College Interviews the Webcam Way

You've heard of college students going to class in pajamas, but what about applying to school in your slippers? Webcam technology allows prospective students to meet admissions staff face-to-face from the comfort of their couches.

Remember college, cramming for midterm exams in a dark, dusty library? Today's university students spend their nights scanning Web-based discussion forums and studying in a wireless Internet caf??«. Those bundles of notes you took and heavy backpacks you carried have been replaced by online lesson plans and digital discussions. Now it seems you don't have to leave your house even to apply for college.
The Associate Press reports that more and more college hopefuls are applying using Webcams, which can save cash-strapped students travel expenses. Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., is just one of several higher learning institutions that see the benefit of technology like Webcams. The AP said Pennsylvania State University, the University of Georgia and Arizona State University all offer interviews via Webcam.
"While a personal visit is the first choice, the virtual interview is an innovative way to use technology to connect individually with those who, because of financial or other reasons, cannot come to campus," Wake Forest Director of Admissions Martha Allman said in a statement. "This combines Wake Forest's historic commitment to personal attention with our emphasis on technological innovation."
Wake Forest uses the popular Skype application, which offers a Webcam function, in order to conduct the "face-to-face" interviews, the AP reports. Carrie Marcinkevage, MBA director of admissions at Pennsylvania State's Smeal College of Business, told the AP that applicants are offered several other options such as free video chat through Google Talk.
The university began offering virtual interviews on a limited basis to early decision applicants in October, and about 30 students have chosen the new option. Starting in December, virtual interviews became available to other applicants as well. The University says it began strongly recommending personal interviews for all applicants in May, after it became the first top 30 national university to drop the SAT/ACT requirement for undergraduate admissions.
A University release said the success of the venture was collaboration with the Information Systems Department and Admissions Office, which helped train admissions staff to use the technology.
Virtual interviews last 20 to 30 minutes, the same time allocated for in-person interviews. All interviews, be they real or virtual, are treated the same in the evaluative process. Wake Forest said except for the occasional pet wandering through the room or a doorbell ringing in the background, the online interviews are similar to what would take place if the student were sitting in the admissions office.
"This allows us to have personal contact with every applicant," Senior Associate Director of Admissions Tamara Blocker said in a statement. Blocker is responsible for supervising the new program. "We can get a sense of who the student is beyond academic credentials."