Three days after I had submitted my Common Application to Penn, I was surprised to find an email from an M&T alumnus waiting for me in my inbox. It was a brief email, asking me if I was free to meet within the next week for an interview. We exchanged a few emails and decided on a date and time, at my local coffee shop. I was startled how quickly the alumnus had reached out to me to schedule an interview, but now I know M&Ts are nothing if not absolutely on top of things. Walking into the interview a bit early, I sat down and had a few moments to sit and think, and essentially, let the anxiety and worry build. It wasn’t my first interview, but it was by far my most important one, so I was worried it wouldn’t go as well as it possibly could.
Once my interviewer walked in and sat across from me, after apologizing for being late, I felt my anxiety recede. He started off by introducing himself—he graduated only a few years ago and was working in New York City, about an hour away from me. He gave a brief background of his time at Penn, and then the interview started. He asked me if it was okay for him to take some notes in a notebook, and then asked me, like I assume most do, to tell him about myself. That was when I felt my anxiety slip away—how difficult could it be to tell him about myself? I spoke at length about my family, what kinds of hobbies I had, and started drifting towards what activities I did in high school and how they influenced what I thought I wanted to major in. He took notes at intervals, but mostly listened. Once I got to what I thought I wanted to study in engineering, CBE, it became less of an interview and more of an easy conversation.
He asked me what kinds of experiences I had in high school relating to my potential major, as he had at one point considered the same engineering major too. It was incredibly easy to talk to my interviewer because his follow-up questions were very logical: did I consider myself more M (management-oriented) or T (technology-oriented)? What kinds of things was I expecting from the M&T program? What sort of goals was I interested in pursuing in the future? I never felt the need to start responding to his questions instantly, so there were times I asked for a moment to gather my thoughts before responding, which he was fine with. I also didn’t wait until the end to ask him questions—I asked him about what activities, both professional and recreational, he had participated in at Penn, what he liked the most, and what he wished he would have known his freshman year. By the end, it felt less like an interview, and more like a nice chat with someone interesting and inspiring.
Before leaving, he asked me if there was anything I wanted him to relay to the people reading over my application. At first, I almost said “no, I don’t think so” but then I thought about it for a second and told him I was aware that my business exposure was rather minimal compared to other students who might be applying to M&T, but that I had a sincere interest in learning about it to better bridge the gap between research and management in the industries I was interested in. By the end of the forty minutes we had spoken, I felt great. I had talked passionately about the things that mattered to me the most: the microbiology research I did in high school, which I had tied into my incredibly rewarding experience with Model UN, which had led to me talking about my interest in social impact and a variety of other things I would be excited to pursue at Penn if I got the chance. My interviewer made me feel comfortable, and the experience was just a really positive one overall. Once I got home, I waited an hour, and then sent my interviewer a brief thank you email, and he responded, saying it was his pleasure and to keep him updated.
That December, I emailed him to keep him updated, as promised, with another thank you of relief and excitement, because I was going to be at Penn in M&T in the fall! I was so glad I got the chance to have an alumni interview before getting to M&T.
Ikshita is a current M&T freshman in the Class of 2017 from Plainsboro, New Jersey. She studies Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering within Penn Engineering and has yet to declare her concentration in the Wharton School.