The college interview is always difficult and nerve-wracking, which means that you’ll want to prepare, and looking over Yale interview questions and expertly written sample answers is one of the best ways to do that. Yale isn't one of the , so you will need to prepare and plan as much as possible.
Because you're exploring , in this article, we will look at several Yale interview questions which were put to candidates in a recent year. Variations, an example answer, and a breakdown of the answering strategy are provided for each of these questions. Applying these elements to your own answers will be key to preparing for your Yale interview, so we have included several additional questions you can use for practice!
“You are applying to our Engineering program. Can you reflect on your experiences in your English classes?”
- “Tell us about something that doesn’t come very naturally to you.”
- “Tell us about a time you found a thing you love, such as [your subject in school] to be difficult for you.”
Getting ready for your college interview? Learn about 8 great prep strategies in this video:
What is this question asking?
This question will be phrased differently based on what the admissions committee perceives your strengths to be. If it comes up, it is intended to probe how you handle adversity and how you react when you are out of your element. This is why the question might be phrased to include something you don’t like – English classes for the Engineering student, for example – or something you do like, but had a hard time in.
The key to answering this question is to recognize that this is the perfect time to show off your problem-solving skills and how you deal with pressure, and to allow yourself some humanizing touches of vulnerability. You don’t have to present as a superhuman who is never frustrated. In fact, talking about frustrations can be sympathetic if you aren’t dwelling on the negative. Instead, show how you handle frustration in a mature, logical, and determined way to showcase your perseverance and coping ability.
I struggle a lot in English classes. It’s not the basics that bother me, although I do make the occasional spelling mistake; what I find hardest is expressing what I need to say.
Studying poetry, I was almost overwhelmed by the symbolism and how you need to read between the lines so much to understand the metaphors and the themes and so forth, but the longer the course went on, the more I realized that that wasn’t really the issue. I “got” the poems, but I had a problem expressing myself, so when it came time to talk about the deeper meaning in class or in an essay, I would freeze up, I wouldn’t be able to find the right words, or I just couldn’t seem to communicate it effectively. I figured this out in a long conversation with my teacher, and she eventually said that I just needed to get a little better at expressing myself.
So – I’m a logical person – with this knowledge in hand, I wrote down elements of communication and made a list of aspects I would need to cover, like vocabulary, clarity, and structure. I started using an app I downloaded, which helped with active voice and gave thesaurus prompts. I also found a classmate who was always was very insightful in class discussions, and I just bluntly asked this person for help. She generously coached me in being able to quickly, confidently state my opinions and back them up.
I guess, in the end, I took a kind of scientific approach to English, but it worked for me, and my grades got a lot better. Importantly, because I was able to think more expressively and express myself more thoughtfully, I wound up enjoying that class a lot more as a result.
“Pick an influential person in your life, like a teacher, mentor, or coach, and tell me about them.”
- “Tell me about somebody influential in your life.”
- “Tell me about a role model of yours – somebody who has had a direct influence on you.”
What is this question asking?
The interviewer wants to hear about the qualities you value and why you value them, as well as how you have grown in your studies, pursuits, or personal life. By asking about an ideal of yours, or somebody who has brought you through a period of growth, the interviewer gets to hear about where your goals and aspirations lie.
The question’s phrasing might slightly change your answer. They might be asking about a person you know or a more general role model. Be prepared for either. This is the difference between talking about your physics teacher, who finally made the way atom smashers work “click” in your mind, and talking about Alexandre Dumas and how his novels made you want to be a historical fiction writer.
In either case, stay focused on your goals:
- Show your ideals.
- Show how you have grown and reshaped yourself and your goals.
- Show how you have been brought through difficulties or learned valuable lessons.
Need more strategies to increase your chances of getting into an Ivy League school? Check this infographic:
My English teacher, Erik Stevenson, was one of those people who seemed to have been born with tweed patches on his elbows and a pipe instead of a pacifier. In Mr. Stevenson’s class, I did not start off as a particularly good student. If he was born to teach, I was not born to learn. Well, one day, he took me aside and asked why I was sleeping in class and that kind of thing, and I went off on a tirade about how dull it all was. When I said I didn’t want to learn about stuff in old books, Mr. Stevenson asked what I did like, and I said movies and superheroes. Before I could say much more, he cut me off.
“Superheroes? Oh, that’s just the classics with muscles,” he said.
Mr. Stevenson liked comic books. He had a Superman collection that would have filled a library. What he liked about them, and what he showed me, was that they were mythological. They were the old stories redone. Our concepts of heroism and virtue have always been communicated through legends and myths, and now we do it with comics. What I really learned from Mr. Stevenson – well, there were two things.
First, I got excited about the applicability of the classics to older literature. I became a much more attentive and astute student because I started to look for applicability, and this quest made me forget that I once thought of these books as stuffy and “boring.”
