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This year’s new Penn Alumni Interview Program had an ambitious goal of interviewing 100 percent of applicants by 2015, and in this year’s admissions cycle, Penn has gotten closer. .

The Office of Alumni Relations, in conjunction with the Office of Admissions, has been able to interview 70.9 percent of all applicants in this year’s admissions cycle, up from 51.3 percent last year.

This rise in interview numbers is due partly to the new role virtual alumni interview committees have taken in reaching out to students that cannot meet with an interviewer face to face.

According to Penn Alumni Interview Program Director Patrick Bredehoft, “Our feeling is always, if we can interview a student face-to-face, that is always preferable. [But] via Skype is better than nothing, and via phone is certainly better than nothing at all.”

There are now 11 of these virtual committees, made up of about 400 alumni in total who were able to offer 2,253 virtual interviews to Penn applicants both domestic and abroad. International efforts include committees based in Latin America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

“Our goal is for 100 percent of students that when they walk out of the interview they feel a little more excited about having applied to Penn and more energized about possibly coming,” Bredehoft said. “So hopefully it’s beneficial to students. It’s certainly beneficial to the admissions process.”

According to Bredehoft, “All the info [the Office of] Admissions needs comes from Common App, but there is something that you can learn from a person sitting down with them having a conversation, and I think Admissions likes to have that spice whenever possible.”

The Office of Alumni Relations has stepped up in recruitment for both virtual and in-person interviewing committees, having gained over 2,400 new interviewers since October of 2012.

Bredehoft, who is a former Penn Admissions counselor, thinks “[the interview is] the most democratic part of the application process.”

Regular decision applicant Caroline Wallace, who goes to St. Petersburg High School in St. Petersburg, Fla., received an in-person interview with an alumnus from her region. She was happy that she was able to receive this interview.

Wallace also said “my interviewer was friendly and gave me the opportunity to share a lot about myself that wasn’t already in my application.”

And while, for Wallace, “it wasn’t really helpful from the perspective of learning about the school because my interviewer graduated a while ago,” she said it was “a positive experience.”

Main Line Regional Coordinator for Alumni Interviews and 1980 College and Wharton graduate Leonard Bernstein also feels that giving every student the opportunity to be interviewed is important.

“I think it’s tremendously unfair for some applicants to have access to interviews and others not to,” Bernstein said. “That gets me angry.”

Aside from the benefits these interviews may provide for potential students and alumni, Bernstein also believes the interview program helps set Penn apart from its peer schools. “It’s a competitive world out there,” he said. “Students who are applying to other schools are having contact, and for us at Penn to not have any or to have some and have it be inefficient means that we lose some of the best applicants.”

2012 College graduate and Director of the Virtual Interview Committee Rachel Cohen helped Bredehoft launch the program over the summer and believes it “aligns with everything I loved about Penn.”

“Penn is a school where a lot of people are thrilled to be there and want to stay involved after they graduate,” Cohen said, “By and large a lot of people are anxious to get involved before they graduate.”

Bernstein echoes her sentiments. “My volunteers and I love meeting young people,” he said. “Hearing their motivation and learning about the things they do and their stories is interesting, and our volunteers enjoy it.”

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