Princeton Interview Questions: Expert Tips & Sample Answers

handshake at an interview
April 26, 2024
8 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/26/24

Stressing about your Princeton interview? This guide will tell you how to ace this application component and provide you with sample Princeton interview questions and answers to help you prepare!

Princeton University campus

Several colleges allow students to interview with a committee member to learn more about the school and share more about themselves. Princeton is one of the many universities that offer an interview in the application process, alongside other materials like supplemental essays and letters of recommendation. 

Whether you’ve already decided to complete this interview or have yet to submit your Princeton application, you may be wondering how to leave a good impression on your interviewer. This guide will provide you with the answers you seek and break down how to respond to the Princeton interview questions!

Princeton Interview Questions and Answers

While you can certainly still gain admission to Princeton without an interview, completing one can increase your chances by giving the committee the most comprehensive picture of you. To ensure you wow them with your responses, take the time to prepare for your interview!

The questions you’ll be asked during your Princeton interview will depend on the alumni member you’re speaking with, but you can expect to be asked the following types of questions.

Questions Relating to Your High School Experience

Considering the interviewer is trying to learn more about you, you’ll likely be asked at least a couple of questions about aspects of your application, such as interesting extracurriculars or more general questions about your high school experience.

For instance, you may be asked something along the lines of “what was your proudest achievement in high school?”

How to Answer

You should put a lot of thought into your answer to this question. There are likely several accomplishments that you’re proud of, so choosing just one to discuss can be challenging! 

It’s important to share a genuine achievement rather than creating an unrealistic accomplishment you think will impress your interviewer. Focus less on the wow factor of your accomplishment and more on why you’re proud of it and the impact it had on you or others. 

Consider this sample answer as you brainstorm ideas:

“During my sophomore year of high school I adopted a black cat that someone surrendered to my local animal shelter. After asking more about Midnight, I learned she had been there for three years and such occurrences were common with black cats due to the stigma around them. 

After doing more research into the topic, I learned that black cats have the highest euthanasia rate and make up the largest percentage of cats in shelters. Black dogs also have a hard time being adopted because they do not photograph well.

Combining my growing love for Midnight, the sweetest pet I’ve owned, with my existing passion for animals, I decided to join my school’s animal rights club and offer some suggestions on how our school could address the various issues shelter animals face. 

However, I soon found out my school didn’t have an animal activist club and took it upon myself to start one. Within a semester I was able to assemble a passionate team of over 20 of my schoolmates and two teachers. 

My proudest accomplishment within our club was raising almost $10,000 through several bake sales and fundraisers to be donated to our local shelter to hire a groomer and professional photographer to ensure the pets looked their best!

I still stay in contact with the adoption coordinator, and she updates me whenever a black pet is adopted. She told me their adoptions have increased significantly because of our efforts!”

Personal Questions

You can also expect the interviewer to ask you personal questions that are unrelated to your academics or Princeton. One popular question admissions committees like to ask is, “What is your favorite book?”

How to Answer

Your answer to these questions should be relatively straightforward. Be honest, reflective, and specific! Ensure you choose a book that is appropriate for your age level. Name the book, offer a quick summary, and explain what it taught you. Your answer should look similar to this:

“My all-time favorite novel would have to be Obasan by Joy Kogawa. The novel revolves around a child’s experience with the Japanese-Canadian internment camps.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book because it sheds light on a dark part of history that is often overlooked in our textbooks. It was the first time I heard about the real prosecution of thousands of people that occurred only a few decades ago. 

The story grapples with the definition of humanity and draws thought-provoking parallels between the inhumane treatment of Japanese-Canadians to the similar treatment and of inferior animals, such as cattle, chickens, and even insects.

It ultimately suggests simply being a human does not constitute humanity—a concept that has given me a new perspective on past and present oppression.”

Questions to Gauge Your Interest in Princeton

Your interviewer might also ask questions relating to your interest in Princeton and your reason for applying. You may be asked what you’re looking forward to the most at Princeton, or more generally, “Why Princeton?”

How to Answer

The only way to properly answer this Princeton interview question is to do your research! Do not simply peruse the internet for a couple of minutes or just briefly read over the school’s main page. 

Take time to create a targeted response to this question. Consider what your goals are, the program you hope to join, and what makes Princeton unique. Your answer will vary depending on these factors, but here’s a good example to inspire you:

“A major draw to Princeton is the comprehensive research experience it offers its undergraduate students. As someone who plans on eventually completing a PhD in Psychology, developing my research, analytical, and writing skills early into my education will benefit me greatly.

Knowing I’ll be required to write a senior thesis during my undergraduate degree at Princeton excites me, as not many undergrads are given this opportunity! 

I have already begun thinking about possible topics to center my paper on, such as the pervasiveness of advertising on the mental health and development of young adults. 

I know that Princeton, as a world-class research facility, can provide me with the support and tools to carry out this research and make significant contributions to the school community and beyond.”

Situational Questions

You may be asked to describe a specific situation and how you dealt with it. Interviewers ask questions like this to get an example of how you approach difficult situations, as your past actions suggest how you will behave in the future. 

Examples of situational questions include, “Tell me about a time you failed/made a mistake/overcame an obstacle.” They may also be relationally based; for example, “When did you disagree or have a conflict with a coworker or friend, and how did you resolve it?”

