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In the heart of the early-decision interviewing season, alumni all over the world are meeting prospective students to talk about academics, extracurriculars and why they love Penn.

The consensus from Penn interviewers is that applicants are consistently bright and engaging. Yet, questions like “Where is Penn located again?” do surface on occasion.

“One guy asked me what city Penn was in,” 1994 College graduate Brian Fedotin recalled. “I thought, ‘What did you write on your envelope?’”

Interviewers warn if you are enthusiastic about the University, you should be able to prove it.

“One guy came over decked out to my house, where I used to do interviews, head to toe in Penn,” 1976 College graduate Michael Charness remembered. “Everything, way over the top. Hat, shirt, pants, socks, even sneakers!”

When 1968 College alumna Elsie Howard asks “Why Penn?” she usually hears about Philadelphia, the campus and interdisciplinary majors. However, a student once replied that he was excited about the football team because he loved Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.

“The poor kid didn’t even know where he was applying,” Howard remarked.

Sheli Barnett, 1986 College graduate and secondary schools chairwoman of Dallas Fort Worth, recalled a transfer applicant not understanding what she meant by “Which of the four schools are you applying to?”

She also once spoke to a young man who was “a total fundamentalist.”

“He didn’t watch TV or listen to the radio or anything,” she said. “I don’t think he understood what he was looking for at a school like Penn.”

Other students just don’t seem to understand interview etiquette.

Though she noted the number of “fantastic” candidates she’s seen over the years, 1984 College graduate Betsy Levine remembers one interviewee who ended an hour-and-a-half meeting by saying, “I can’t believe you’re ending the interview — the guy from Princeton spent three hours with me!”

Tommy Leonardi, a 1989 College graduate, said the experience that stands out for him is when, halfway through an interview, a girl pulled out a two-page sheet of questions.

“She turned the tables and literally interviewed me and put me on the spot,” he said. The girl asked questions like “What did you regret at Penn?” Leonardi actually thought it was impressive — “professional and confident.” The student matriculated to Penn this fall.

Another recurring memory of interviewers is the classic helicopter parent.

Charness recalled one mother who even dominated the phone conversations to schedule a meeting. She wouldn’t allow him to interview her daughter unless she was in the room.

“During the interview she did either one of two things,” Charness said. “She would either shake her head up and down fiercely when her daughter said something she thought was notable, or she would just interrupt.”

An alumna who wished to remain anonymous recalled a friend begging to have her daughter interviewed. Then, when the daughter got rejected early decision, the mother called “and yelled at me like I had called [Dean of Admissions] Eric Furda and told him to reject her or something,” she said.

Usually, however, the interviewers are more impressed with Penn candidates each year.

“Most of these kids are wonderful, well-rounded and amazing,” 1969 Wharton alumnus Joseph Mishkin said. “I would never be able to decide which ones to take — they have good grades, a nice appearance and are well-spoken.”

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