Admissions interviews in a virtual world

2020 Admissions

After the initial shock of shutdowns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, as students adjusted to their new way of learning and communities rallied to safely support one another, the School of Dentistry’s admissions team faced a massive challenge: 

How do we complete over 200 student interviews? 

With hard work and flexibility, the Office of Admissions and Diversity put together a seamless interview process--which may have contributed to the over 40% increase in dental school applications from the previous year. 

The University of Minnesota’s School of Dentistry was one of the first dental schools to make the decision to switch to fully virtual interviews, eschewing the in-person interview in May 2020. 

The work wasn’t always easy. Chris Held, admissions counselor for the School of Dentistry, had one word to describe the two months of transition: “quick.” He and the Office of Admissions and Diversity had to determine how to order and prepare enough laptops with help from the IT department, communicate expectations to interviewees and interviewers, and showcase what the school had to offer--which they accomplished through videos and virtual meetings with student ambassadors.

Applicants expected challenges like these to make a nerve-racking interview process even more fraught. However, what they experienced was inspiring and exciting. One student reflected, “The staff was well prepared for any issue that might have arisen. They made me feel as if I was really there, like I could get a feel for the school.” 

The Office of Admissions and Diversity credits the team of interviewers for creating a supportive, flexible environment and working hard to ensure great communication with each applicant and are grateful for some of the changes the pivot encouraged: as the cost and need to travel decreased, the number of applicants increased. On the admissions side, the ability to record virtual interviews made for a more efficient way of letting secondary reviewers be part of the experience. 

What interviews will look like in the future isn’t certain. But one thing is certain: “the focus remains on the applicant experience. We want to provide the best experience possible.” 

Though the student experience wasn’t what anyone expected this year, applicants were grateful for this focus and the “seamless” effort the school put into the day. One student remarked, “friendliness is something students recognize right away,” hoping the office would “keep it up.” 

Said another applicant after their interview, “I am more excited than ever at the prospect of becoming a student in the next dental class.”