How to Ace Your Ivy League Interview

Man being interviewed for ivy league.
July 13, 2022
What Do Ivy League Interviews Look Like?How To Prepare For Ivy League InterviewFAQs: How to Ace Your Ivy League


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/9/22

College interviews are nothing to be anxious about if you are adequately prepared. This is the ultimate guide to get you ready for your Ivy League interview.   

Ivy League interviews are an excellent way for colleges to get a personal sense of an applicant that they may not get in an application. There is no reason to feel like you are walking into a test or oral exam. Many colleges treat interviews as information sessions.   

If you have never gone through the experience, it is hard to know how to prepare for an Ivy League interview. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know to get ready for your Ivy League interview!

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What Do Ivy League Interviews Look Like?  

Knowing what to expect is your first step in preparing for your Ivy League interview. They are typically not conducted by members of the admissions committee. Alumni of the colleges conduct them on behalf of the school. It is an excellent chance for applicants to get to know a graduate of your dream school.  

If an interview is required, you will likely be contacted by an Alumni Coordinator to schedule it. However, you should check with your prospective college to make sure. Some colleges will require you to request an interview online.   

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Ivy League interviews were typically conducted in person or on the phone. Post-pandemic, colleges are conducting all interviews virtually.  

What Are They Like?  

Applicants may be surprised to find that college interviews are not too formal. Applicants should not think of them as a job interview. They are far more conversational. Ivy League interviews are a chance to personalize your application. Although the interviewer will provide their opinion to the admissions committee, they are not involved in the decision.   

Interviews are typically 20-40 minutes. Applicants should block out enough time after the interview so they are never-ending it in a rush. Allow the interviewer to be the one to close the interviewer when they feel it is time. The style of the interview will largely depend on your interviewer.   

What Are They For?  

Traditionally Ivy League interviews were a way for colleges to verify the information in your application. More recently, Ivy League colleges have used interviews as a way to give applicants more information about the college.  

During an Ivy League Interview, alumni will typically tell candidates about their experience at the college. This helps interviewees gather more details about the school they may not have had access to otherwise.    

Interviews are not designed with trick questions. Applicants should prepare for the interview to better communicate their perspectives in general. There are no specific answers that colleges are looking for in these interviews.   

Weight of Interviews  

Most ivy league colleges do not require an interview of their applicants. Some colleges, like Columbia, require applicants to request interviews. There are a limited number of interviews available, and it may be on a first-come, first-served basis. Colleges that do not require interviews will not count it against the applicant if they cannot have one. 

Table showing which Ivy League colleges consider interviews, do not consider interviews, and if the interviews are important
Source: Yale University, Harvard University, Princeton University, Brown University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University

How to Prepare for an Ivy League Interview 

While there is no list of interview questions, there are many that are commonly asked. Applicants need not memorize these answers, but it is crucial to think about them and prepare possible answers.   

Common Ivy League Interview Questions:  

This list is not exhaustive, but it gives a great idea of what to expect.   

How to Prepare for an Ivy League Interview: Prepare Questions for Interviewer  

Alumni are great resources to learn more about your dream school/program. This is a wonderful place to show your enthusiasm. Use this opportunity to ask the interviewer more about their college experience.  

You should be careful not to ask any questions if the information is available online. Reflect on what is important to you and what you hope to get out of the college experience, and let that be your guide when preparing questions for the interview. 

How to Prepare for an Ivy League Interview: Approach it Genuinely

Your Ivy League interview is an excellent opportunity to get to know someone who graduated from a school you hope to attend. This is exciting, do not be afraid to show this in the interview. Your tone in the interview should be polite but enthusiastic. 

Feel free to be conversational. If you're asked about your favorite film, don't feel pressure to impress the interviewer. They want you to be honest. They want to get to know who you are.   

Your interests, hobbies, or quirks will often be the qualities that help you stand out to the interviewer. Overall, this should be an insightful and enjoyable experience.   

How to Prepare for an Ivy League Interview: Research Particulars about the School  

Colleges, especially those in the Ivy League, are aware that students apply to multiple schools. Though they still want to know that the applicant is genuinely interested in attending their school.   

It would be best to make yourself aware of the school, its history, and the program you are applying for. You should be able to ask specific questions about your program of choice.   

How to Prepare for an Ivy League Interview: Be Aware of How You Are Presenting Yourself  

Be on time, be prepared, and be aware of your posture. These are always important in any meeting. But now that Ivy League college interviews have shifted to virtual meetings, applicants may need to prepare differently. 

Most of these interviews will be over zoom or another video meeting platform. Plan out where you will be taking the interview. Keep in mind the background that the interview will be seeing. It should not be messy or distracting. 

Choose a quiet place with minimal distractions. A coffee shop is not a good place for a zoom meeting. There is nothing wrong with having the meeting at home.

FAQs: How To Prepare For Ivy League Interview

Still wondering how to prepare for an ivy league interview? Keep reading for our answers on some frequently asked questions about ivy league interviews!

1. Can A Bad Interview Ruin My Chances Of Being Accepted?  

Applicants should always be polite and respectful throughout the interview. That being said, interviews are a small part of your application. They are considered, but are not a deciding factor.  

2. Should I Follow Up With The Interviewer After The Interview?  

Yes, you can! There is nothing wrong with sending an appreciation email to the interviewer.   

3. What Happens If I Can't Get An Interview?  

Not every college requires interviews. Most simply do not have enough alumni available to do the job. In these cases, applicants will not be penalized.  

4. Will The Interviewer Be Testing My Knowledge Of The College?  

An ivy league interview is not a test. Although you must make yourself aware of the college, its history, and the program you have applied to.   

5. How Do I Prepare For An Ivy League Interview? 

After reviewing our article on how to prepare for an Ivy League interview, review the website of the college and particulars about your potential program. Don’t forget to review our list of common Ivy League interview questions to prepare your responses ahead of your interview. 

Final Thoughts  

Ivy League interviews are not a daunting test to determine your suitability for a college. They are an excellent opportunity for applicants to learn more about the college and gain insights. They are also a great way to get to know alumni you may otherwise have not met. Many applicants worry about how to prepare for an Ivy League interview; follow our preparation tips, and you will do great.   

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