Helping Future Students, One Interview at a Time

Each year, from November through the end of February, thousands of Columbia College alumni from 286 regions around the world venture into their communities to interview applicants to the College. As volunteers with the Alumni Representative Committee, these alumni can contribute to the admissions process and make a difference in the College’s future and in the lives of young people all over the world.

ARC members are front-line ambassadors for the College and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. They connect directly with prospective students, providing Admissions with unique insights and perspectives gained by interviewing applicants in person (or virtually, via Skype or FaceTime), participating in local college fairs and hosting events that welcome admitted students. ARC members can also often connect with students in regions where Admissions may not visit.

Through their interviews, alumni help provide a holistic view of an applicant — one that goes beyond transcripts and essays to look at aspects not always captured in the application package. Importantly, for the prospective students, the interview can provide a window into the influence of a College education, as evidenced by the interviewer with whom they are speaking.

The ARC logo

My interview with D. Keith Mano ’63 is something I remember vividly and fondly. Mano was a celebrated (and controversial) novelist, a columnist for the National Review and a TV writer. In those pre-internet days, I knew none of this when we met in Long Island City. He was simply one of the most interesting people that my 17-year-old self had yet to encounter.

Our conversation stood apart from my interviews for other schools. We shared a lengthy and spirited discussion about literature, cars, the entertainment industry and Columbia history. Mano took great pleasure in my critique of the latest season of The A-Team (for which he was a staff writer), regaled me with stories of campus life in the ’60s and talked about his passionate support of Columbia football.

Inspiring, provocative and thoughtful, Mano epitomized what I imagined a Columbian to be. His enthusiasm for the College was infectious. My interview with him was an important factor in my decision to attend. Years later, I wrote to thank him for inspiring my Columbia journey. I know he didn’t remember our encounter, but he graciously responded with a handwritten note thanking me for the meeting and the opportunity it provided him to stay connected with alma mater.

I know I’m not alone in having this kind of positive alumni interview experience, as I’ve heard many similar stories from other alumni. These anecdotes are a testament to the role of ARC, and to how its ambassadors have an impact that can inspire goodwill toward the College for years to come. Even when an interviewed candidate is not admitted, leaving a positive impression can still help elevate the College’s reputation around the world and in your community.

The Columbia College Alumni Association supports ARC by recruiting alumni participants, enhancing the interviewing experience through training and events, and recognizing alumni for their participation. I’m delighted to share that during the past 12 months, more than 1,000 new members joined ARC, helping the College to increase the percentage of applicants interviewed in the early decision cycle to about 60 percent — a record for us.

This interviewing season has ended as I write this, but we’ll be looking for volunteers again in the fall; we’re always striving to increase the number of prospective students we can meet! Please contact Eric Shea, senior director, College alumni relations, at for more information on the program and ways to get involved.

I thank all current ARC members for their participation in this important program. They do an amazing job, and we are grateful for their contributions to the College. On Saturday, June 1, during Reunion Weekend 2019, we’ll honor ARC members at a special reception for all alumni volunteers. I look forward to recognizing their service.