Nov 20, 2020

15 college interview opportunities you will want to investigate


While COVID-19 has resulted in a number of unexpected changes to the college admissions process, one thing remains the same: if a college requires or recommends an interview, you should make every effort to schedule one.


Pre-virus, that usually meant traveling to campus or meeting locally with an alum or college rep at a coffee shop, library or business office. Given current circumstances, however, the interview will almost certainly take place over the internet. And luckily, it isn’t too late to book a time.

In fact, it’s a good idea to visit individual websites and carefully note admissions advice on the necessity of sitting for an interview, noting terms, purpose and what you’ll need to know to have a great experience.

An admissions interview doesn’t need to be a nerve-wracking experience. Think of it as a great way to demonstrate interest while simultaneously investigating the college and possibly making your best case for admission.

So what’s a college interview like? For starters, no two interviews will be exactly alike depending on the purpose of the interview or who is conducting it.

In general, they are either informational or evaluative, meaning the college is either inviting you to learn more about what they have to offer or the college is sizing you up as an applicant.

In the absence of in-person interview, colleges will make creative use of existing technology such as Zoom, Facetime, Skype, Google Hangout and other similar platforms allowing face-to-face interaction.

Timing varies. Interviews may be conducted as early as spring of junior year and can be scheduled as late as January of senior year. Alumni interviews usually take place in the fall, after you have submitted an application or some part of an application, while other interviews are scheduled throughout the application process and don’t require a completed application.

The level of professionalism and value of the interview will depend a great deal on how much training and experience the interviewer has. Staff interviews tend to be the best, but alums and students often aren’t as tied to the college marketing program and may give you a different perspective. Regardless of who is conducting the interview and how, appointments are almost always limited and the sooner you email, go online or respond to an invitation, the better.

If you wait too long, you risk being left out of the interview process. It’s not usually a deal breaker, but if you have the opportunity to market yourself through an interview, why not take it?

Here are insights taken directly from the websites of 15 colleges with varying kinds of interview opportunities (note that these have been edited and you should go directly to the college website for more details):

Brandeis University
An interview gives you an opportunity to tell us about yourself, unconstrained by the formality of the written page and the remoteness of school records…. Interview evaluations will become a part of your application and may be used in the decision making process.

While we are currently unable to welcome you to campus, we are still eager to connect. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of Admissions will be conducting all interviews for prospective students virtually using an online platform…. Interviews are an optional part of the application process at Brandeis and are only available for rising or current high school seniors.

College of the Holy Cross
One of the important ways we get to know you is through a one-on-one interview. While they are not required, we strongly recommend them for applicants. As a result, we offer a variety of options to fit your busy schedule. Please keep in mind that students may only interview once, and interviews are reserved for rising or current high school seniors only.

Students applying for Fall 2021 are invited to make an appointment to join us virtually for a one-on-one interview with an admission counselor on any day that the Admission Office is open for business from May 4, 2020 until Dec. 11, 2020.

College of William and Mary
Paper applications are two-dimensional. Interviews allow you the opportunity to make your application three-dimensional. Interviews are offered in the summer for rising high school seniors and in the fall for current high school seniors.

Our virtual interviews are intended to be casual and informative conversations that will last approximately 20-30 minutes and give you an opportunity to chat with a current W&M senior.

Connecticut College
If you are a rising or current senior, or a prospective transfer student, we encourage you to schedule an interview as part of your application to Connecticut College. Interviews are not required, but they are a great way for us to learn more about each other, personalizing what can seem to be the impersonal process of applying to colleges. An interview is an evaluative tool for you and for us…. As the campus is closed due to COVID-19, all our interviews are now online.

Dartmouth College
After you've submitted your application, you may be offered an opportunity to interview with a Dartmouth graduate. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, interviews will only be offered virtually (via phone or video call) for the 2020-21 application cycle… Alumni interviews are both informative and evaluative. You can ask our alumni your questions, and they can learn more about you through the conversation. An interview report is added to your file and is reviewed along with your other materials.

