The Alumni Interview
Tufts Alumni Interviewer
Class of 1981
I am an alumni interviewer, one of those dedicated Jumbo grads who volunteer to meet with Tufts applicants for a conversation and – the way I see it – a chance to see how the whole of a particular individual – you – is more than just the sum of the parts.
If I find you reading a book while you waited for me in the reception area at my office, we might end up having a conversation about writing, and books we have enjoyed. If you mention that you work at a horse farm, I might ask you to explain to me some of the basics of horseback riding.
It’s not that I am testing you – Does he really understand the social commentary in Edith Wharton? Does she know horses or is she is just making some extra money mucking out stables? – but that I want to give you a chance to discuss things that you are passionate about.
I want the chance to understand and appreciate who you are, not just what you are.
Don’t get me wrong, all of the academic work and activities that you have done during your high school years is really important, and your common application and Tufts writing supplement are – obviously – the place to talk about those things.
But if you are applying to Tufts, I have a strong hunch that there is more to know about you. Something special, unusual, or unexpected that is a part of who you are as much as that 5 on the AP History exam or the years you played first viola in the school orchestra.
Maybe ‘interview’ is the wrong word. Perhaps ‘conversation’ is a better way to describe the 40-to-60 minutes that you and I will spend together. After all, our meeting is meant to be a cordial and low-key.
I will have received some basic information regarding who you are and some of the activities in which you have been involved, but I am not privy to your academic record or any part of your common application or Tufts writing supplement. I may use the information I do get as a way to start our chat, but I won’t ask demeaning (what could possibly be interesting about volunteering at a homeless shelter?) or bizarre (If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?) questions.
Instead, I will let our conversation go where it may. I’ll give you the opportunity to tell me about your life, your world and your values. I might ask you why you are interested in Tufts. If you are the quiet type, I will probably ask some questions to keep our talk going. If you are a talker like me, we may well blab for an hour before either of us stops to take a deep breath.
A few other things you should know:
Did I mention that our interview – I mean conversation – will most likely be your last chance to have a personal impact on your admissions portfolio? No pressure (!), but you should be aware of what a great opportunity this is for you.
Your ‘interview persona’ should be you. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, and definitely don’t try to be something or someone you are not. If, for instance, you need to get serious or “heavy” to make a point, do it. If you want to tell a silly or funny anecdote, do it. This may seem obvious, but I think it is important to mention.
I think it’s best if your answers to my questions are spontaneous. But if you feel strongly that you want to prepare, my advice is this: Think about some key points you might want to make when talking about your interests or activities. Then, speaking aloud to a friend or family member (or yourself), practice describing those things. Try to avoid making detailed written notes; just jot down a few key words if you must. Being accustomed to putting the thoughts together as you go and saying – not reading – the words should help you feel more comfortable at interview time.
I am going to share my overall impression of you with the admissions office, so body language and appearance are important, too. I also encourage you to sit up straight (turns out our mothers were right about that one), and maintain eye contact when we are talking. I do not expect you to wear a suit or other formal business attire for our meeting, but you should dress neatly and appropriately.
Shortly after we meet, I will write up a report of our meeting and submit it to Tufts admissions. I am sure that every interviewer handles these written reports differently, but because I write for a living (kind of), I readily admit to obsessing over my reports. I will strive to describe my overall impression of you, and then back that up with information and examples from our talk. You might say that my reports are answers to essay questions, not fill-in-the blanks pop quizzes.
So, why do I do these interviews, anyway? From the moment that I first visited Tufts as a high school student some 37 (yikes!) years ago, I felt something very special not just about the place but also about the people – students, faculty, everyone. That feeling intensified through my four undergraduate years, and is reflected today in the many Tufts friends who are still an important and cherished part of my life. I guess I just want to do my part to help make sure that Tufts is still a place to find – and be – those special people.