College Admissions Interviews

With the recent rumblings in the American economy, qualifying for enough financial aid to go to college has become a huge problem for thousands of students. So has the cost of taking standard admission tests, filing applications and traveling to interviews at their favorite schools.

In an effort to eliminate unnecessary transportation costs, the latest trend in the college admission process is the use of online interviews for prospective applicants.

According to the January 2, 2008 edition of The Washington Post (“More Colleges Expected to Offer Online Interviews”), webcam technology has been utilized for years by a handful of graduate programs, among them Penn State, the University of Georgia and Arizona State University. However, it’s brand new to the undergraduate admissions process.

A Wake Forest University wannabe in Massachusetts recently put on her best outfit and had her interview in front of a computer webcam in her living room. She explained to an admissions officer 800 miles away why the school was the right fit for her.

Wake Forest began the pilot online interview last May. The university’s director of admissions indicated her goal is to be able to offer each of the school’s 9,000 yearly applicants a more individualized review before the staff invites them to come to the Winston-Salem campus as a student.

According to The Post, a spokesman for the National Association for College Admission Counseling predicts that the online admissions interview will continue as a growing trend. One reason: it allows colleges to use technology to personalize the admissions process.

However, the process is not without potential drawbacks. Although colleges and universities have amplified their online outreach efforts to classes of students who grew up with the Internet, some educators fear that some students will lack the financial resources for necessary computer access.

A staff member from the MBA admissions program at Penn State says that webcam technology is much less of a roadblock than schools’ resistance to change in the interview progress. MBA applicants have several options, including Skype Internet telephone service and instant messaging courtesy of Yahoo, AOL or Google. Most are either free or fairly inexpensive for the student.

Wake Forest first used online interviews in its early admission process. When the pilot proved successful, the university then opened the program to its entire pool of undergraduate applicants. The school said this step doubled the number of requests for online interviews.

What happened to the Wake Forest wannabe from Massachusetts? She was accepted. When asked about roadblocks to the online interview technology, she indicated that students who really wanted to use the process would find ways to do it, such as borrowing a computer with Internet access or paying a visit to the local library.