Dickinson College
Interviewing is a great way for us to get to know you better and to help us gain insight into your personal experiences, passions and goals… Interviews are offered for as many applicants and prospective students as possible but are not a required element of the application. Due to interview demand, students may only participate in one interview opportunity. You may share an unofficial transcript and/or activities resume in your interview.

Virtual interviews last approximately 35 minutes (though you should reserve 45 minutes) and are conducted by admissions counselors and trained student interviewers. Interviews should be scheduled and conducted before your application deadline.

Duke University
Alumni interviews are an optional component of the Duke application process. After applying, students are matched with alumni volunteers on a first-come, first-served basis if an alumni interviewing committee is present in their area. Students who wish to interview must submit their application by the Early Decision deadline (November 16) or the Regular Decision priority interview deadline (December 20).

For the 2020-21 admissions cycle, alumni volunteers will conduct virtual one-on-one interviews. Students may expect the interview to last 30–60 minutes.

Harvard College
More than 10,000 alumni/ae help us recruit students from all 50 states and from around the world. For the Class of 2025 application cycle, we expect these conversations to be conducted via Zoom or other video conferencing platforms due to the public health restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is no need for you to arrange this conversation. If it is possible to arrange an interview, you will be contacted by one of our alumni interviewers after you have submitted your application for admission.

Lehigh University
Lehigh interviews are designed for students who have specific questions about Lehigh best addressed in an individual setting and/or for those who want to provide context for information that will be in their application. All interviews at Lehigh are evaluative and thus become part of an application, but are not required for admission.

We offer Virtual Regional Interviews for those who prefer a more personal experience and/or have many specific questions or situations to discuss. As with any Lehigh interview, a Regional Interview is considered evaluative, but is not required as part of the admissions process. An interview can be a useful tool for Lehigh prospective applicants to share more of their story and learn more about the institution. Interviews last approximately 30 minutes. Students can only interview with Lehigh once.

MIT
At MIT we don’t just want to see how you look on paper; we’re interested in the whole person. That’s why, whenever possible, we offer an interview with a member of the MIT Educational Council, a network of over 5,000 MIT graduates around the world who volunteer to meet with applicants in their home area. To ensure everyone’s health and safety from COVID-19, we will hold all interviews virtually for the 2020–21 application.

After you submit your application, you may be contacted by an Educational Counselor (EC) if there’s one available. ECs will typically use the email address you provided on your application to contact you, so please monitor your inbox and respond promptly. Most Early Action interviews will take place in November and most Regular Action interviews will take place in January. If we are unable to offer you an interview, it will be waived and your application will not be adversely affected.

Rice University
We recommend an interview for first-year applicants, though they are optional and not guaranteed. Interviews are a great way to demonstrate interest in Rice and an excellent opportunity to showcase academic and personal successes while learning more about the campus experience. An inability to schedule an interview will not negatively impact your application.

Due to Covid-19, all interviews for the 2020 - 2021 application cycle will be conducted virtually. A trained alumnus or current Rice University senior will virtually meet with you to learn more about your accomplishments and academic interests and to answer your questions about studying at Rice.

Syracuse University
While not required, prospective first-year and transfer students have the opportunity to schedule a personal interview with an admissions representative…Interviews are available beginning July 6 through December using video chat software. Interviews typically last about 30 minutes and will be considered in our application review process.

University of Richmond
Like their arachnid cousins, Richmond Spiders are (figuratively speaking) everywhere. Connect with a Richmond alumnus for a Virtual Spider Chat — an opportunity for you to share your interests, explore Richmond as a match for you, and learn more about the University from someone who knows it well. Virtual Spider Chats can also be scheduled with a current student.

Virtual Spider Chats are available to prospective high school students from June 1 prior to their senior year through November 15 of their senior year, and may also be available to admitted students between January and April of their senior year. You can request a Virtual Spider Chat online.

