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Alumni Interview Training Materials

A group of four alumni posing for the camera from the deck of Rush Rhees Library.

Thank you for supporting the University and the Office of Admissions!

We consider the admissions interview to be a crucial part of the application process. These one-on-one conversations allow us to get to know our applicants in more depth than the application can provide, which helps us gauge the applicant’s fit for the University of Rochester. We could not do this without the help of our alumni across the globe, which is why your role as an alumni interviewer is so important to us and to the University.

Here you will find information and materials to assist you in as an admissions interviewer. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, please contact Beth Luke at beth.luke@rochester.edu in the Office of Admissions.

If you don’t know the answers to questions you receive, please refer the applicant to his or her admissions counselor or financial aid counselor or contact Beth Luke.

Thanks again for partnering with us!

How alumni interviews help the admissions process

With your help, here’s what we hope to learn about prospective students from your interviews:

  • Which of the Meliora values do they exhibit?
  • Are they a good fit for the University of Rochester, and vice versa?
  • How well do they know us (relative to where they are in the application process)?
  • What is most important for admissions to know about the applicant?

This interview is our opportunity to learn their stories and add a personality to their application. What we want to know is what makes them unique. Your goal is to have a relaxed conversation from which you may uncover some additional insight about the student not included or discussed at length in their application materials.

It’s not just what they do, it’s why they do it. The application tells us how many AP classes the student is taking. We see their extensive extracurricular list. Rather than asking for a list of classes or activities they participate in, try to find out why. What are the student’s motivations, passions, or goals? These are things that are harder to determine from the application alone, so you can use the interview as a chance to dig deeper and find out what drives them.

We need you to have conversations with students that ultimately supply admissions with supporting information and insights that get to the heart of Rochester’s Vision and Values. Additionally, you’ll provide a window into how interviewees see themselves as part of a larger community and how their commitment to the betterment of others contributes to that community. The goal is not only to recognize the biggest, most public displays of service to others, but also to identify students contributing to the betterment of others in important, quiet, sustained, everyday ways as well.

Interviewing best practices

We’ve compiled tips and advice to help you make the most of your interviews with prospective students.

  • Mentally prepare for the interview:
    • Know where they are from and what high school they attend.
    • Look at how they answered the questions when they requested the interview.
    • Prepare what questions you want to ask.
  • If they have mentioned a particular area of interest or major, can you think of a fact, statistic, or story you can share with them?
  • Silence your phone or any other devices so the student knows you are focused on them for their time slot.
  • Make sure you have a view of a clock or can check a timepiece (phone, watch, etc.) so you can keep the interview on time.
  • Remember what you want to get out of the interview and that there is value in every interview.
  • Welcome the student by name.
  • Introduce yourself.
  • Explain format of this interview (“This is a conversation,” “I may be taking notes,” “This is a chance to get to know you and your personality,” etc.).
  • Explain to the student: “I’m taking notes but it’s just so I can remember your words.”
  • Ask at the beginning of the interview if they’ve done any other interviews so you can benchmark them in this process; if this is their first interview, they may be a bit unpolished, but if it’s their 36th interview, they have it down.
  • Ask about what characteristics a student is looking for in their future college or university so you can make a connection between what they want and what the University offers.
  • Expect that some students may not have an answer yet for why they want to attend Rochester; some students are interviewing early in the process and haven’t done their research, while others don’t yet have the context for who we are.
  • You may need to give students a prod or lots of support if they’re nervous, especially because interviewing is an intimidating process to some.
  • If students get stuck on a question, let them come up with an answer, or redirect to let them talk about a subject they feel more comfortable with.
  • If your interviewee has given you several examples of exhibiting Meliora values, please piece them together as part of your write-up.
  • Do your best to adapt your energy to the nervousness level of the student—do not expect them to adapt to you.
  • Allow them time at the end of the interview to ask any questions they may have.
  • Keep the write-ups short:
    • Tell us if you think this student is or isn’t a good fit for the University with examples and rationale to back up your assessment.
    • Write up what we won’t find in their application (we already have their GPA, test scores, resumes, letters of recommendation, and writing samples).
    • Be direct.
    • Provide context.
    • Provide a brief summation statement.
    • Your rating should reflect your feedback.

Sample questions

In the Office of Admissions, we find it useful to ask personal, open-ended questions to get to know the student and to get an idea of how he or she might fit in at Rochester.

The questions and prompts sample below are examples of open-ended questions worded in different ways. Select or create interview questions that feel natural to you. Interviews typically last 30 to 45 minutes. Please do not just read all of the questions from this list.

Questions and prompts you might find helpful include:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Describe yourself in three words.
  • Putting the University of Rochester aside, what characteristics are most important in your college search?
  • What do you want out of your college experience?
  • What are you looking for in your future college or university?
  • What are you most looking forward to in college?
  • Why are you considering the University of Rochester?
  • How did you find out about the University of Rochester?
  • Favorite/least favorite high school class?
  • How do you stay engaged in a class you don’t love?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • Tell me about the transition/growth you have made between 9th and 12th grade.
  • What is something you have changed your mind about?
  • Who inspires you?
  • How do you deal with stress?
  • What are you most proud of that you have accomplished in high school?
  • What is the most interesting Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat feed that you follow? Why?
  • Is there anything we didn’t get a chance to talk about today that makes you, you?
  • If you had to leave one message with the Admission Committee, what would it be?
  • If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go? Why?
  • If you could travel anywhere in the world (at any time in history) for 24 hours, where would you go? What would you do in your limited time there?
  • If you could have a one-on-one conversation with anyone, living or dead, who would you choose to talk to? Why?
  • If you could teach a class on any topic in the world, what would you teach?
  • What’s your favorite book?
  • Athletes: What is the best leadership skill you have learned from your sport? If you had to choose one area outside of athletics that has shaped you, what would it be?
  • What is your unique contribution to any group or community you’ve join?
  • Community service: Tell me a moment of impact you’ve had while being engaged in your community.
  • In the spirit of the University’s motto of “Ever Better,” what does a better version of you look like?
  • Tell me about your friends. What type of people do you like to surround yourself with?
  • How would your friends describe you?
  • Tell me about an important value or lesson you’ve learned from a mentor or family member.
  • If you decided to learn an additional language, which would it be and why?
  • What do you like to do for fun? (A helpful question to ask nervous students.)
  • Tell me something you do just for fun that you wouldn’t be able to list on a resume/college application.
  • What does a “free” Saturday look like? No homework, no practice. How are you spending your free day?
  • What’s the most impactful learning experience you’ve ever had (inside or outside of school)?
  • What is your legacy? How do you hope to be remembered by your high school community when you graduate?
  • What’s a typical school day like for you after your last class ends?
  • We greatly value community and family letters of recommendation. If your younger/older sibling were to write a letter on your behalf, what would it say?
  • What kinds of things ignite your curiosity?
  • What concerns do you have regarding college?
  • What has been the most meaningful activity you’re involved in (and why)?

Post-interview write-up

We appreciate you taking the time to interview prospective students! Within 48 hours of an interview, please submit a brief write-up of the candidate using the prompts on the interviewing evaluation form as a guide. Thank you again for your help.

View a sample write-up

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