Second, I learned that my interests had value, but that I was underappreciating them. In other words, Mr. Stevenson showed me that comic books and superheroes didn’t make me immature, but that I was reading these things in an immature way, you see. I was just seeing the muscles, and not the mythology. Mr. Stevenson respected what I loved but also showed me how to be more deliberate, careful, and thoughtful about the media I consumed.
I guess, in the end, I also learned from Mr. Stevenson the incredible value of just being a good, attentive student, because I would have missed out on this appreciation for both old and new stories if I didn’t wake up and pay attention; I never slept in his classes again, not because of threats or bad grades, but because he recognized what I really needed – a way to become actively interested. Isn’t that something? I can’t repay him for all of that – not ever.
“What do you do in your spare time?”
- “What are your hobbies or interests?”
- “What do you do for fun?”
- “What kinds of things do you like to do outside of school?”
What is this question asking?
This is a fairly straightforward question very similar to “tell me about yourself,” just more focused on the personal side. The interviewer wants to know about who you are as an individual. Students tend to define themselves in large part by what they are studying, so this question wants to see the rest of that definition.
This is a great time to show passion for something that really interests you. It won’t matter if this activity is closely related to your desired field of study or something completely different, as long as it is of interest to you.
Make sure that you can talk in an engaging manner about your pursuits, or they might be perceived as shallow interests without real substance. Go into some depth on the subject to showcase valuable qualities within yourself.
Some examples of what to highlight:
Hunting is something that I seem to have less time for now but that I still love. Anytime I get an opportunity to go, I take it. It’s hard with school, but I usually manage one or two trips a year, and always with my dad.
Dad has been taking me hunting since I was about fourteen. At the time, he was a bit worried about how I’d react to actually shooting an animal, although he didn’t mention it. He didn’t have to worry because we didn’t see a deer – or even a squirrel – that year. Moreover, hunting was always mainly about spending time with my dad. Even if we’re being quiet in a blind, it doesn’t matter. There we are, hunters – like our ancestors – and I feel that connection to him, and to past generations.
I’m very thankful for those connections because I spend a lot of time online – virtual school and studying or chatting with friends. That’s fine but being connected to the natural world and to humans and humanity – that’s so important to me.
Of all the things hunting has taught me – patience while we wait for ages, often fruitlessly; the importance of trying again day after day; the discipline of maintaining our tools; and the respect for our place in the natural world – I think connection is the most important.
Below, we have provided a list of additional questions that you can practice with. Some of these questions are very, very common, and others less so. Some will be about your academics, while some will be about your personal life or ideals. Some will be about past accomplishments, while others will address future dreams and plans. You must be ready for any of them and more.
We encourage you to learn the substance – what your interviewer will ask you about – and not to memorize rote answers. We also encourage you to practice with mock interviews, available from services. These will mimic the interview process perfectly, including any curveball questions, unexpected follow-up questions, and everything else that goes along with that challenging experience.
- If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would you pick?
- What are the three books you would take with you to a desert island?
- Why did you choose the program you are interested in?
- What do you hope to accomplish with your degree?
- What does an ideal career look like for you?
- Why should we pick you?
- What makes you unique among all the applicants?
- What is a book you have read recently that you really enjoyed or really hated?
- If you couldn’t study [what you’re applying for], what would be your second choice?
With this abundance of and at your fingertips, you’re in a great position to prepare yourself for your interview. Further preparation should include studying in your field, anticipation of outside-the-box questions, and of course, a mock interview or two. Don’t leave the interview to chance – take the opportunity to show off how great a candidate you really are!
1. How long should my answers be?
There is no formal limit. Try to get your answers down to under three minutes, generally.
2. What interview format does Yale use?
Interviews are one-on-one, conducted by Yale alumni or senior students of the school.
3. What if I don’t get an interview?
Don’t worry! Yale interviews are not required. Rather, the admissions committee prioritizes meeting with students from whom they require more information. Just because you didn’t get a call for an interview at Yale doesn’t mean you won’t be accepted.
4. Can I request an interview?
No. Yale – or a student, alumna, or alumnus – will contact you if they want an interview.
5. Why does Yale ask for interviews?
They ask for interviews if they feel that they need more information. Maybe there is a part of your application that they find particularly intriguing, but they need to know more to understand that section fully.
6. How long do the interviews take?
It varies from interview to interview, but it’s best to block off a large amount of time, in case the interview runs a bit long. Expect at least thirty minutes to an hour, possibly more.
7. Should I memorize my answers?
No. Memorized answers don’t sound natural. Furthermore, due to the breadth of potential questions, follow-up questions, and variations, it would be impossible to anticipate every eventuality, anyway.
8. Does receiving an interview mean I’m at an advantage? A disadvantage? If they are not required, how important are they, really?
First and foremost, you should consider every aspect of your application to be of utmost importance. Nothing should be blown off when it comes to applications.
Second, you shouldn’t worry if you do or don’t get an interview. Put in the effort to make a great application, trust that it’s great, and let the admissions committee handle the rest.