Alum interview pilot program reaches target numbers

April 19, 2011, 2:03 a.m.

As the newly admitted class of 2015 prepares to converge onto campus, the Office of Undergraduate Education is evaluating the success of its third and final year of the alumni interview pilot program. During the 2010-11 application season, alumni volunteer interviewers conducted an approximate total of 3,000 interviews, meeting the pilot program’s target goal.

The pilot program was introduced as a way to offer college applicants the opportunity to learn about Stanford in a more intimate setting and to provide the Office of Undergraduate Admission additional information about candidates that might not be easily found in the written application.

“The University had been exploring to see if we receive a comprehensive picture of the applicant,” said Director of Undergraduate Admission Bob Patterson. “I think it adds additional context to the applicant, either by adding new information or reinforcing existing information.”

The pilot program began with a small staff of 378 alumni volunteer interviewers who worked in a handful of cities: Atlanta, Denver, Portland, New York City and London. Three years later, the program grew to amass 1,061 alumni volunteers for the 2010-11 reading season. Interview sites were expanded to include locations in Massachusetts, Philadelphia, Portland, Raleigh/Durham, Minneapolis/St. Paul and the Washington D.C. area.

According to Patterson, the locations were selected based on several factors — namely, the need to get a representative sample of the applicant pool, the geographical area and the strength of alumni presence and involvement.

The pilot program required an incredible amount of logistical planning and communication streamlining to run efficiently.

“[We’ve had] logistical challenges, mostly,” Patterson said. “We train every alum to do the interview. There’s a lot of organization to work out, such as contacting alumni and making sure the alums have enough time to contact students.”

Additionally, the admission office is looking into alternative ways to reach as many interested applicants as possible.

“We’re trying to look at using different types of communication — Skype technology or Apple applications or large interview sites where students can go to,” Patterson said.

The alumni interview option has been overwhelmingly popular for applicants. Patterson said 95 percent of the students who were offered this option chose to take it.

Additionally, overall feedback from alumni volunteer interviewers has been positive.

“They’ve enjoyed the experience of interviewing with students,” Patterson said.

With the conclusion of the pilot program, the Office of Undergraduate Admission seeks to make the alumni interview option permanent, a decision that will be voted on by the Academic Council in an upcoming meeting.

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