Emily went to an alumni interview the other night with an alum from her first choice college.  Alumni interviews are a great opportunity for the student to make a winning impression on someone who may be able to pass along a good word to the college’s admission office.  But at a Starbucks?  At 7 o’clock at night?  Twenty miles from our home?  Alone with a guy in his 50s?  I don’t know — it just sounded kind of sketchy to me.

She hopped into our beat-up old minivan, drove around the beltway, Mapquest directions in hand, and didn’t think a thing of it.  It all seemed perfectly normal to her, in her world where new things are happening all the time.  She reported that the meeting was “fun” and “good” and that the guy was really nice.  He has kids her age, and loved his school experience at that college, and I think they probably just had an easy, pleasant conversation.  It sounded like the interview they had both expected, and hoped for.   

A friend of Emily’s went to an interview yesterday, but with an admissions officer, and on the college campus where the other girl wants to go.  Her friend got really dressed up.  So, we talked last night about skirt-suits, and her need for one, like her friend has.  In the back of my mind, I wondered whether she should have dressed differently, more formally, for her alumni interview (rather than wearing what she had worn to school that day).  But then, as I pictured the meeting that she described, I realized that what she had worn was perfectly her — her everyday self.  I was pleased that she had not dressed up, and that the interviewer might see her as she really is.  That is, after all, the purpose of the exercise.

College Board describes the many different types of interviews colleges might offer, if they offer any at all.  Depending on the school, prospective students might interview on campus with an admissions officer, with an enrolled student, or with an alum.  Also, high schools frequently host admissions representatives from colleges, who will meet with seniors in groups or one-on-one.  I think the interview is really a gift, for both sides.  Whether the student is meeting on- or off-campus, with a staff member or volunteer, it is a chance for a personal connection, human interaction, something that helps student and university flesh out the profile of the other to help make that all-important decision about fit.  So, I end up being glad that my 17-year-old daughter drove around the beltway, by herself, to meet a stranger in the night. (Forgive the drama.)  It is just another moment in this journey toward independence, self-definition, and hopefully happiness.