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Project Spotlight: Senior Interviews

By Jessica Wilder     11/9/11 6:00pm

In the life of a high school senior, few things are scarier than that college admissions interview for your dream school. Sitting across the table from an alumni interviewer or an admissions staff member can be incredibly intimidating, especially when you think your entire future rests on your ability to answer a barrage of tricky questions. Fortunately for many prospective students, there is an alternative to the traditional interview.

In an effort to create an environment that is less stressful and more conversational, the Office of Admissions offers an alternative interview with a Rice University senior.

During the spring semester, the Office of Admissions invited rising seniors with experience as tour guides to apply to be Senior Interviewers. After an application and interview process, a team of ten students was selected.

One of this year's interviewers is Brown College senior Lindsay Zhang. Zhang, a Rice Ambassador and tour guide for the Welcome Center, was intrigued when she first heard about the project.

"It was really interesting for me because it's a different way of contributing to the university," Zhang said. "That's why I applied to be a Senior Interviewer."

The students selected to be Senior Interviewers were trained in how to conduct an interview at the beginning of the semester.

"We learned how to dress for an interview. We have to dress up very professionally," Zhang explained. "We learned how to greet the students and how to greet their parents."

 The interviewers were instructed to ask specific questions regarding the prospective student's academic history, extracurricular involvement, passions and interest in Rice. Interviewers are also free to ask original questions that they feel are particularly important in determining if a prospective student is a good fit for Rice.

"One of my favorite questions is ‘What did you do during the past summer?'" Zhang said. "It's just really interesting to see what they did. It's another area where you can see if they're really interested in learning."

The other main role of Senior Interviewers is to answer any questions the prospective students have about Rice. It is their responsibility to answer the questions honestly, not to "sell" Rice to undecided applicants.

"For me, I think it's very, very important that the students and Rice find each other as good fits," Zhang said. "I don't just want to tell them that Rice is a great school without telling them the details. I try to use as many examples as possible so they can judge for themselves if Rice is a good fit for them."

The interviewers are required to interview two students during the week and three students on Saturday for at least five Saturdays of the semester. Zhang said that meeting so many prospective students from a variety of backgrounds is the best part of being a Senior Interviewer.

"They have traveled all the way from Pennsylvania, California, Costa Rica and a lot of other places," Zhang said. "You see a lot of diversity, which I think is a great thing for the school."

"Project Spotlight" is a weekly feature that looks at projects that are making a difference in the Rice community.

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