Interviews are hard. Travel must often be coordinated. Time off of school or work arranged. Questions and answers prepped. But they can also be enjoyable when natural conversation, connection, and engaged listening are at the center of the experience. The Choate Rosemary Hall admission process is no exception. Connection is key, and Choate alumni are excelling at it.
Choate's Volunteer Admission Network (VAN) prioritizes making prospective students feel comfortable, empowered, and heard. The program enlisted 73 volunteers to conduct a remarkable 887 interviews this cycle – up from 425 in 2020. This admission season took travel out of the equation with all interviews conducted over Zoom, but going virtual didn't change the centrality of connection. Brian Borden '07 comments, "I just really enjoy getting to know these kids and sharing my passion for Choate with them. Students were so open and willing to talk. And the parents were so grateful." Brian's drive to connect with his interviewees is clear: "Choate was the best decision I made in my life, and I jump at opportunities to give back. I am eternally grateful. If my passion can help another student make their decision about Choate, I am always happy to share." Ed Harney '82 P '15 '17, echoed this notion: "If there is anything I can pass on, it is a genuine and authentic view of Choate, and both parents and kids alike really appreciated my understanding the School, here and now."
The switch to Zoom seemed less than ideal at first, but many of the alumni interviewers found true silver linings in the process. Logistically, they could conduct multiple interviews a week with less interruption to their work and family lives. Perhaps most significantly, virtual interviews changed the breadth and reach of their connections. Shiva Sachdeva '16 was thrilled by the equity that virtual interviews afforded prospective students: "It really leveled the playing field – no one could fly in and visit, and the expectation was that most students had never set foot on campus. I could talk to kids with common interests to my own with no geographical restrictions. I was sometimes interviewing on a Sunday night my time and Tuesday morning their time. Remarkable!" Harney was astounded by his own reach from his home in Florida: "I interviewed kids from all over Asia – Signapore, Thailand, Japan, Korea, Myanmar – and up and down the East Coast, from Florida to Maine. This is a first."
Some volunteers far surpassed the average of 12 interviews, with some completing upwards of 50 to 60. So, what brings VAN members to this work, time after time? Without hesitation, volunteers' responses – across the board – were their love of Choate and their deep desire to pay it forward. The imprint of their Choate experience runs deep – for many, it was THE pivotal point in their personal and professional lives. It is also a tangible representation of the strength of the Choate alumni community. Jillian Sullivan '90 P'20 '22 captured the sentiment: "It is important for alumni to interview because it shows the prospective students that the Choate community doesn't end. It's your community for life." Jessie Meier '12 loves the window into Choate's future: "After doing just a few interviews, I realized how remarkable the pool of candidates is, full of students with diverse interests and ambitious plans. I am excited on their behalf – for the adventures and traditions they will get to experience at Choate."
VAN members are now resting up, hoping to soon pass their congratulations to the students who receive acceptance letters, and who might begin their own Choate experience next fall.