University of Rochester
The admissions interview is an important part of applying to the University of Rochester. Each year from July to January, University of Rochester admissions professionals, alumni, and representatives connect with prospective high school seniors all over the world in one-on-one interviews. These interviews are an opportunity to stand out, for us to get to know you better, and for you to ask us about Rochester.

Interviews can help determine merit scholarship candidates, so if you plan on competing for merit-based awards, an interview is strongly recommended…Submit your request as early as possible, but no later than Friday, January 22…The Office of Admissions is currently only able to offer virtual interview opportunities. Virtual interviews are conducted online with admissions representatives using Zoom chat software.

Wake Forest University
Interviews will last approximately 25 minutes. They are evaluative and will become part of your application file, so be prepared for a thorough and thoughtful interview – ranging from topics such as your high school and classes, your academic interests and most treasured books, to your talents and service work, to what you think about and what you do (when you aren’t studying!), to current events. We offer interviews beginning on the first Monday in June following your junior year into January of your senior year. Interview scheduling will begin in mid-April of your junior year. You should schedule your interview by December 1 of your senior year.

Interviews are not required, but they are strongly encouraged—especially for applicants interested in competing for merit scholarships.

Nov 19, 2020

UVa early decision applications up by 35% for class of 2025

Early applications are up at UVa

According to The Cavalier Daily, the University of Virginia received 2,918 binding early decision (ED) applications for the Class of 2025. This marks a 35% increase over last year’s somewhat disappointing ED pool of 2,157 applicants. While the total number of ED applicants represents a relatively small portion of an overall pool expected to come in around 41,000 applications, the fact that UVa admitted approximately 35% of early decision applicants last year might be a little alarming to students not willing to commit to a binding contract so early in the process.

At the same time early decision grew by more than a third, the number of early action applications also rose to 28,884 from 25,122—a 15% increase from last year. And although the university is waiting for the January 1 regular decision deadline to provide final numbers, it has already received 17% more applications compared to the same time last year.

In other words, it looks like the University of Virginia will have another very good year in terms of numbers of students interested in possibly attending the Commonwealth’s flagship institution.

Last year was the first time in over a decade that UVa offered an early decision option—the announcement came late and with an October 15 deadline. This year, the deadline was moved to coincide with the November 1 early action deadline. ED decisions will be released in mid-December while early action decisions will come out in mid-February. Students applying regular decision will receive decisions before April 1.

Earlier this year, UVa announced it would not require applicants for the Class of 2025 to submit standardized testing as part of the application process, because of concerns related to COVID-19. Admissions officials promised that students opting to apply test optional would not be in any way penalized for their decision. The change in testing policy, however, probably contributed to UVa’s uptick in early applications.

Among the early decision applicants, 54% were Virginia residents, while the remaining 46% came from out of state. Early action applicants, however, were much more likely to come from out of state as only 28% of the EA applicants were from the Commonwealth. The early decision pool was also overwhelmingly white, with Black and Hispanic students making up only about eight percent of the applicants.

According to Jeanine Lalonde, Associate Dean of Admissions—Dean J to her fans, students applying either early decision or early action receive no advantage in the admissions process.

“We review the applications the same way throughout the entire application season,” Lalonde said. “The admission rates are telling you about the strength of the different pools at U.Va., not about a different style of application review.”

But if the rate of admissions offers remains about the same for this year, a very large percent will come from among early applicants, with as many as 20% of the incoming freshman class applying binding early decision. Note that Virginia Tech admits about 20% of the class through early decision, while the College of William and Mary typically admits at least a third through early decision—suggesting a precedent for Virginia institutions willing to lock down a significant percent of their class this way. Whether UVa will stay closer to Tech than William and Mary in terms of how it uses the early decision tool remains to be seen.

In the meantime, the University of Virginia will continue to accept applications until January 1, 2021.

Sep 4, 2020

Resumes may be more valuable than ever for students without test scores

Note: This is an update of an article posted in past years

High school students who invest time creating resumes may be handsomely rewarded in the

college admission process. Of the Common Application member colleges and universities that are “live” as of this writing, over 300* — or more than one-third — have made specific provisions for submitting this handy document.

