How to Ace Your Ivy League Interview

Guide to acing your Ivy League interview
April 26, 2024
4 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/26/24

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


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

If you’ve never gone through the experience, it’s hard to know how to prepare for an Ivy League interview. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know to get ready for your interview!

What Do Ivy League Interviews Look Like? 

Infographic outlining how ivy league interviews look like

Knowing what to expect is your first step in preparing for your interview. They’re typically not conducted by admissions committee members. College alumni conduct them on behalf of the school. It's an excellent chance for applicants to get to know a graduate of their dream school.   

If an interview is required, you’ll likely be contacted to schedule it. However, you should check with your prospective college to make sure. Some colleges 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 tend to conduct interviews virtually.  

Applicants may be surprised to find that college interviews aren’t too formal. They are more conversational rather than interrogative. Although the interviewer provides their opinion to the admissions committee, they aren’t involved in the decision.   

Interviews are typically 20 to 40 minutes but could be shorter or longer depending on the college and interviewer. The style of the interview also largely depends on your interviewer.   

What Are They For?  

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

During interviews, alumni 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.   

Interviews aren’t designed to trick you. Applicants should prepare for the interview to better communicate their perspectives and share their unique stories. There are no specific answers that colleges are looking for in these interviews.   

Weight of Interviews  

Most Ivy League colleges don’t require an interview of their applicants. There are a limited number of interviews available, and they may be offered on a first-come, first-served basis; you won’t be at a disadvantage if an interviewer isn’t available to speak with you.   

College Interviews Not Considered Interviews Considered Interviews Important
Yale University X
Harvard University X
Princeton University X
Brown University X
Cornell University X
Dartmouth College X
University of Pennsylvania X
Columbia University X

How to Prepare for an Ivy League Interview 

While these interviews are more conversational than an all-out interrogation, it’s always in your best interest to prepare for them to boost your confidence; here’s how to prepare for an Ivy League interview.

    Prepare Questions for Your Interviewer  

    Alumni are great sources to learn more about your dream school/program. Show your enthusiasm, and use this opportunity to ask the interviewer more about their college experience.   

    Ensure that the questions you ask aren’t inquiries you could find the answers to online. Reflect on what’s important to you and what you hope to get out of the college experience, and let that be your guide when preparing questions for your interviewer. 

    Approach it Genuinely

    It can be exciting to speak to someone who went to your dream school; don’t be afraid to show this in your interview. Your tone should be polite, enthusiastic, and conversational – most of all, be yourself!

    For example, if you're asked about your favorite film, don't feel pressured to impress the interviewer with a critically-acclaimed film that isn’t actually your favorite. Your interests, hobbies, and quirks are often the qualities that help you stand out.

    Research Particulars About the School  

    Colleges, especially the Ivies, know students apply to multiple schools. However, they still want to know that you’re genuinely interested in attending their school.   

    Doing school research can help you determine more questions you’d like to ask your interviewer and help you pull specific examples of why you’d be ecstatic to attend.

    Learn more about the school’s history, mission, offerings (clubs/opportunities), and the program you’re applying to.

    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 are conducted via Zoom or another video meeting platform. Here are some virtual Ivy League interview tips for success:

    • Ensure your background is plain and well-lit 
    • A quiet, private space is always best 
    • Plan to be at your computer 15 minutes before the interview 
    • Ensure all your equipment (microphone, webcam) works  

    Also, don’t forget to smile; it’s a small gesture that goes a long way! 

    Common Ivy League Interview Questions

    While there is no standard list of interview questions, there are many that are commonly asked. You don’t need to memorize answers to these questions verbatim, but it’s crucial to think about them and outline how you would answer in advance.   

    Some common interview questions include:  

    • What are you interested in studying?  
    • How did you first become interested in our school?  
    • What are some of your non-academic interests/ hobbies?  
    • What is your favorite book/ movie?  
    • What is an accomplishment you are proud of?  
    • Who is your role model/ inspiration?  
    • How do you want to change the world?  
    • If you could design and teach a course, what would it be about?  
    • Is there anything about you that you think the admissions office should know that you didn't mention in your application?  

    This list isn’t exhaustive, but it gives a great idea of what to expect – knowing how to prepare for an Ivy League interview includes practicing talking about yourself! 

    FAQs: Ivy League Interview

    Still wondering how to prepare for an Ivy League interview? Keep reading to get the answers you’re looking for! 

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

    Yes, it's best practice to send a thank-you note to your interviewer within 24 hours after your interview. Doing so shows professionalism and gratitude!

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

    Not every college requires interviews. Most simply don’t have enough alumni available to do the job. In these cases, applicants aren’t penalized.  

    3.  Do Ivy Interviews Matter? 

    Interviews help you learn more about the school you’re applying to and can help you better position yourself as the ultimate applicant. If you’re offered an alumni interview or can request one, attending is always in your best interest! 

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

    Getting ready for interviews includes learning more about the school/program, preparing questions for your Ivy League interviewer, and outlining your answers to commonly asked questions before interview day.

    5. Do Ivy League Schools Interview All Applicants? 

    Ivy League schools can’t guarantee that every applicant will be offered an interview (mostly due to limited alumni interviewers). However, you won’t be disadvantaged in the admissions process if you’re not offered an interview.

    6. Do Ivy Leagues Require Interviews? 

    Interviews typically aren’t required for most Ivy League programs. 

    Final Thoughts  

    Interviews are an excellent opportunity for applicants to learn more about the college and gain insights. These interviews are more conversational and informational than anything else; however, that doesn’t mean preparing for them isn’t important. 

    Now that you know how to prepare for an Ivy League interview, you can walk into interview day confidently! 

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