Yale Interview Guide - Sample Questions, Strategies + Tips

Student shaking interviewer's hand after Yale interview
October 6, 2023
11 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 09/13/23

Read on if you plan on applying to Yale and want to learn more about their interview process.

According to Forbes, the number one way to reduce interview nervousness is to practice, practice, practice.  They even suggest you over-prepare for your interview to avoid any surprise questions. 

This guide will review the Yale interview, how it works, sample questions and how to respond to them, and some final tips to ace your interview!

Who Gets Interviewed at Yale?

Two people in an interview

Contrary to popular belief, Yale's interviews are optional for application. Considering Yale receives as many as 50,000 applicants each year, it's only possible for them to interview some of their candidates.

As such, Yale only extends interview invites to applicants who require more information. So, if you aren't asked to interview, don't automatically assume it means rejection. Many successful applicants are not interviewed, and many who are interviewed still don't make the cut.

How the Yale Interview Works

As the admissions committee reviews applications, they may come across a few that pique their interest, but they must provide a comprehensive picture of the applicants. In this case, Yale will invite these applicants to an interview to get to know them better and make a final decision on their candidacy. 

If you are asked to interview, it’s strongly recommended that you do; otherwise, the admissions committee will have to decide with an incomplete understanding of who you are.

These interviews are conducted by senior Yale students or alum volunteers on the Yale Alumni Schools Committee (ASC). Each alum interview is conducted by a local volunteer linked to a specific geographical area. Some students send a thank-you email once their interview is complete, but it’s not required!

If the Yale ASC does not cover your area, you will likely be unable to interview unless a senior Yale student can conduct a virtual interview with you. If you cannot interview, your application will still be considered, but getting accepted to Yale will be harder.

What Are the Benefits of a Yale Interview for Your College Application?

The major benefit of completing a Yale interview is that it can boost your chances of admission. Remember, Yale only interviews students they require more information on or deeper insight into. By interviewing, you’ll leave no stones unturned, can address any possible concerns, and further prove what an amazing candidate you are!

Yale Interview Sample Questions and Answers

Two people participating in an interview

To ensure you’re well-prepared for your Yale interview, here are some practice Yale interview questions senior interviewers suggest students consider:

1. Reflect on Something That Doesn’t Come Naturally To You or a Particularly Difficult Experience In the Thing You Love.

Pick which of these two prompts you can discuss best. If you pick the former, Yale offers the example of taking English courses as a STEM student, which is relatable for many applicants.

If you choose the latter prompt, you could write about a tough acting role, an obstacle in research, or a difficult sports game. Regardless of your prompt, remember that your answer can be separate from your academics. 

You’ll likely come up with a more genuine response if you talk about your hobbies, passions, or interests outside the classroom. Think about what you do in your free time. What do you enjoy? Do you enjoy it because it’s easy? 

The key elements the interviewer will look for in your answer are:

  • Enthusiasm about a passion or interest
  • Clear talent or skill in a specific area
  • Adaptability and perseverance to continue pursuing your interest despite the obstacles
  • Strong problem-solving skills

Use this list as a checklist when brainstorming your response to this question!

Sample Answer

"Mathematics has always been my stronghold. I've excelled in it because of its precision and the fact that there’s a definitive right or wrong answer. However, English, with its nuances, interpretation, and ambiguity, has been a challenge for me. 
Unlike math, there's often no one 'right' answer in literature or essay writing. Instead, I've had to grapple with the ambiguity, embracing the idea that multiple interpretations can coexist and that adequately defending your perspective is what makes you “right”.
This challenge has led to moments of self-doubt and frustration, but it has also been a transformative experience. It's taught me the value of open-mindedness, the importance of considering diverse perspectives, and the art of articulating my viewpoint effectively. 
I've learned that even when there isn't a clear-cut answer, the process of exploration, reflection, and debate can be incredibly enriching. So, while English may not come naturally to me, it's precisely this difficulty that has pushed me to grow and adapt and be a more well-rounded thinker."

2. Tell Me About an Influential Person In Your Life.

Students tend to freeze up on this question during interviews, so you must prepare for it beforehand. Avoid mentioning people you haven't interacted with. While you may have a celebrity idol or look up to a prominent historical figure, mentioning someone like a teacher, family member, or friend is best.

If you know someone who has gone through significant adversity but rose above it, you can talk about how their experience influenced you to work even harder and push through your challenges. 

Some students see this question as an opportunity to boast about themselves. They erroneously claim they’ve had the most influence on themselves. While pursuing higher education requires a high degree of self-motivation, especially at a prestigious school like Yale, this answer can come across as self-absorbed. 