Resumes haven’t always been so popular. In fact, there remains a lingering controversy over the appropriateness of asking students to develop and maintain resumes throughout high school. And a few colleges are quite deliberate about not including them as part of their applications.

In her college admissions blog for the University of Virginia, Associate Dean of Admission Jeannine Lalonde makes a point of repeating, “The Common App allows each college to turn the resume function of the app on or off. It is OFF for UVA. UVA does not accept resumes. The application presents information in a systematic format, which allows us to zero in on pertinent information quickly.”

On its website, Tufts clearly states, “Keep in mind that the Common Application is your one chance to show your extracurricular engagements: we are not able to accept a supplemental resume of activities.” And the University of Miami agrees, “Applicants should not submit additional resumes. Although the Common Application limits the number of activities you may report, this is typically more than enough space for most competitive applicants to communicate their most important and relevant commitments.”

But they are in the minority, and many college advisers and lots of colleges very much disagree, especially as everyone scrambles to find new sources of information to enhance a “holistic” review of applicants not submitting test scores.

On its face, a resume represents an opportunity to collect, keep track of and reflect on accomplishments. And it’s likely to be a document the student will maintain, using different formats and styles, through college and beyond.

But beyond “telling” the story of a student’s career throughout high school, a thoughtfully constructed resume will also “show” the kinds of nonquantifiable character traits colleges are increasingly anxious to capture and evaluate in the admissions process. For example, the length of time a student participates in an activity can show persistence. A job title or position might suggest leadership. Carefully chosen action verbs describing an activity might portray responsibility, organization, creativity or self-motivation. The “look” of a resume might also suggest attention to detail—or not!

And recognizing the power of this document to provide this kind of information, a number of colleges specifically refer to the resume as required, recommended or encouraged for students applying without test scores.

But there’s no reason to include a resume with a college application if it totally duplicates information contained in other parts of the application, unless of course, the school specifically asks for one. And a number of colleges or programs outside of the Common App system do, including Georgetown University and the College of Charleston Honors College.

For students using the Common Application, basic extracurricular-related information may be presented in the Activities section, which provides space to describe involvement in ten activities. Within each activity, the Position/Leadership blank allows 50 characters to give a solid indication of your position. A new field was added this year that allows 100 characters to identify the organization name and possibly location. A third field allows 150 characters to provide insight into what you’ve done and any distinctions you earned.

The Coalition provides space for Activities/Experience in the Profile section of the application. Students may enter up to eight activities and are asked to specify “the two experiences outside of your academic program that are most important to you.” For each activity, the student is allowed 64 characters for the activity/experience name (Cashier, Wegmans Grocery Store, Fairfax VA), as well as 255 characters for “a description of your experience” and an additional 255 characters to “List any individual distinctions you earned in this activity or experience.” 

Students using the Universal College Application (UCA) may enter up to seven “Extracurricular, Personal and Volunteer Activities” and up to five employers or job-related activities for a total of 12 entries. While the characters allowed are more limited (35 for extracurricular and 32 for jobs), students are encouraged to provide more details in the Additional Information section.

But for some students, these activities sections are still limiting and don’t provide enough of an opportunity to showcase specific accomplishments or direct attention to relevant online content. In this case, the applicant has a couple of options. 

First, check college-specific questions for additional opportunities to provide details about extracurricular activities. This is where some Common App members have made provisions for an upload of a fully-formatted resume. These include:

  • Boston College
  • Brandeis University
  • Brown University
  • Bucknell University
  • Cornell University
  • Dartmouth College
  • Davidson College
  • George Mason University
  • Howard University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Lafayette College
  • Mount Holyoke College
  • Northeastern University
  • Northwestern University
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Santa Clara University
  • Tulane University
  • University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
  • Vanderbilt University

Coalition members providing for resumes place the option in the Upload section of the application. Some examples are

  • Bryn Mawr College
  • Claremont McKenna College
  • Clemson University
  • Colgate University
  • Florida State University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Texas-Austin
  • Vassar College
  • Washington University in St. Louis

Note that a handful of Coalition members placed their Additional Information questions in the upload section of the application and seem to invite documents such as resumes. Similarly, the UCA provides for fully-formatted resumes by allowing PDFs to be uploaded in the Additional Information section of the application. But before acting on this plan, it’s wise to check with the college first to see if they’d like a copy of your resume as part of your application for admission. They may not!

