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Hyde Interview ripple effect: the college interview is a student's first shot at learning how to use human interaction to compete.

IN AN EFFORT TO SEE WHETHER BRINGING BACK THE PERSONAL interview can improve the college application process, the University of Denver is conducting 5,000 Hyde Interviews (named for a student-oriented English professor) across 27 cities, toward the enrollment of its class of 2008. (For more on the Hyde Interview, go to

It should therefore go without saying that the media coverage surrounding the university's Hyde Interview caught my attention from the moment it began to surge. This publication--and most notably our Admissions Angle columnists Howard and Matthew Greene--have long been proponents of the universal return to the college interview process. So, on a morning in mid January when on ABC's Good Morning America I heard DU's Vice Chancellor for Enrollment John Doran describe the epiphany that started it all, I couldn't help but smile. Certainly, the story of bright, plucky, DU-rejected Milena Zilo, chasing the vice chancellor across campus to argue her case for admission to DU, is enough to make anyone who has ever been rejected from a college she has dreamed of attending feel a sense of vindication. And the plot twist--as Dolan goes back to his office to hear Zilo's remarkable story, which results not only in acceptance for the young woman, but a scholarship to boot--is enough to make any Hollywood scriptwriter pea-green with envy.

But it was Dolan's admission of his initial line-toeing responses to the young woman that really resonated most. In retrospect (only moments after they were uttered), the reasons for rejection that he gave her were "stupid," he said. And if they were anything tike many of the reasons for rejection colleges and universities routinely hand to qualified, eager applicants, they probably were. After all, most admissions officers make their judgments with only paper to guide them. And while this is no doubt a highly effective way to weed out applicants who simply are not qualified to attend a particular institution, the fact is that most schools' bodies of applicants are now more highly qualified than ever before--because of the competition to look good on paper. But that doesn't mean paper comparison is the best way to rate qualified: applicant against qualified applicant.

"But they don't even know me!" is the complaint most commonly made by competent rejects, and DU's Dolan would admit they're right. Although colleges and universities have used the (increasingly daunting and convoluted) college essay to try to "get to know" applicants, they've been hard-pressed to admit it's just not working--in fact, the essay process is now hopelessly corrupted, not to mention hopelessly intimidating. But like many processes that stick around beyond their expiration date, sometimes it takes a Milena Zilo (a cleverly disguised brick) to fall on our heads, before we can see the obvious. Certainly, it is my hope that the Hyde Interview will prove to be an eye-opener, when DU's 2008 class is complete, we'll have some sense of that. Frankly, I suspect Dolah and Chancellor Daniel L. Ritchie already do have a clear sense of the positive impact of the Hyde Interview, and we'll be speaking with them soon.

But if the reinstatement of the interview process does become more widely adopted--and I predict if will be, more quickly than most would project--there are other benefits to be realized, aside from the more obvious one of an incoming class that is far better suited to its institution than others before if. And the benefits reach beyond those of making a bastion of higher education more human, more welcoming, and wiser. The benefits extend right back to the applicant, who--accepted or not--may have his very first shot at learning how to use human interaction to compete in the business and professional world. Though we as a culture have been complaining through the Me Generation, Generation X, and Generation Y that we are producing cohorts of strangely socialized young people who relate better to their test scores, their computers, and their iPods than they do to other human beings, this may be a chance to forge some small, if not significant, improvement.

Once upon a time, young people were thrust into life barefaced, with no tutors, essay writers, or scores to act as buffers between them and the world. After native intelligence and humanity, if was acumen, wits, gumption, and social skill that were the tools needed to survive in society. Those were such valuable skills, and I feel sad to see so many of our young people lost without them. Maybe, in the face-to-face college interview where who they are really does matter, our new generations can find those abilities again.

You can reach Kathy Grayson at
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Title Annotation:Editor's Note
Author:Grayson, Kathy
Publication:University Business
Date:Mar 1, 2004
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