same power as a face-to-face conversation, at least initially, because it took them a while to get used to the dynamic.”

Of 15 students interviewed who received alumni interviews during the application process, 10 said they considered the interview to be a pivotal part of their admission to Yale.

Students who did not receive interviews said they were frustrated with the University’s ambiguous stance regarding the weight of the interview in the admissions process.

Michelle Mboya ’16, a student from Kenya, said she was disappointed when she did not receive an interview when she applied.

“I was interviewed in person by alumni in Kenya from schools like MIT, Brown and Princeton,” Mboya said. “Getting to know someone is very telling in whether someone will fit into a school or like the school. In my Princeton interview, the alum could tell that I wouldn’t like Princeton as much as I would Brown or Yale.”

Mboya added that if obtaining an in person interview is impossible, a Skype interview can still make a difference.

Eugenia Zhukovsky ’17 said she was very discouraged when Yale did not reach out to her and offer an interview. She said other applicants to Yale from her high school received interviews, so she immediately assumed that alumni interviews were reserved for more desirable applicants.

But Annie Bui ’17 said that while she did not receive an interview from Yale, she was under the impression that college admissions counselors did not take interviews into account, so she was not worried.

Posner said he understands how important it is for applicants to speak to alumni, especially ones that share their cultural background — no matter what the outcome of their application is.

“I feel like many of them could benefit from a conversation with a Yalie to understand the unique culture and values of this place, and that conversation can be really instrumental for many of them, whether they get into Yale, or come back around as applicants to graduate,” Posner said. “The ripple effect of a positive conversation with a Yalie can be profound.”

Yale accepted 6.9 percent of its applicants last year.

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