Ivy League interview questions center on getting to know you better as a candidate and on giving you the chance as an applicant to ask questions about the school. Ivy League interviews are conducted by school alumni, so it is a fantastic opportunity to ask questions and gather information. Whether you’re looking for the easiest Ivy League school to get into or want to know how to help your child get into an Ivy League school, you should be prepared for the possibility of an interview. In this blog, we’ll look at how Ivy League schools use the interview process, interview questions from all the Ivy schools and how to prepare for an Ivy League interview.

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14 min read

How Ivy League Schools Approach Interviews Brown Columbia Cornell Dartmouth Harvard UPenn Princeton Yale How to Prepare for an Ivy League Interview More Common Ivy League Interview Questions FAQs

What to Expect for Ivy League Interview Questions

Ivy League schools use the interview process as a way to get to know applicants better, like most colleges in the US. However, there are some key differences in an Ivy League interview.

First, there has been a shift towards virtual interviews or video interviews, with some schools even asking students to submit a video in place of an interview.

Second, interviews at Ivy schools are also conducted on a volunteer basis by alumni, to give students a chance to learn more about the college’s experience and ask questions of their own. Alumni then write a report that is added to an applicant’s file, but do not give recommendations on acceptance or rejection. So, your interview does not have the final say in whether an Ivy school accepts you or not. Your interview is a chance to have a conversation with someone who attended the school you want to attend, have a conversation and broaden your application.

How important are interviews at Ivy League schools?

If you’re offered an interview at an Ivy League school, accept it! It is an opportunity for YOU to ask questions as well as share vital extra information about yourself with the admissions committee. If you’re wondering how to get into an Ivy League school as an international student, your interview will not be the most important part of your application, but it can certainly help you learn more about the school, so accept a virtual invite if you receive one!

If you’re not invited to interview, this will not count against you or determine whether you get in or not. Not all Ivy League applicants are extended interviews, in fact very few are due to the high number of applicants and low number of interviewers. There simply isn’t enough time to interview everyone.

So while your interview at any Ivy League school is important, remember that it is being used for informational purposes, not necessarily a make-or-break evaluation of your candidacy. Be sure to look up the instructions for interviews at each particular school.

Next, we’ll look at some of the interview questions and processes of each Ivy League school.

Ivy League Interview Questions: Brown

Brown University has shifted away from alumni interviews to video interviews. In a two-minute video submission, applicants can share who they are and why they want to attend Brown. This should expand on your application materials and share new information, instead of restating any items from your Brown essay or personal statement.

Brown stresses being creative and personal. There are no specific requirements for the video in terms of format or topic, so it is entirely up to you. Think of this video introduction as a way to answer the very common “tell me about yourself” college interview question, in a fun and creative way.

Admissions at Brown recommends you dress casually, as you would for a school event, and provide a brief introduction with your name and the name of your high school. It’s also a good idea to double check your video and audio quality before submission.

Ivy League Interview Questions: Columbia

Columbia University uses alumni interviews, both virtual and in-person. The school will contact you directly if you are selected for an interview, however, not all students will be interviewed. Students who do not get invited for an interview are not placed at a disadvantage.

Here are some sample Columbia interview questions:

  • What 3 adjectives describe you best and why?
  • Describe your most satisfying accomplishment.
  • Do you think your grades are a good indication of your academic achievements?
  • What qualifications do you have that will make you successful in your chosen career?
  • How would you describe the ideal job for you following graduation?

Sample Interview Answer

"What 3 adjectives describe you best and why?"

I would describe myself as curious. I have an insatiable thirst for knowledge and a genuine desire to explore new ideas and concepts. This curiosity has led me to pursue diverse interests and engage in a wide range of academic and extracurricular activities. I believe that curiosity is the driving force behind intellectual growth and innovation, as it pushes me to ask questions, seek answers, and never settle for complacency. Secondly, I consider myself adaptable. Life is full of unexpected changes and challenges, and being able to adapt is crucial for personal and academic growth. I have experienced situations where I needed to adjust my approach, whether it was adapting to new environments, collaborating with diverse teams, or facing unforeseen obstacles. I embrace change and view it as an opportunity to learn, grow, and expand my horizons. Lastly, I am persistent. When faced with obstacles or setbacks, I don't easily give up. I have learned that true success often requires perseverance and resilience. I approach challenges with a determined mindset, constantly seeking solutions and strategies to overcome them. I believe that by maintaining a positive attitude and a strong work ethic, I can push through difficulties and achieve my goals.