In addition to asking outright for a resume, a number of institutions make provisions for an applicant to provide a URL on the Coalition or Common Application. The UCA not only dedicates a question to this, but also makes the response conveniently “clickable” for the application reader. This is another way students may provide a resume on a personal website or via LinkedIn.

And sometimes colleges specify they only want a resume as part of a “portfolio” or “arts supplement” submitted through a separate portal. Columbia University and Princeton University are among those falling into this category.

A resume can be a very powerful document for pushing your college candidacy forward. It can serve to color between the lines or provide extra detail beyond what may be crammed into a standardized application form. It can also serve as vehicle for showcasing links to websites, blogs, videos or other online media. And above all, it can provide insight into character traits colleges may very well value above scores.

If given the opportunity, use it. But make sure it reflects well on you and contains accurate and up-to-date information.

*For a FREE list of colleges providing for resume uploads in 2020-21, email: Nancy@CollegeExplorations.com


Jun 24, 2020

Virginia Tech joins the Common App and keeps requirements the same


Beginning August 1, 2020, students will be able to use the Common Application to apply to Virginia Tech. Long rumored to be in process, the addition of the Common App may expand the reach of Virginia Tech into new markets and potentially attract more applicants, particularly those thinking about coming from out of state to Blacksburg. 

“Over the past two years, our office has transformed the admissions process, making it more accessible for more students. Adding the Common App is the next logical step,” said Director of Admissions Juan Espinoza.

For the past couple of years, Virginia Tech has been one of very few universities exclusively using the Coalition Application. Last year, the University of Florida added the Common App, leaving Tech, the University of Maryland and the University of Washington as the only remaining “Coalition exclusive” schools. And not surprisingly, these large universities represented a significant percentage of Coalition users and cross-over applications. Virginia Tech’s announcement will no doubt affect Coalition utilization. 

While the Coalition Application still remains an option for prospective Hokies, students now have a choice of application platforms to use in 2020-21. According to Espinoza, “it’s important for students to have choices so they can use the application platform that works best for them.”

With the addition of the Common App, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions hopes to not only enlarge but also diversify its applicant pool. Espinoza noted that, “with a record number of underserved and underrepresented students in this fall’s incoming class, adding the Common App will help Virginia Tech continue fulfilling its mission of partnering with students from the commonwealth, the nation, and the world in a top-tier educational experience.”

As one of the newest members of the Common App, Virginia Tech will not be changing its basic application requirements. The Common App’s personal statement will not be required nor will it be considered in the admissions process. Virginia Tech will not require teacher or counselor recommendations to be submitted. 

And, Virginia Tech will not be changing the four short answer questions (120 words) used the last two years. These will be found in the member-specific section of the application and are:
  • Virginia Tech’s motto is "Ut Prosim" which means 'That I May Serve'.  We are interested in learning more about your interests and how you have been involved and/or served. Briefly describe a group, organization, or community that you have been involved with.
  • Describe a situation where you were involved or witness to an act of discrimination. How, or did, you respond?
  •  Describe an example of a situation where you have significantly influenced others, took on a leadership role, helped resolve a dispute, or contributed to a group’s goals.
  • Briefly describe a personal goal you have set for yourself. Why this goal, what is your timeline to achieve this goal, what precipitated this goal?
With regard to the optional COVID-19 question added by the Common App this year, Espinoza advises that, “We will read that information if submitted. Coalition is asking a similar question and we will review that information in the same way.”

Keeping all things equal, Tech will launch both the Common App and the Coalition Application on August 1.

