Senior interviewers a gate to the College

by Phil Gerwin | 11/19/98 6:00am

Remember way back going through the college admissions process and enduring the nerve-racking ordeal of an interview with scary admissions officers or alumni? Here at Dartmouth, there is another type of interviewer -- the Senior Interviewer.

Senior Interviewers are just what they sound like. They are current seniors who interview prospective students and then provide a supplement to alumni interviews.

Dean of Admissions Karl Furstenberg started Senior Interviewing in 1992 "to allow undergraduate students to have a voice in the admissions process and take on some of the responsibilities of an admissions officer," said Shelley Arakawa '96, assistant director of admissions and head of this program.

Furstenberg started Senior Interviewing at Wesleyan University and brought it with him to Hanover. Even though Dartmouth is among the first colleges to do this, the idea seems to be catching on.

Kenyon, Bates and Hamilton colleges also have similar programs. On the other hand, most Ivy League and top-tier colleges only offer interviews by admission officers and alumni.

Currently, the admissions office employs 17 Senior Interviewers. They help open up more interviewing spots, and their job is to add a personal spin to the prospectives' file with their interview write-ups. "They are more than just a piece of paper," Senior Interviewer Stacey Morris '99 said.

Even though the interviews add another dimension to the applicant, they rarely have a big effect on admissions, unless the student is an extremely strong or weak candidate, according to Senior Interviewer Landis Fryer '99.

The interview may also come into play if the interviewer feels the prospective will be much better represented in their application by including information learned during the interview.

Senior Interviewers must go through a rigorous application process much like the one prospective students undergo. The admissions office likes to find seniors who are passionate about Dartmouth and who can speak about it with conviction.

Once the final interviewers have been selected, they go through a one-week training course. During the course they receive a book that includes standard interview questions.

Even though they have to chat about relevant topics, such as academics and extracurricular activities, the interviewers usually come up with their own questions and have to be able to tailor each interview to the prospective student.

The admissions office describes the interviews as both informative and evaluative. By using Senior Interviewers, the admissions office gets to know prospective students better and helps them get to know Dartmouth better.

"We are current students. We are in the classrooms." Morris said. "We are slaving away. We know how the life of a student feels."

The process is advantageous for the Senior Interviewers as well as for the prospective students. Besides giving the prospectives a first-hand account of what life is like at Dartmouth and giving the admissions office a better feel for whether the student would be a good match for Dartmouth, it helps the interviewers reflect on their experience at Dartmouth.

"The more I started talking about the school, the more I appreciated it," Fryer said. "It really is a privilege to be here, and I say that a lot to my group."

It is also exciting when interviewers get letters or e-mails from prospective students saying that the interview really affected how they felt about Dartmouth, he said.