Ivy League Interview Questions: Cornell

Cornell University does not use admissions interviews for most of its undergraduate majors. Your Cornell essays are typically the way through which the admissions committee will get to know you personally and evaluate you. The only majors who are required to formally answer Cornell interview questions are applicants to the College of Architecture, and they must schedule an interview online. Fine Arts applicants can also choose to schedule an interview.

Otherwise, all other applicants to Cornell can schedule a meeting with an alumni through the Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador Network to ask questions about the Cornell experience. These are 100% informative and are not evaluated in any way.

Sample Interview Answer

Question from the Cornell College of Architecture: "Why are you interested in architecture?"

Architecture, to me, is a form of art that transcends its aesthetic appeal. It has the power to shape and transform communities, enhance functionality, and evoke emotions. I am captivated by the ability of architecture to create spaces that not only serve a practical purpose but also inspire and connect individuals on a profound level. One aspect of architecture that particularly fascinates me is its inherent problem-solving nature. Architects are tasked with analyzing complex spatial, environmental, and social factors to design structures that harmoniously integrate with their surroundings while fulfilling the needs and aspirations of the people who will use them. I am inspired by the potential of architecture to contribute to a sustainable and resilient future. With the pressing global challenges of climate change and urbanization, architecture plays a vital role in designing environmentally conscious structures that minimize their ecological footprint and promote sustainable practices. I am committed to being part of this movement, incorporating innovative technologies and sustainable design principles to create buildings that are energy-efficient, socially responsible, and in harmony with nature.

Ivy League Interview Questions: Dartmouth

Like most of the Ivy League schools, Dartmouth University uses alumni interviews. Once you’ve submitted an application, you may receive an invitation to interview. Once again, these are mainly informational and are not the biggest evaluation criteria.

Here are some questions you can expect at a Dartmouth interview:

  • Tell me about your school: courses, teachers, favorite subject, worst subject?
  • Is there a project, paper, lab, etc. that you were especially proud of when you completed it?
  • What are your future plans: college, major, career?
  • What activities are you involved in: which are the most important to you and why?
  • What would your teachers or friends tell us about you?
  • When you envision your ideal college experience, what does that look like?

Sample Interview Answer

"What would your teachers or friends tell us about you?"

My friends would attest to my loyalty and dependability. They would mention that I am always there to support and encourage them, offering a listening ear and providing assistance whenever needed. I value authentic connections and prioritize fostering a sense of camaraderie and inclusivity within my social circles. When it comes to my interactions in the classroom, my teachers would likely commend my active engagement and intellectual curiosity. They would note my enthusiasm for learning, as well as my willingness to go beyond the required curriculum to delve deeper into topics that interest me. Both my friends and teachers would likely emphasize my strong leadership skills. Whether it be through organizing extracurricular activities or taking on leadership roles within school clubs, I actively seek opportunities to grow and develop my full potential and the potential of others. I believe in the power of collaboration and strive to create environments where everyone's voices are heard and valued.

Working on college essays? Check out this video for some stellar examples:

Ivy League Interview Questions: Harvard

For those who want to know how to get into Harvard, it is strongly recommended to accept an interview invitation if an alumni reaches out to you. While not every student will get an invite, Harvard tries to interview as many students as possible, including international students.

Typically, you will be meeting virtually, so choose a quiet space with a neutral background. There is also no formal dress code, so wear something you would wear to a school event.

Here are some Harvard interview questions:

  • What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
  • Tell me about a challenge you encountered recently and how you overcame it?
  • Why are you interested in studying [subject]?
  • What is your ultimate career goal?
  • What will you contribute as a student here?

Sample Interview Answer

"What will you contribute as a Harvard student?"

I would eagerly join programs such as the Phillips Brooks House Association, as I have a strong interest in community service and social justice initiatives. Through the PBHA, I could engage with local communities, contribute to educational programs, and work towards addressing societal challenges. I would actively participate in organizations like the Harvard College Women's Center by engaging in dialogue, organizing events, and advocating for equity, I would contribute to creating a welcoming and inclusive campus environment for all students. I am also very interested in contributing my artistic talents to the vibrant Harvard arts scene through the student-run theatre and music groups.

Ivy League Interview Questions: UPenn

Like most of the Ivy League admissions offices, the University of Pennsylvania stresses that the alumni interviews are relaxed and conversational. In other words, relax and be yourself. Unlike with your UPenn essays, GPA and standardized test scores, you are not being actively evaluated with UPenn interview questions.

While most Ivy League schools aren’t able to offer a majority of students an interview due to very high applicant numbers, UPenn gives around 90% of students an interview. If you apply to UPenn, expect to receive an interview invitation! Remember to use this opportunity to ask questions of your interviewer, and to provide more background information on yourself.