Virginia Tech will be joining well over 900 colleges and universities that use the Common Application and is no doubt among the more welcome of the new additions for 2020-21.

Jun 14, 2020

The Common App Welcomes 42 New Members for 2020-21


Loyola University Chicago
The Common Application recently announced the addition of 42 new members to a roster of what will be well over 900 colleges and universities accepting the Common App for 2020-2021. The popular online platform and college planning website annually serves and supports over three million students, teachers and counselors in the U.S. and around the world. And with the addition of several well-known institutions including Auburn University, Clemson University, Coastal Carolina University, Loyola University Chicago, Tuskegee University, and the University of Georgia, these numbers are bound to increase significantly.

“Through these unprecedented times, these 42 colleges and universities continue to help forge a direct and unambiguous path to a viable future for all students, and reduce barriers to college access for underserved students. We are honored to welcome them into our membership,” said Jenny Rickard, President and CEO of Common App. “Thanks to our diverse membership, all students, regardless of their background, have the opportunity to apply to the colleges or universities that will help them achieve their best future.”

Membership in The Common Application is open to colleges sharing the organization’s mission of advancing college access and must be
  • Not-for-profit
  • Undergraduate degree-granting
  • Accredited by an association recognized by either the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the U.S. Department of Education
  • If located outside the U.S., a member of the Council of International Schools
  • Committed to the pursuit of access, equity and integrity in the college admission process
Member institutions are no longer required to also be members of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). The requirement to evaluate students using a “holistic” selection process including a recommendation and an untimed writing sample (essay) was also dropped to accommodate a wider variety of member institutions.

 As a result, Common App membership before new members are included includes
  • Colleges from all 50 states plus Washington, DC
  • 419+ colleges with no application fee
  • 78% with admission rates greater than 50%
  • Over 230 public universities
  • Over 50 minority-serving institutions and 10 historically black colleges
  • 28 women’s colleges and 3 all-male institutions
  • 45 Hispanic-serving institutions
  • 60 international universities in 20 countries
  • Over 630 accepting transfer applications
But the Common App isn’t the only online application from which students can choose. They may consider the Coalition Application or the Universal College Application (UCA), which was welcomed last year by Harvard, Cornell and Princeton. The Common Black College Application enables students to apply to any number or combination of 55 HBCUs for a single low fee. The QuestBridge National College Match application is currently welcomed by 42 highly selective colleges and universities. And a significant number of colleges use a variety of school-based applications created specifically to meet their institutional needs.

With all these different application platforms, it’s not unusual for a college or university to offer two or more options for prospective students. While the Common App remains by far the most popular of the platforms, it’s usually worth investigating how other applications are structured and what specific questions are asked. There can be significant differences some of which might provide better vehicles for presenting credentials.

But the Common App can’t be beat for its reach into a variety of academic communities. And among the new member colleges and universities offering the Common Application for 2020-2021 are:
Arkansas Baptist College (AR)
Auburn University (AL)
Augusta University (GA)
Baker College (MI)
Bethel University (MN)
Bryn Athyn College (PA)
Buena Vista University (IA)
Carlow University (PA)
Clemson University (SC)
Coastal Carolina University (SC)
Cornerstone University (MI)
Fresno Pacific University (CA)
Holy Family University (PA)
Indiana Wesleyan University (IN)
Lake Superior State University (MI)
Lees-McRae University (NC)
Loyola University Chicago (IL)
Medaille College (NY)
Milligan University (TN)
New College of the Humanities, London
Norfolk State University (VA)
Northern Illinois University (IL)
Palm Beach Atlantic University (FL)
Richard Bland College of William and Mary (VA)
Spalding University (KY)
Texas Tech University (TX)
Trevecca Nazarene University (TN)
Tuskegee University (AL)
University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (CO)
University of Georgia (GA)
University of Louisville (KY)
University of South Florida (FL)
University of Texas at Dallas (TX)
University of Texas at San Antonio (TX)
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (WI)
Wilmington College (OH)
Winthrop University (SC)