Sample Answer

"The most influential person in my life was someone I never expected to find inspiration in—my late father. Growing up, I had heard him labeled as a 'drunk,' an 'addict,' and 'absent.' That was the narrative I had come to accept. 
However, it was during a family tree project that I decided to dig deeper into my father's story, hoping to find something more substantial than empty bottles. What I discovered was a story of resilience and determination that completely reshaped my perspective. 
My father's journey began in Syria, and at the age of 20, he made the courageous decision to immigrate to the United States with my mother. Armed with minimal education and limited English, he embarked on a path filled with challenges.
To make ends meet and support our family, my father worked three minimum-wage jobs simultaneously while pursuing part-time education to improve his and my mother's future. 
His relentless dedication eventually led to a turning point in his life. He graduated and was on the cusp of a promising career when he received a devastating diagnosis – stage three lung cancer.
Despite the grim prognosis, my father continued to fight not only for his own survival but also to provide for my mother. He juggled demanding work schedules during the week, and grueling chemotherapy sessions on weekends, and somehow managed to secure a full-time, well-paying position at an immigration office. 
In this role, he helped countless others navigate their immigration journeys, ensuring they wouldn't face the same struggles he did. He poured his heart into every endeavor, trying when most would have given up.
Tragically, three months after what he thought was his final chemotherapy treatment, he received a terminal diagnosis and was laid off due to his frequent absences. It was during this period that he sought solace in alcohol and, eventually, passed away.
While the outcome was heartbreaking, it's my father's journey of perseverance that continues to inspire me daily. His story teaches me the power of resilience, determination, and the ability to rise above seemingly insurmountable obstacles. I carry his legacy with me and it fuels my own pursuit of excellence to make a positive impact.”

3. What Do You Do For Fun?

This question seems relatively simple because it’s meant to be! It isn’t a trick question and is typically asked to make you more comfortable during the interview. It will also help the interviewer learn more about your personality, values, and interests.

Answer this question honestly. While you may be tempted to use this question to discuss your work or volunteer experience, your interviewer will know you did not pursue these experiences for fun. 

Make a list of your hobbies and pick the one you’ve participated in most. Share this hobby and explain what makes it fun. 

If you’re an avid horror movie fan, you may enjoy analyzing these films and discovering their deeper meanings. By sharing this, you explain a realistic hobby and tie it back to a valuable skill that will aid you in your undergrad!

If you follow this two-step process, you can discuss any hobby! Try sharing a specific anecdote about your hobby to make your answer more personal and genuine.

Sample Answer

“For fun, I kickbox. It's not just a physical activity for me; it's a passion and a way to destress. Kickboxing allows me to channel my energy, stay active, and continuously challenge myself. 
There's something incredibly empowering about mastering different techniques, improving my agility, and pushing my limits in a controlled and disciplined environment. It not only keeps me physically fit but also provides a mental and emotional outlet. 
Plus, the camaraderie and support within the kickboxing community make it a truly enjoyable and fulfilling hobby!”

4. What Do You Hope To Gain From Your Undergraduate Experience?

There’s a reason you chose to apply to Yale, and the interviewer will want to know it. Please do your research to ensure you have a unique response that proves your dedication to the school and strong interest in it. 

Consider your personal and professional goals and how Yale will help you achieve them. Explain the type of student you are and hope to be at Yale and how you plan on contributing to their community.

While it’s no secret that a Yale degree holds tremendous prestige, avoid revolving your answer around this reason. The interviewer will want to ascertain you’re applying to Yale because of its unique and impressive resources and programs, not just for street cred!

Sample Answer

"As an aspiring nurse, my hope for my Yale undergraduate experience is to cultivate a deep and comprehensive understanding of healthcare that extends beyond the textbooks. 
I aspire to gain a holistic perspective on healthcare delivery, which includes not only the technical skills but also the interpersonal, ethical, and cultural aspects of nursing. Yale's renowned faculty, research opportunities, and diverse student body provide the perfect environment for me to explore the multifaceted world of healthcare. 
I am particularly interested in joining courses such as 'Interdisciplinary Healthcare Ethics” and “Health Care Improvement” to challenge myself to think critically and ethically about complex healthcare issues. 
I also look forward to developing strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which are essential in the dynamic field of nursing. I hope to engage in hands-on clinical experiences that allow me to apply my knowledge in real healthcare settings and make a positive impact on patients' lives.
Furthermore, I aim to immerse myself in the Yale community and contribute to initiatives that promote healthcare equity and social justice. I believe that a Yale education will equip me with the tools and resources to become an advocate for underserved populations and drive positive change within the healthcare system.”

5. What Has Made You Stick With An Interest for Years?

As you can tell, Yale interviewers like to ask questions about your passions and interests. This is to get to know you better and to learn more about your skills and traits, such as perseverance! 

The Yale admissions committee aims to admit students who demonstrate a clear commitment to their school, so you must follow through with your commitments. If you pick up and drop interests often, it can ring some alarm bells for the interviewer as you may lose interest in their program or transfer schools.

One common example is discussing an instrument you played for most of your life. You can share how you’ve always been motivated to learn more challenging songs and improve. Talk about your progress over the years and share specific accomplishments that resulted from your perseverance. 

