Princeton Interview: What Questions to Expect and How to Answer Them

Monday, November 15, 2021

princeton interview

Most interviews can feel a little stressful, and ones for college admissions are no exception, especially for a top-tier college like Princeton University.

With an acceptance rate below 5%, many students are eager to gain a seat at the college, and a strong interview can definitely help applicants stand out for all of the right reasons. So, what does it take to ace the Princeton interview questions and set yourself apart from the pack?

What Is the Princeton Admission Interview Like?

For many high school students, college admissions may be the first time they’re participating in an interview. As a result, students are likely to have a host of questions, from how to get into Princeton to how to ace an interview and stand out for the right reasons.

Every school’s interview process varies, but at Princeton, interviews are 30-45 minute informal conversations where students can ask an alum questions and discuss what matters most to them. The interviews are optional, and applicants won’t be penalized if they choose not to participate in one.

However, that doesn’t mean that interviewing won’t be worthwhile. It can be a great opportunity for students to learn more about Princeton from someone with firsthand knowledge and to demonstrate their expertise on the school.

Does Princeton Interview All Applicants?

Princeton cannot guarantee that every applicant will receive an alumni interview. Princeton’s alumni network strives to contact the vast majority of applicants every year to arrange an interview, but it will depend on the availability of alumni in your area. Interviews take place after the admissions office has received a student’s application, during which time they should look out for an email from Princeton Alumni Schools Committee, inviting them for an interview.

4 Common Princeton Interview Questions & Answers

After you understand the basics of Princeton’s interview process, the next step is getting prepared to ace the questions that may arise during your Princeton interview. The more students prepare and practice their responses ahead of time, the more confident they will feel on the day of their interview. Some common Princeton interview questions and tips for responses include:

Why Princeton?

One of the most common interview questions students can expect is some version of why this college. If you’re asked “Why Princeton” during your Princeton University interview, think of it as your opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of the school and your interest in attending. Strive to reference specific classes you want to take and professors you’re eager to study with to make it clear that you’ve done your research.

If you can mention specific on-campus events, research opportunities, or internship interests, that can make your response even stronger. And whatever you do, avoid citing a superficial reason for wanting to attend Princeton, like you have friends on campus or you’re interested in attending because it’s part of the Ivy League. Your interview will expect something more thoughtful than that.

Describe Three Activities You Did During School

Students should also prepare to respond to questions about what they’re doing outside of the classroom. Given how important extracurriculars are for college, it’s a topic that is likely to be raised during every interview. The best answers will focus on a small handful of pursuits that you are truly passionate about.

To take it to the next level, reference different summer experiences or internships that you’ve participated in to deepen your expertise and don’t forget to mention how you would continue these activities on campus.

Why You Have Chosen This Particular Major

Princeton interview questions will definitely gravitate towards academic commitments and interests. Before your interview, you should reflect on why you’re interested in studying the major you hope to pursue and how this might tie into some of your future career goals. Whenever possible, try to weave in real-life examples and anecdotes that demonstrate your interest in the subject and what you’ve done to broaden your expertise.

This question is another great opportunity to showcase your research skills by mentioning faculty in the major that you’re really interested in studying with or on-campus opportunities that directly relate to your field of study.

What Is Your Proudest Achievement?

Make sure you put a lot of thought into this question before your Princeton alumni interview. Focus less on choosing an achievement that you think “sounds” impressive and more on a learning experience that genuinely made you proud.

That might be acing a test in a subject that really challenges you, launching your own fundraiser for a cause you care about or getting your writing published in the local newspaper. Whatever you choose, aim to connect it back to your overarching goals and the reasons you’re interested in attending Princeton University in the first place.

Princeton Interview Tips 

Practicing and preparing for interviews is one of the best things students can do to set themselves up for success. However, there are a few other pointers that applicants can keep in mind if they’re looking to perform well during their Princeton interview, including:

Form a Discussion

Princeton interviews are meant to be informal and informational, so try to approach it more like you’re having a conversation with an older peer or mentor. Instead of merely responding to what your interviewer asks, make sure you think of some questions you would like to pose to them. Not only will this demonstrate your interest in the school, it will also help the discussion flow more freely and feel more natural.

Talk About Unique Experiences That Set You Apart From the Rest

Since it is an interview, it’s natural to want to do something to stand out. But how can you set yourself apart? Brainstorm some unique experiences, facts about yourself, and qualities that you want your interviewer to know, and try to work these into your conversation. We all have differences that make us unique, so take the time to identify yours and draw attention to them in a positive way.

Smile and Be Polite

Make sure you’re well versed in proper interview etiquette before you schedule your conversation with an alum. Don’t forget to thank your interviewer for their time, arrive at your chosen destination a few minutes early, and smile throughout your conversation. While there’s no need to dress formally, make sure to choose a polished outfit that makes you feel both comfortable and confident.

Display Additional Achievements

Don’t be shy about your achievements. Interviews are an excellent opportunity to reference accomplishments you might not have mentioned before, just make sure you work them into the conversation so it doesn’t sound like you’re reading off of your resume. While you want to highlight your achievements, don’t forget that this is still an interview format, so you need to frame your responses so that they are answering what your interviewer is asking you.

Now that you know what to expect out of your interview with Princeton, it is time to prepare for it. Learn more tips and best practices with our ultimate guide to college admissions interviews.

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