Here are a few examples of UPenn interview questions:

  • Can you tell me a little about yourself?
  • What’s important to you?
  • What are your current academic and/or extracurricular interests?
  • What led you to apply to Penn?
  • What classes, programs, and activities on Penn’s campus are exciting to you?
  • What plans do you have for your future?

Sample Interview Answer

"What led you to apply to Penn?"

Penn's vibrant and dynamic campus community deeply appealed to me. The diversity and inclusivity at Penn create a rich tapestry of perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds. I believe that engaging with a diverse community will not only broaden my worldview but also enable me to learn from and contribute to a multitude of perspectives. The active student organizations, clubs, and events at Penn provide ample opportunities to connect with like-minded individuals and pursue my extracurricular interests alongside my academic pursuits. Penn's commitment to experiential learning also played a significant role in my decision to apply. The emphasis on practical application and hands-on experiences aligns with my belief that true understanding and growth come from actively engaging with real-world challenges. Penn's renowned internship and research opportunities, as well as its strong ties to the surrounding Philadelphia community, provide a platform for meaningful engagement and impactful contributions beyond the classroom.

Ivy League Interview Questions: Princeton

Princeton interview questions for college admissions are designed to get a deeper look into who you are and what makes you unique. If you want to know how to get into Princeton, the answer is that you need to stand out as much as possible from the competitive applicant pool. The interview is a great way to do so, by sharing more about yourself.

Most of the questions you’ll be asked will be open-ended, like “tell us about yourself” or behavioral type questions, such as “have you ever dealt with a difficult team member?” It’s important to know that you can and should rehearse for these types of questions beforehand to keep the interview on track and give strong answers. A college admissions consulting service can be a great resource for college interview prep help or professional feedback on your interviewing skills.

Examples of Princeton interview questions:

  • Why Princeton?
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why are you pursuing [your major]?
  • What do you do in your spare time?
  • How have you dealt with setbacks in the past?

Sample Interview Answer

“How have you dealt with setbacks in the past?”

One instance that stands out is when I faced a significant setback during my junior year of high school. I had been working diligently on a research project for a science competition, investing countless hours and pouring my heart into it. However, despite my efforts, my experiment did not yield the expected results. It was a moment of disappointment and frustration. In response to this setback, I implemented a three-step approach. First, I allowed myself to acknowledge and process my emotions. I recognized that setbacks are a natural part of life and that it was normal to feel disappointed. Next, I engaged in a thorough analysis of the situation. I reviewed my research methodology, consulted with my teachers, and sought feedback from my peers. This process helped me identify potential areas of improvement and gain a deeper understanding of the underlying factors contributing to the setback. By taking a proactive and analytical approach, I transformed the setback into a learning opportunity. Finally, I used the setback as a springboard for personal growth. I reassessed my goals and developed a new plan of action. I sought additional resources and experimented with alternative research approaches. While the setback was disheartening, it fueled my determination to persevere and find a different path to success. Ultimately, I learned valuable lessons from this experience. I discovered the importance of resilience, adaptability, and perseverance in the face of setbacks. It taught me to embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and to approach future endeavors with an open and flexible mindset. The setback not only strengthened my research skills but also nurtured qualities such as resilience, problem-solving, and a positive attitude in the face of adversity.

Ivy League Interview Questions: Yale

Want to know how to get into Yale? Learn what some of the most common Yale interview questions for college admissions are and start practicing your answers.

According to the Yale admissions website, interviewers are looking for 3 qualities in interviewees:

  • Intellectual curiosity
  • Openness to ideas
  • Concerns for others

The design of the interview is to spark interesting conversations and get to know you better, so expect to discuss your interests, hobbies, extracurriculars, meaningful personal experiences and accomplishments. Depending on your interests or intended field of study, the conversation will likely center on related topics or your thoughts and opinions on a particular field. For instance, if you’re applying to a theatre program, expect to talk about playing a role onstage and your favorite shows. If you’re applying for a science degree, you will likely discuss any research you’ve done or competitions you’ve entered.

Here are a few sample questions from Yale University:

  • Reflect either on something that doesn’t come as naturally or a particularly difficult experience in the thing you love.
  • Tell me about influential person in your life.
  • What has made you stick with an interest or hobby for years?
  • What do you do for fun?
  • What do you hope to gain from your undergraduate experience?

Sample Interview Answer

"What do you hope to gain from your undergraduate experience?"

