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Letter to a College Applicant

November 18, 2011

Dear College Applicant,

While my interviewing you is not the primary, or secondary, or even tertiary determinant of whether or not you receive an offer of admission (unless you happen to obviously be a genius or an idiot) from the University of Chicago, when I send you a friendly but still professional email about arranging an alumni interview, I have a few expectations.

First, I expect you to be at least superficially enthusiastic about your early application since you went to the effort of turning in an application over a month before the Regular Decision deadline. One of the easiest ways for me to gauge your enthusiasm is by the promptness of your reply to my initial email. Now, I know you’re busy getting awesome grades and leading clubs so that you can impress admissions officers, but I have a hard time believing in the 21st century that you, as a high school senior currently applying to college via the internet, don’t check your email at least once a day. So, ok, one day passes – you’re super busy that day and need to check your schedule. Another day…you had a test or two to take. Third day…now I’m just annoyed because I am trying to schedule my weekend around meeting you in a place that is convenient to me by T but not completely unfair to you, high school student in the Greater Boston area. Maybe I could see it as all about my convenience and not yours since you are somewhat of a supplicant, but I choose to be pleasant whenever possible. Therefore, it would be nice if you responded to my email before the weekend so I could figure out if I need to make time for you sometime!

Second, yes, my tone was friendly. I thanked you for your interest and early effort to get into my school. However, dashing off some sentences to me about your availability without clear maintext of your desire to speak with me will still register with me as informal and indifferent. While I don’t think your professionalism needs to be at the level of a job interview, I think it would make a good impression on me if you came off as warm and/or engaged.

Third, unlike my brother’s informal, fifteen minute conversation with his Ivy League alumni contact, my interview will be at least half an hour if not an hour long. The reason why is because UChicago actually has some abstract yet probing questions for me to ask. And then I am expected to turn in a report on your answers. So, if you’ve already annoyed me with your idea of email etiquette, I am that much less inclined to be pleasant during a meeting where we are supposed to have a meaningful conversation between two strangers. I will also be less inclined to portray you in a good light in my report. Again, our interview will most likely have little to no impact on whether or not you receive an offer of admission, but I would think you’d prefer to have everything in your favor than a lackluster review of how you make first impressions on someone who actually hopes that you are awesome. Thus, I think it’s in your best interest to lead with prompt and solicitous emails and prepare  for a mildly investigative conversation.

Fourth, thank your interviewer. Even if I liked your email etiquette, even if I liked you during our interview and thought you were a bright and nice person, I still volunteered my weekend time to come see and converse with a stranger. I do it because I love my school but it’s unlikely I have anything to gain from you whereas you could gain 1) more in-depth information about my school because of my experiences and 2) a positive review of you as an applicant that can only help your chances of getting into UChicago. And yes, you did thank me as we were leaving and I thanked you; but it is still standard operating procedure and just a nice thing to do to follow up gifts of time and effort with a written note. All you had to do was pull up our last email and send me a line or two reiterating your interest and appreciation for this exchange of information. Unless, of course, you are no longer interested in UChicago after having spoken to me.

I hope you shall take my opinions under careful consideration as I expect to be encountering more of you in the coming months and years.

Thank you for your time,

Miffed Alumni Interviewer

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Pattycakes permalink
    November 26, 2011 12:50 pm

    You know, I never thanked my interviewer via email afterwards. Crap.

  2. Cookie Monster permalink
    December 1, 2011 6:17 pm

    I did thank my interviewer by email later, but I understand this is something that most people are taught towards the end of college. I have not received follow up notes from any of my interviewees, and I don’t hold it against them.

    I did scream at a high school friend when I found out she was a junior in college and still didn’t send job interview notes, though.


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