Michelle Foley 6 min read 12th Grade, College Interview

Vanderbilt Interview: What It’s Like + My Experience

The alumni interview is a great way to add to your Vanderbilt application. It’s purely informational, aiding Vanderbilt in learning about you and you in learning about Vanderbilt!

 

The Commodore Recruitment Program, or CoRPs, connects Vandy applicants to participating alumni. The interview is primarily designed to help students determine their own fit within Vanderbilt, but alumni will also submit an evaluative report to be included in the interviewee’s admissions file.

 

Due to the widespread yet limited availability of CoRPs volunteers, not every student will be offered an interview. Not to worry, however; being offered an interview is no indication of your application status. Getting one doesn’t mean you’ve “made it past the first round,” and not getting one is merely a sign that there aren’t enough interviewers for your area.

 

The interview is entirely optional, and not participating—either because you don’t want to or because you can’t—will not negatively impact your application at all, according to the Vanderbilt admissions website. The interview is typically a sign of demonstrated interest, which Vandy doesn’t track. Still, this interview is likely to only help you, so we really recommend taking it if offered!

 

Vanderbilt’s was my first interview, and it gave me plenty of insight which I would now love to share. In this post, I’ll go over my experience as a Vanderbilt admit and offer my tips for a smooth interview.

 

How is Covid-19 Impacting Vanderbilt Interviews?

 

The interview program for Vandy’s 2020-2021 admissions cycle is a bit different from prior years’. Due to delays created by necessary programmatic changes, interviews will only be available to ED II and Regular Decision applicants but not ED I applicants. Additionally, they will all be online, so you may enjoy our tips for the virtual interview. My pre-COVID interview was conducted virtually as well, so read on for Vandy-specific insight!

 

Setting Up Your Vanderbilt Interview

 

The interview is opt-in, and you must request it through the MyAppVU portal, which will open for you a bit after your application is received. Vanderbilt Admissions maintains that an alumnus should reach out within a week or 5 business days after you’ve submitted your application

 

My interviewer emailed me on January 11, 2020, soon after I’d submitted my Regular Decision application. Mia* introduced herself and, likely predicting that anxious interviewees would Google her anyway, plugged her LinkedIn so I could learn a bit about her.

 

Mia assured me that the interview would be casual—no need to dress fancy—and an opportunity to talk about my interest in Vandy and her experiences there. We settled on a date and decided to meet via Facetime.

 

Note: I am name-changing for privacy and paraphrasing for clarity.

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What the Vanderbilt Interview is Like

 

This was my first college interview, so I was extra nervous. The day before, I’d dropped by my high school’s College and Career Center and picked up an interview “cheat sheet.” It was a double-sided page of general tips advising a conversational approach, business-casual wear, polite professionalism, and thorough school-specific research. All solid, useful, advice, but even that and the exhaustive “Vandy interview prep sheet” I crafted didn’t fully calm my nerves.

 

Despite Mia’s friendly, approachable emails and Linkedin’s confirmation that she was a twenty-something recent grad, I still somehow made her out in my mind to be a stern, formal lady. (To be fair, LinkedIn is a formal, professional platform, designed to showcase users’ accomplishments in an inadvertently intimidating way.)

 

So I showed up to my FaceTime interview a little nervous, taking special care to find the perfect lighting and angle for a collected, professional look. 

 

By contrast, Mia picked up my call sporting a casual hoodie, nodding at the screen as if we were old friends.

 

During the next 45 minutes, we quickly fell into a smooth conversation occasionally interspersed with her prepared questions. They were all standard interview-esque ones: What drew you to Vandy? What are you passionate about? What are you proudest of? What sorts of clubs and activities would you join here?

 

She was most interested in understanding my interest in Vandy and how I planned to participate there, as is the case in most interviews. None of her questions particularly caught me off guard, but every so often, she wrote down a few notes about my interview responses to help her later craft an evaluative report. Looking back, I find this interesting; my later interviewers took no notes at all, so I’m not sure if this was a Vanderbilt-specific practice or if it was simply Mia’s preference. Nothing felt judgmental or critical about her note-taking habit, though—she was just jotting down facts and bullet points.

 

In fact, I often felt as though Mia was making a conscious effort to connect and make me feel at ease. She would often make comments to the effect of “Oh yes, I can see how you would be a good fit in that way.” Whenever I expressed interest in certain activities and subjects, she would either bring up a related opportunity at Vanderbilt or mention a former classmate who’d enjoyed the same things as I did. Mia was comfortable talking about her conscious decision to become more outgoing in college after having been particularly introverted in high school, and as a former admissions counselor, she sympathized with the stressful application process I was just finishing up.

 

As a California native, I asked her about Nashville, Vandy’s altogether unconventional (and for me, highly unfamiliar) college town. We covered its unique opportunities and culture, as well as the percentage of students who actually stayed in Tennessee post-graduation. Student culture was a big factor for me, so we discussed Vandy’s collective “vibe” and community as well. 

 

I really recommend asking your interviewers why they chose their school; you may glean some helpful insight about their priorities and how yours may match up. Interviews can be refreshingly human and transparent; Mia was as honest about students’ high stress levels as she was enthusiastic about Vandy’s top “Happiest Students” ranking. Like most alumni, Mia was a huge fan of her alma mater, and I remember walking away from the 45-minute interview thinking, Wow, what an awesome school!

 

Tips for the Vanderbilt Interview

 

Extracurricular engagement, like at many other top schools, is a huge part of Vandy student life and priorities. Their students definitely don’t just study in their dorms all day! As a result, my interview often felt like an even split between learning about Vanderbilt and explaining how I could engage there. For all schools, and particularly Vanderbilt, I strongly recommend looking into how you plan to give back. Given Vandy’s 350 student organizations, you’re sure to stumble into something that interests you! 

 

Secondly, try to get a feel for your interviewer’s attitude towards the interview so you can fall into a strong conversational rhythm with them. Your interviewer is likely to come in with a few questions prepared regarding your interests, passions, and fit for Vandy, so we recommend practicing the underrated art of talking about oneself.

 

Prepare for common interview questions like “What’s your favorite book?”  “What’s your favorite subject and why?” and “What do you look forward to the most here at Vanderbilt?” 

 

As you do so, however, try not to get too rehearsed. Think of these topics as bullet points to loosely follow, not monologues to rehearse. And remember, your interviewer will be evaluating your passions, interests, and personality, i.e. the things that make you interesting. You aren’t here to wow your interviewer with your awards and accolades (those are already in your resume) but to show them who you are as a person. Prioritize human interest over impressiveness.

 

Finally, approach this interview with excitement! You’re here to learn about an awesome school through a conversation with an interesting person. Try to see it as an opportunity to look forward to, not as an exam to stress over.

 

Ultimately, interviews are just a small part of the application process. They’re certainly considered, but they don’t hold nearly the same weight as your essays, stats, and letters of recommendation do. A good one will certainly give you a small boost, while a bad one will hardly “make or break” your application—barring exceptional cases, i.e. you offend your interviewer.

 

If you approach your alumnus with confidence and empathy, however, that likely won’t happen. So best of luck, aspiring Commodores, and anchor down!

 

If you have more questions about the interview process, check out CollegeVine’s Q&A forum. There, you can get answers from peers and verified experts. Best of all, it’s free!

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Michelle Foley
Essay Breakdown Writer at CollegeVine
Short bio
Michelle Foley is currently taking a gap year before starting at Yale College in Fall '21, where she is considering majoring in Art, English, or Cognitive Studies while earning her Spanish certificate. In her free time, she likes to paint, run, and read!