Sample Answer

“I’ve stuck with my passion for painting over the years for a couple of key reasons. First, the feeling of progression and improvement has been a major motivator. When I first started painting, I was far from being a skilled artist. 
But every brushstroke brought me a step closer to mastering the craft. It's been incredibly satisfying to see my skills evolve, from hesitant brushwork to confidently creating intricate details. The journey of self-discovery through art has truly kept my passion alive.
Secondly, painting just makes me feel good. It's like a form of therapy and a source of comfort. When I stand in front of a blank canvas, I have the freedom to express my thoughts and emotions without any limitations. Painting allows me to convey things that words often can't capture.”

Other Questions

The above questions are the most common and applicable to most students. However, the interviewers will also ask questions about your extracurriculars and accomplishments. 

For instance, if you’re a theater buff, they may ask you your favorite role or character you’d like to play. If you’re a writer, they might ask you what book you recommend, what inspires your creative process, and your proudest writing piece. 

Sports players may be asked more about their role on their team, why they chose their sport, and what they’ve learned.

Students with extensive volunteer experience can expect to elaborate on specific organizations or projects they worked on, their most memorable experiences, and how their perspective has changed through their community service.

List of Yale Interview Questions

Here are 15 more sample interview questions the Yale alumni may ask you: 

1. What extracurricular activities are you involved in, and how have they shaped your character?

2. How do you plan to contribute to the Yale community?

3. Discuss a book, article, or idea that has influenced your thinking.

4. What are your long-term goals, and how do you see a Yale education helping you achieve them?

5. Share an experience where you faced a significant challenge and how you overcame it.

6. What values and principles are most important to you, and how do they align with Yale's mission?

7. Describe a project or initiative you have been passionate about and its impact.

8. How do you engage with your local or global community to make a positive difference?

9. What do you believe is the most pressing issue facing society today, and how can you contribute to addressing it?

10. Yale values diversity and inclusivity. How have you contributed to creating an inclusive environment in your school or community?

11. Describe an event or moment that changed your perspective on an important issue.

12. How do you handle failure or setbacks, and what have you learned from those experiences?

13. What unique qualities or experiences do you bring to the Yale community that set you apart from other applicants?

14. If you could design your own course or academic program at Yale, what would it be and why?

15. What’s your favorite book and why?

This isn’t an exhaustive compilation of interview questions for Yale, but it’s certainly an excellent starting point! Reach out to our Yale admissions counselors for more tailored interview prep support!

Tips for Your Interview at Yale

Two men shaking hands after an interview

You're already aware of several general interview tips: dress to impress, maintain eye contact, smile, and breathe!

Students should also follow these specific tips:

  • Review your resume and application before your interview so you’re well-versed in the experiences and skills you listed. Students tend to exaggerate their resumes, so you don’t want to be caught in a “lie.”
  • Provide honest and realistic answers.
  • If you’re stuck, tell the interviewer they asked a great question and ask if you can have some time to think about it.
  • Take the time to research Yale before your interview.
  • Prepare a few insightful questions to ask the interviewer at the end of the interview.
  • Use concrete examples to support your answers.
  • Provide detailed explanations and avoid making cliche or general statements.

Above all else, ensure your personality shines through in your interview. Tell the committee what makes you unique so that your interview is memorable!

FAQs: Yale Interview

Read on for any remaining inquiries about the Yale Interview questions to find your answers.

1. Does Getting a Yale Interview Mean Anything?

Getting a Yale interview means the admission committee needs to know more about you to decide on your application. This interview will help them move you from a "maybe" to a "yes" or "no." An invitation to an interview does not guarantee acceptance.

2. Do All Yale Applicants Get Interviews?

No, not all applicants get interviews at Yale. Only select students are asked to interview for more information on their application. 

3. How Many Applicants Get an Interview at Yale?

The amount of applicants that are interviewed depends entirely on the application pool. There is no limit on how many students Yale can extend an interview to, but it is typically only a small percentage of candidates. 

4. How Long Is the Yale Interview?

The Yale interview will take approximately 30 minutes but may run shorter or longer depending on the questions and how well you do. Try to focus on something other than the clock during your interview! Let the conversation flow naturally; it should be over before you know it.

5. How Do I Prepare for My Yale Interview?

The best way to prepare for your Yale interview is to review common questions from admissions committees. This guide shares specific questions that senior interviewers like to ask, which can help you determine which aspects of your application you’d like to highlight.

Ensure you also review your resume before your interview;  this is the only application material your interviewer will have. Remind yourself of the experiences you included on your resume and the skills you listed.

Final Thoughts

If you’re asked to interview at Yale, consider it an opportunity to share aspects of your life missing from your application. This interview is a second chance to wow the admissions committee and prove your dedication and eagerness to join Yale! 

Good luck!

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