College interviews get comfy with Webcam

December 09, 2008|By McClatchy Newspapers

RALEIGH, N.C. - The sweaty-palmed college interview just got a little more comfortable at Wake Forest University.

Starting this month, any applicant can request a virtual interview with an admissions officer via Webcam and the Internet. It's part of the university's new admissions process that emphasizes personal interaction and no longer requires applicants to submit SAT or ACT test scores.

Peter Chawaga, 17, was interviewed from the warmth of the family room in his home in Haverford, Pa. He applied to Wake Forest this fall and was among the first 30 prospective students to take part in the long-distance experiment.

One afternoon after school, Chawaga sat down at his computer, took a deep breath and, looking into the Web camera, answered the admissions counselor's questions about his family, his neighborhood and the qualities he would bring to a Wake Forest classroom.

The half-hour interview was pretty nerve-wracking - at first, Chawaga said.

Wake Forest still encourages applicants to come to the Winston-Salem, N.C., campus for a face-to-face meeting, but the virtual interview is a good option for international students or those who don't have the time or money to make the trip, said Martha Allman, the university's admissions director.

David Hawkins, public policy director of the National Association of College Admission Counseling, said he knew of no other colleges using Webcams for student interviews. But for years now, college students in the United States have turned to the Internet to find their dream campus - using virtual tours, chat rooms, online applications. They've been known to e-mail professors to find out about academic programs before setting foot on campus, so it's not surprising that the virtual interview has arrived.

"It's kind of interesting that we're using the technology to be more personal," Allman said. "It allows the personality to come through, and it allows us to ask them questions."

Chawaga's high-tech chat must have been a success.

A few weeks ago, he received word - he got in.

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