Two years after the University revamped the process for interviewing applicants, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of interviews.
There has been a 31 percent increase in the portion of applicants who are interviewed, after the responsibility for offering interviews moved from the Office of Admissions to the Department of Development and Alumni Relations . Of the applicants for the freshman class of 2012 — current juniors — only 55 percent were interviewed by Penn alumni. During last year’s admission cycle, 86 percent were interviewed.
The Penn Alumni Interview Program aims to interview 100 percent of the applicants by 2015.
“The Alumni Relations Office wakes up everyday thinking about how they work with their volunteers,” Dean Eric Furda said. “What we do is think about 17-year-old high school students, their parents, guidance counselors.” Involving Alumni Relations, he said, made better sense in expanding interview offerings.
The interviewing effort started in the 1960s, but the portion of applicants who received interviews hovered in the 40 to 50 percent range until Alumni Relations took charge.
“The challenge is that the number of applicants continues to grow,” said Patrick Bredehoft, director of the Penn Alumni Relations Program.
The number of interviews offered in 2014 would have covered almost 99 percent of the applicants, had the number stayed the same as in 2013.
The program has about 12,000 alumni volunteers in 90 different countries, ranging from the most recent graduates up to 85-year-olds. The average interviewer conducts about four or five interviews per year, but some active volunteers conduct more than 60 interviews.
“In places like New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., we have so many alumni but don’t have enough applicants to interview,” Bredehoft said. The program encourages these alumni volunteers to conduct interviews virtually — via Skype or phone call — with applicants from 150 countries.
“We are getting some texture and voice to the story we’re reading,” Furda said. An interview will not be a game-changer in the application process, but it is “the most unfiltered variable we have,” he added.
“The interview is like a book recommendation from a friend,” Bredehoft said. “Our job is to add a spice to the soup, to add a dimension that is human and personal.”
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