Alumni interviews have for decades been part of the admissions process at elite private colleges. Their role has sometimes frustrated applicants, and left them guessing about strategies. Over the years, the process has also annoyed many alumni.
"Enough about you, let me tell you about when I was a student here..."
A 2002 article in The New York Times quoted a Cornell University alumnus talking about how all of the candidates seem the same: “If I see another valedictorian, I may throw up.” And Cornell doesn’t even call the sessions “interviews,” preferring the term “contact meeting” to stress that the alumni aren’t deciding who gets in. Still, alumni interviews are the norm at elite colleges — with a more common complaint of alumni of late, as documented recently by Bloomberg, being that they don’t have enough influence to make the interviews worth their time.
So, Stanford has joined in after standing apart from others for some time. It’s really just not clear why.
But could it happen in the UK? Mass applications would effectively prevent this as they have already killed off interviews in most subjects and institutions. But even if interviewing was still a common feature, would you involve alumni in the process?
About 25 universities and 20 application services are testing a plagiarism-detection service offered by iParadigms, the same company that provides Turnitin.com, a popular tool for catching plagiarism in academic writing, said Jeff Lorton, business manager at Turnitin for Admissions.
Turnitin for Admissions runs essays through a database of Internet content, journals, books, and previously submitted papers. It then provides a report detailing the number and nature of matches to see if any admissions essays appear to be copied from others.
You wouldn’t think this would be a huge problem but it seems that when Turnitin for Admissions conducted a study in which it analyzed about 450,000 personal statements it found that “36 percent contained a “significant” amount of matching text (more than 10 percent).” That seems pretty high.
It certainly seems high compared to the 1 in 20 quoted in a UK study by UCAS as noted in an earlier post. The real question remains though, what do you do when you find a bit of plagiarism in a personal statement? It could perhaps be seen as one way to deal with excess student demand over number of available places.