The best stories being published on the SNO Sites network

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The best stories being published on the SNO Sites network

Best of SNO

The best stories being published on the SNO Sites network

Best of SNO

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More colleges need to offer student interviews: here’s why

Staff Graphic by Hannah Kilian
Colleges look at many factors to decide if they should admit each student. Interviews should give an admission’s officer a view into a student’s personal identity.

With college application season in full swing, many high school seniors are working diligently to complete their applications before the first round of deadlines. As students work hard to fully explain their complex extracurriculars and submit stellar essays, many are left wondering if they can give colleges an authentic picture of themselves. In addition to extracurriculars and essays, the controversial role standardized tests play in the college admissions process results in unnecessary stress for many students. While only a few North Carolina colleges offer interviews, the unique, unmalleable authenticity of short meetings can help solve some of the issues standardized tests present.  

Many colleges and universities have remained test-optional since COVID-19, causing students to wonder if they should submit their test scores. The use of standardized tests in the college admissions process has come under severe scrutiny during recent years for amplifying income-based inequalities. Simply put, free online test-prep resources like Khan Academy may seem to give all students equal opportunities to improve their scores, but students still need ample time to take advantage of these resources and retake tests. Outside circumstances like family and work responsibilities can limit the amount of time students have for test-prep. Fortunately, college applicant interviews can help relieve some of these issues.

As a senior myself, I have witnessed how stressful the college admissions process can be. Watching brilliant, well-spoken students wish they could give their admissions officers a better picture of their personalities and aspirations made me realize the void that interviews could fill. Many other parts of the college admissions process are partially inauthentic due to income differences. Students with more time and money can hire counselors, receive individualized test prep, and participate in more impressive extracurriculars. Interviews, however, are not so easily manipulated and can provide important insight for colleges. 

Watching brilliant, well-spoken students wish they could give their admissions officers a better picture of their personalities and aspirations made me realize the void that interviews could fill.

Of the eleven largest colleges in North Carolina, only two offer optional interviews: Duke and Wake Forest. These two private colleges offer interviews to gain additional information about students and learn more about not only what they are interested in studying while in college, but also about their personal beliefs and social skills. Unfortunately, since only a few colleges offer interviews, thousands of students each year do not receive a chance to present their best, authentic selves. Interviews can help colleges gain a more complete picture of one’s work ethic, goals or values, and provide much more information than a few short essays.

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Interviews allow many articulate, heavily involved students to showcase their character and better communicate their goals. One-on-one meetings give students an opportunity to showcase their soft skills, or ability to communicate well with others and build relationships. Skills like these are necessary for success in school, and in students’ personal lives, but cannot be measured by current college application requirements.

Critics of interviews in the college admissions process often point out that interviews are typically conducted by alumni, and can exclude those who cannot travel for an in-person interview, like international students. It also presents a huge logistics challenge for large colleges to interview every applicant. 

Fortunately, many interview-offering colleges now offer virtual interviews on platforms like Zoom as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, making interviews accessible to more students. However, part of the reason more North Carolina schools do not offer interviews is due to these logistics issues. UNC-Chapel Hill specifically mentions that they do not offer applicant interviews because they cannot meet with all of their applicants. This admirable acknowledgment reveals how many colleges are in the process of determining if they should incorporate interviews, and how to do so without creating inequities.

If colleges only offer interviews to a few early applicants, students with college counselors and more time for early test taking are once again at an advantage. With this in mind, colleges should consider incorporating optional interviews for all students into their admissions processes.

This story was originally published on The Howler on October 18, 2023.