I am excited to engage in vibrant intellectual discourse and collaborative learning opportunities. Yale's renowned faculty and diverse student body create a stimulating environment where ideas are shared and debated. I look forward to engaging in class discussions, participating in research projects, and collaborating with fellow students who bring different perspectives and experiences to the table. I believe that through such exchanges, I will not only enhance my own understanding but also develop strong communication and teamwork skills that will be invaluable in my future endeavors. Another aspect I hope to gain from my undergraduate experience at Yale is personal growth and self-discovery. College is a time of self-exploration and self-definition, and I intend to seize the opportunities provided by Yale to discover new interests, challenge my assumptions, and broaden my horizons. Whether it's through involvement in student organizations, community service, or cultural activities, I aim to step outside my comfort zone and cultivate a sense of empathy, cultural competence, and social responsibility.

How to Prepare for an Ivy League Interview

College interview prep is essential, even if Ivy League interviews seem to be more relaxed and low-pressure. While they are not a huge part of your evaluation, they are important and they are excellent opportunities that should be taken advantage of.

Here are our tips for making the most of your Ivy League interviews and how to prepare for them:

Want more strategies for how to get into Ivy League schools? Check out this infographic:

More Common Ivy League Interview Questions

When it comes to college admissions interview questions, Ivy League schools do not differ that much in terms of what type of questions they will ask you and what information they want to know about you. Use your interview as an opportunity to share any tidbits about yourself that aren’t covered elsewhere in your application, and to ask plenty of questions of the interviewer yourself!

Here are a few questions you may be asked during an Ivy League college interview:

  1. What are you interested in studying and why?
  2. Why did you choose [college]?
  3. How did you first become interested in [college]?
  4. Who is your role model or inspiration?
  5. What accomplishments are you most proud of?
  6. What are some of your non-academic interests or hobbies?
  7. Tell me about where you grew up.
  8. Why do you think you would be a good addition to [college]?
  9. Is there anything else you want the admissions committee to know about you?
  10. Do you have any questions for me?

Ivy League Interview Questions for Your Interviewer

Here are some questions you can ask your interviewer, to get to know the Ivy League school better. Remember that your interviewer will most likely be an alumni of the school you hope to attend, so this is an excellent opportunity to get to know more about the school’s values, culture and opportunities!

  1. Why did you choose [college]?
  2. What did you enjoy most about attending [college]?
  3. What courses were your favorite?
  4. What opportunities should I pursue or clubs I should join at [college]?
  5. How did [college] help you get to where you are today?
  6. What does [college] do well? What does it not do well?
  7. If you could repeat your time here, what would you do differently?
  8. What traits do you think are essential to success at this school?
  9. Can you recommend any books or articles I should read to prepare myself to study here?
  10. What internship or career placement services does the school have?


1. What questions do Ivy League schools ask in an interview?

At an Ivy League school interview, you can expect questions to be more personal and informational. Ivy League universities see the interview as an informational tool, not necessarily an evaluation of your candidacy.

2. Do Ivy League schools use interviews?

Yes, almost all of the Ivy League universities use admissions interviews. However, interviews at Ivy League schools are typically conducted by volunteer alumni so applicants can ask questions and learn more about the school they are applying to. Alumni interviewers also sometimes prepare reports from the interview to add to an applicant’s file, but these do not have a very big effect on admissions decisions.

3. How important is the interview for Ivy League schools?

The interview is not the biggest determining factors in admissions decisions at Ivy League schools. The interview is more of an informational tool used to get to know applicants better and to allow them to get to know the school better, too.

4. How do I prepare for an Ivy League interview?

While there is no rigorous preparation needed for an Ivy League interview, you should come prepared with questions to ask your interviewer about their experience attending the school. You should also be ready to share some information about yourself that you didn’t cover elsewhere in your application. And it goes without saying, be prepared to arrive on time!

5. Who conducts Ivy League interviews?

Alumni volunteer to conduct interviews with applicants on behalf of the school. This way, applicants can talk to someone who attended the school and can speak to the student experience.

6. Are Ivy League interviews all virtual?

There has been a shift towards virtual or video interviews at Ivy League schools in recent years, however, there are still in-person interviews conducted at an applicant’s request and depending on the availability of interviewers.

7. What are Ivy League interviews like?

Ivy League interviews are designed to be informational and conversational. They are conducted by school alumni to allow applicants to learn more about the college experience and ask questions. 

8. Is getting an interview at an Ivy League good?

Yes. Getting an invitation for an Ivy League school is an excellent opportunity you should take advantage of. While students who do not get an invitation are not at any disadvantage, you should accept an interview if you are asked to ask questions about the college experience and share information about yourself not covered elsewhere in your application.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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