Aug 13, 2009

Stanford's Pilot Alumni Interview Program--Continued

Earlier in the summer, I wrote a post concerning Stanford’s pilot Alumni Interview Program. Admittedly, I was hoping to grab a little attention by yanking a few chains, as I questioned why the DC area was left off the short list of cities slated for students to receive interviews. I was also a bit glib about the manner in which the program was being offered to a select group of high school students without regard to how this might ratchet up anxiety among students in different or unnamed zip codes. And, I couldn’t resist a poke at what might be evidence of a little western chauvinism on the part of Stanford by pointing out that there are two major U.S. cities that go by the name of Portland—one in Oregon and one in Maine. Of course, little did I suspect that anyone from the Stanford Office of Undergraduate Admission might read the College Explorations Blog.

The following is a clarifying comment I received from Shawn L. Abbott, Director of Admission:

Our pilot program is just that - experimental and exploratory, nothing more, which is why we rolled it out to just 6 regions (and to just 3 more this year). All regions were chosen based on lengthy research and discussion about our yield, diversity and alumni volunteer resources in each location. Of course we would love to pilot the program globally and immediately but training more than 1,000 interviewers was necessary in order to offer interviews to the first 9. We will need thousands of additional volunteers to expand more. More than 400 students apply from the city of New York alone, making this an incredibly tough program to roll out to 30,000 applicants. DC was up for consideration as a pilot city but we determined that the geographic complexity of the District, Maryland, and Virginia would be tough to manage during these first two years. Certain regions were simply easier for us to define, explain and manage (e.g. students are only offered an interview in NYC if they live in one of the 5 boroughs). The jury is still out on whether or not this program is worth our efforts, but at the very least, surveys to alumni suggest they love this opportunity to be involved with Stanford and to meet our applicants. Likewise, admission officers reading the applications from the first 6 cities suggest that they appreciated the additional information about each interviewed candidate - though admit that rarely did their own evaluations change as a result. Thus far, there has been a negligible affect [sic] on our yield of those interviewed and admitted. As a result, we'll expand to 3 more cities and evaluate the program's continued operation.

Mr. Abbott’s previous comment slammed me for indulging in “reckless speculation” about the pilot program and suggested I should have contacted him before posting to the blog. But what fun would that be?

Currently, references to interviews may be found on the Stanford site within the Alumni/Volunteer pages and in one of the admissions FAQ’s. I assume some corrections are being made and we will soon see which Portland wins the interview contest. Sorry guys. I live 14 miles from the White House. Let’s have a beer the next time you’re in town.


  1. Interesting response, but which Portland is it?

    Also, am I missing something or is the initiative mostly for the amusement of the alumni?

  2. Portland, Oregon. We will clarify this on our website and communications.

    Our pilot interview program has multiple purposes. Of course, alumni engagement (where alumni have an opportunity to re-connect with Stanford after graduation) is a desirable goal, but we are also hoping that alumni interviews will enable us to increase our yield (the percentage of students who accept our offer of admission) and we are also hoping that the information we obtain in interview reports may assist us in making the best admission decisions possible. Shawn Abbott, Director of Admission

  3. As an ex-alumni interviewer, I could not ask for more! I'm not sure I would have joined my alumni association (and a lifetime member at that) if not for the opportunity to participate in such a great program. I strongly felt (through school communications) that my university paid attention to my feedback and that was extremely important to me, as I really didn't want to be wasting my time. My daughter just finished her first year as an alumni interviewer for Yale and enjoyed her experience as well. Perhaps my son will one day join her as a Stanford alumni interviewer--in the DC area. Note that my only complaint is that I hope you can move the program quickly from "pilot" status, so as to give all students an opportunity to participate, knowing that interviews do produce anxiety and it's sometimes hard to know if they are a good or a bad thing from a student's perspective.

    BTW, I think the requirements Stanford has established for alumni participation in the interview program are the best I have seen. Other schools with this kind of alumni involvement would do well to implement specific conflict-of-interest provisions similiar to yours.

    Thanks for the clarification,