How to Answer

A common technique for answering a situational or story-based question is to use the “STAR” approach: 

  • Situation: Describe the context and the situation at hand. 
  • Task: What needed to be done? What was the goal, and what was preventing you from achieving that goal? 
  • Action: Give details on the actions you took to resolve the problem and why you took them. 
  • Result: How did your actions help resolve the situation? Is there anything you would change if faced with a similar situation now? 

Here’s an example answer for a situational question about making a mistake: 

"I believe in acknowledging your mistakes, learning from them and attempting to correct them. My first job was working as a barista at a coffee shop. One day, after preparing a customer's drink, I realized that I had used whole milk instead of soy milk like they had asked. They may not have noticed the difference, but I knew my error could have a negative effect on their experience.

I immediately informed my manager, made a fresh drink with soy milk and apologized to the customer for the delay. They were pleased, and it impressed my manager that I had done the right thing. From that point forward, I paid particular attention to customers' requests for specific ingredients.”

Female student interviewing at Princeton

How to Get an Interview at Princeton

Fortunately, all you have to do to land an interview at Princeton is apply for admission. Every student is given the opportunity to interview with an alumni member. Students are highly encouraged to take advantage of this additional application material to ensure the committee has a full picture of who they are and what they can offer!

The Princeton University interview will also give you a chance to ask questions to get to know the place you plan on calling home for the next few years a little bit better!

The Princeton Interview Process

Unless students opt out of the Princeton admissions interview on their supplemental application, the committee will attempt to interview every applicant. Once you’ve submitted your application, you will likely receive an invite to interview with a member of the Princeton Alumni Schools Committee. 

Your alumni member will be assigned to you based on your location, which means there’s a chance you won’t be interviewed if there are limited members available near you. Rest assured, if this is the case, your application will still be considered equally, and you will not be disadvantaged.

If there is an alumni member available to interview you, you can expect your interview to last around 30–40 minutes. These interviews may be virtual or in-person and are meant to be informal conversations where you can discuss what’s important to you and ask someone who attended Princeton questions about the school.

The interviewer’s comments will be reviewed with your application and may help the committee make a more informed decision on your candidacy.

How to Prepare for the Princeton Interview

Now that you have a better idea of what you might be asked during your Princeton alumni interview and how to create impressive responses, you should also keep the following tips in mind. This will ensure you’re adequately prepared for your alumni interview at Princeton:

Do Your Research

As we’ve already stated, you should do thorough research about Princeton before you begin your interview. Dip deeper than the superficial feats and facts you can find out about the school through a quick Google search. Impress the interviewer with information that clearly took time to find.

You will also likely be given the name of your interviewer before your interview. See if you can find anything out about them! Use resources like LinkedIn and Princeton’s Alumni Board to learn about any significant advancements in their career. Mention these accomplishments during your interview!

Review Your Application

Go over your application before your interview to ensure you know exactly what you shared on it. Decide what you’d like to expand on and what’s missing from your application that’s important for the committee to know.

Prepare Your Own Questions

At the end of the interview, you’ll be asked if you have any questions for the alumni members. Try to ask at least one or two insightful questions about the school or their experience at Princeton. This will demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm to join Princeton.  


We’ve given you a general idea of the types of questions to expect during your interview, but there’s really no telling what your interviewer will ask. To avoid any surprises, create a list of at least two to three questions they may ask in each category and jot down some ideas for your responses.

You don’t have to memorize your answers to each question. In fact, doing so puts you at risk of sounding robotic or ingenuine. Instead, have a good understanding of the points on or off of your application that you want to highlight and what you want further clarification on!

Make a Good Impression

Aside from giving strong answers, there are some ways to make a good impression on your interviewer. First off, remember to dress appropriately for your interview. You should aim for a business casual look to appear professional and put-together. 

It’s also good interview etiquette to send a personalized thank-you note after the interview. This shows that you paid attention during the interview and that you’re grateful for the opportunity to expand on your application and learn more about Princeton.

Finally, don’t forget to smile and be friendly! To leave a strong impression, you’ll want to connect well with your interviewer. There’s no better way to start building a relationship than with a smile. 

Female student shaking hands with male Princeton interviewer

FAQs: Interview at Princeton

For any unanswered questions about how to prepare for the Princeton interview, read on to find your answers!

1. Does Getting a Princeton Interview Mean Anything?

No, interviews do not signify that you have made it to the next round of the application cycle. Princeton attempts to interview every applicant. If you get an interview, it only means there was a nearby alumni member available to meet with you either in person or virtually! 

2. Does Princeton Interview Everyone?

Princeton tries to interview as many applicants as it can. However, some students opt out of the interview, and others may not have any committee members available in their area.

3. How Much Does the Princeton Interview Matter?

Since the interview is optional, it won’t necessarily make or break your application. Opting out of it won’t put you at a disadvantage, but completing it can offer you the opportunity to expand on your application or provide missing information that could sway the committee in your favor if you already have a strong application.

4. How Do You Ace the Princeton Interview?

To ace the Princeton interview, create insightful and genuine responses to each question. Avoid getting hung up on the impressiveness of your answer and focus more on being descriptive and sharing your talents, aspirations, and interests.

Let your personality shine through and prepare for your interview by brainstorming potential questions, listing the details you want to bring up during the interview, and researching Princeton and your interviewer thoroughly!

5. How Long Is the Interview at Princeton?

Your interview should be around 30–40 minutes long, depending on the questions.

Final Thoughts

Interviews are nerve-wracking for even the most confident speakers! Keep the sample Princeton interview questions, answers, and suggestions shared in this guide in mind as you prepare for your Princeton interview to make it as hassle-free and enjoyable as possible!

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