Alumni are often enthusiastic about their alma mater. Our prospective students want to hear what you have to say about your Carnegie Mellon experience! It is also probable that some students find alumni representatives less frightening than admission counselors. Others are planning to visit the campus, but want an alum’s perspective of the university.
We encourage students to have an interview with two goals in mind:
- personally address each student’s concerns and questions, while getting a better idea of whether the student would be a good match for the institution
- help the student picture him or herself as a student at Carnegie Mellon
On-campus interviews are probably the most effective in achieving the second goal, simply because there is nothing quite like “being there.” However, an Alumni Interview can meet the second goal as well as the first, if the interviewer can paint a clear picture of the “Carnegie Mellon experience.”
It should be noted that at Carnegie Mellon, our admission interviews are not a required component of the admissions process and therefore are not so much an interview as they are a personal session designed to address the two goals above.
Alumni can discuss Carnegie Mellon based on their own experience; an advantage many professional admission counselors do not have. Alumni can also demonstrate how a Carnegie Mellon education has served to further their own goals, as well as many of their friends. Telling students about what you have achieved and that they can do the same is a very powerful message.
If you graduated more than ten or fifteen year ago, the institution has changed both educationally and socially. Being on top of the changes is the greatest challenge to alumni representatives. As long as you study the literature we send, with an eye toward the changes, you should be fine.
Communicating with Interviewees
Remember that the interview is not a test. You are sharing your knowledge of Carnegie Mellon with the student in order to help him/her find out whether it is a viable option for their college education.
It is important to remember that you may be the only representative of Carnegie Mellon with whom the student has an opportunity to interact. Every contact you make, whether in person or by phone, will influence the student’s option of Carnegie Mellon’s helpfulness, supportiveness and accessibility.
Arranging an Interview
We advertise alumni interviews in students' application receipt letters. Applicants are then able to access the online Alumni Interviewer Directory. The students will phone or email you directly to set up an appointment.
Conducting an Interview
Some students need very little prodding for them to communicate openly. Others need a good deal of encouragement and prompting in order for you to find out what you need to know about them. Below is a suggested list of questions for these students, as well as various other things that you should note during the interview in order to write your report.
- Begin by making the student as comfortable as possible. Ask them about their interests, hobbies, school activities, pets, travel experiences, present job, what they like to read, etc. In short, find out about them as a person.
Are they enthusiastic about their interests? Do they have a sense of enjoyment about their activities? How deep is their involvement? For instance, can you tell whether they are intrinsically interested in the goal of their Students Against Drunk Driving club, or is it just “a good thing to do?”
- Move on to academics. What are their favorite classes? Do they get the best grades in their favorite classes, or do they seem to excel in other classes instead? Are any of their classes advanced, honors, or Advanced Placement (AP) courses? Do their strengths match their interests?
What is their attitude toward school? Are they taking especially challenging courses? If not, do they mention a reason, i.e., “the school does not offer honors level courses”?
- Ask them about Carnegie Mellon. How did they hear about the university? What are they interested in studying? What are their educational goals?
Do their strengths seem to match their educational goals? For instance, does the student say he/she want to be an engineer, while his/her favorite courses and best grades are in English and History? (The student might be a better match for a degree offered by H&SS.) Or does the student, who is applying for Architecture, love his/her senior Physics course, enjoy math courses, and have a number of art courses in his/her background? This seems, at least initially, to be a very good match of interests.
It is not necessary to tell the student that they don’t seem to be matching up very well if you feel they are “barking up the wrong tree.” Consider saying, “Robert, are you aware of our more technically oriented degrees out of the H&SS College?
Sharing options with a student is one of the best ways you can help a student through the college admissions process! If you feel comfortable talking about a college within Carnegie Mellon, ask the student if she/he would like an alum from H&SS, for instance, to give her/him a call. Then you can take a look in the Alumni Interview Directory and ask one of your fellow CMAC members to give your student a call.
Two Important Questions
“What was it like for you?” and “What do you think it will be like for me?” are the two questions that form the basis for many alumni interviews. When it is appropriate for you to talk about your own experiences on campus, try to relate them to what the student is going to experience if she/he chooses to enroll.
Alumni who graduated more than ten/fifteen years ago must take special care to relate appropriate information at this point, because so many changes have taken place.
Alumni Interview Report
Immediately after the interview, the alumni interviewer records his/her impressions of the interview on the Alumni Interview Report. You can complete and submit the form electronically through the Forms section of this site or you can mail the form to the Office of Admission. The Alumni Interview Report should include information about the following topics:
We like to get an idea of which activities, in and out of school (i.e., Math Team, Science Club, Art Club, musical practice, internship at an architect’s office, etc.), have had the most impact on the student’s development.
For instance, if the student only goes to Spanish Club once or twice a month and the club seems to function primarily as a fund raising organization, we don’t really need to know anything particular about it. However, if he/she has been a member of the newspaper staff for three or four years, and is going to be an editor next year, the student should be able to tell you how his/her involvement with this organization has developed an interest in world news, and improved his/her communication skills.
Tell us whether the student seems to be a good fit for the program of study she/he is seeking. You can make this assessment through a discussion of the student's academic performance, coursework they have completed, etc.
What are the personal attributes of the student? How did your interviewee handle her/himself? Was the student articulate? Open and willing to share ideas? Did the student communicate in such a way that you now have an idea of what motivates her/him? Finally, does he/she strike you as a potentially successful Carnegie Mellon student, based on the conversation you had?
All interviews must be done by February 1. All Alumni Interview Reports must be in our office within one week of this date for them to be included with the rest of a student’s application.