When Evan Hoover, ‘25, first arrived at Lehigh as a nervous first-year student, he was comforted by the fact that he already had one familiar face on campus — his admissions fellow.
For the past decade, the Lehigh Admissions Office has hired admission fellows: Lehigh students who interview prospective students as an optional part of the application process.
“It’s definitely a good program,” Hoover said. “You get a good idea of what the school is like before you enroll, but also a deeper connection. It’s the first person at Lehigh you know, so it’s definitely a resource to go back to.”
Bruce Bunnick, director of Admissions, said the incorporation of student interviewers has been successful and beneficial for the admissions team.
Before student fellows were added to the process, he said interviews were conducted by faculty admissions officers.
“At that time, the only interaction that prospective students had with current Lehigh students was with tour guides,” Bunnick said. “We felt that it would be valuable and worthwhile to add an additional layer.”
Now, he said, interviews are done almost entirely by the student fellows.
Admissions fellow Dannah VanPraagh, ‘23, said to apply to be a fellow, students must have at least one year of previous experience working in another part of the Admissions Office.
Interested students receive an email inviting them to apply in the spring of their sophomore or junior year. They’re given their acceptance decision in an email later that spring. VanPraagh said accepted fellows can begin training in the summer.
Bunnick said college admissions fellows are usually outgoing, social people who tend to thrive in group settings.
“The admissions officers are very willing to connect with Lehigh students,” VanPraagh said.
For each interview with a prospective student, VanPraagh said there is a list of required questions the fellows must ask and a list of optional questions they can pull from.
During each interview, fellows take notes and submit a summary of the question responses, how they think the prospective student would fit in at Lehigh, their interest in the university and any other feedback.
Bunnick said the admissions fellows play a role in the acceptance of students, but interviews are not necessarily a deciding factor.
“Decisions do not rise and fall on the quality of an interview — I would say that unequivocally,” Bunnick said. “However, I know that in some instances when I read those notes from the fellows, it helps to lend additional context for a different additional perspective on a student in their application.
Admission fellow Lucy Moos, ‘23, said having Lehigh students conduct these interviews is beneficial, as prospective students approach them in a more casual way than they might with faculty members. It sets up more of a conversation rather than an interrogation.
Hoover said his experience of Zoom interviewing with an admissions fellow when he was a prospective student was comfortable and helpful.
He felt he bonded with his fellow over having similar academic interests and was able to learn more about the course load at Lehigh from someone who had firsthand experience.
Hoover said he frequently reached out to his student fellow whenever he had questions or concerns at school.
Bunnick said visitation opportunities and interviews were held online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although they are running in person now, they have kept the virtual scheduling calendar in place to assist students who reside internationally or are unable to attend in-person interviews, which allows the office to reach “more students than ever before.”
“To have the visitors back (in person) is so much more gratifying these days,” Bunnick said.
During the spring semester there are no interviews. Moos said the fellows spend their time writing postcards that welcome admitted students to the Lehigh community.
Moos said they are hosting several admitted student events that may “seal the deal” for undecided prospective students. The admissions team is hosting tours regularly and two Lehigh Fest events where accepted students can spend the day on campus.