Priya Desai 5 min read 12th Grade, College Interview

Princeton Interview: What It’s Like + My Experience

Like many other selective schools, Princeton offers applicants the opportunity to interview with one of its alumni. Your chances of getting an interview depend on the number of available alumni in your area, although historically, the school does try to ensure that every applicant has the chance to interview. Like most other schools, Princeton stresses that candidates who don’t receive one are at no disadvantage whatsoever in the application process. 

 

Here at CollegeVine, our official advice is that if you do receive this opportunity, you should definitely take it! Alumni interviews are a great way for you to showcase your personality during the admissions process, and are a fantastic means of getting your school-specific questions answered from someone who has been in your shoes and had the experience of attending the university. 

 

These interviews are not overly formal, intimidating hurdles for applicants to jump through – rather, these are 30 to 45-minute informal conversations meant to help you feel more in tune with the school. Princeton does not offer on-campus interviews; instead, in-person interviews will be located near you, perhaps at a coffee shop or a local high school. A large number of these interviews take place on the phone or via a video chat application, as this allows the alumni to reach a greater number of applicants. 

 

I interviewed with Princeton during my application cycle – although I was ultimately not accepted, going through the interview process shed a lot of insight on what to expect and what the alumni are looking for from candidates, and I am excited to share what I learned to prospective Tigers!

 

How is Covid-19 Impacting Princeton University Interviews?

 

For this application cycle, all Princeton interviews will be virtual, taking place via video chat or phone. Check out our blog article on virtual interviews for expert tips on navigating the interview process during these unprecedented times.

 

Setting Up Your Princeton University Interview

 

I applied Regular Decision to Princeton and was contacted about the alumni interview via email in February. The email was from Princeton’s undergraduate admissions office and contained the contact information of the alumni that would contact me to set up the interview. 

 

A day later, I received an email from this alumni, who indicated they were in New Jersey and that they would call me for a telephone interview.  Since I was on the West Coast, we were unable to meet in person and had to be very explicit about time and indicating time zones. I responded back with my availability and we settled on a date two days from the email, so the process was a lot more fast-paced than I anticipated.

 

What the Princeton University Interview is Like

 

I remember being nervous for the interview, but it ended up being extremely casual and conversational. We introduced ourselves and then the alumni asked me questions about my extracurricular involvements, hobbies, and favorite book. Because I was in a cultural club, I discussed my contribution to my high school’s annual International Food Fair event, which sparked a fun conversation about the similarities between my culture and her culture’s respective cuisines. 

 

For the favorite book question, I remember giving the name of a book I had read for class, which in retrospect, may not have been the best decision. Rather, I would advise you to be honest and discuss a novel that might not necessarily be award-winning, textbook literature, but is still mentally stimulating. Whether or not the interviewer knows the book, leave them with a perspective on specific parts of it that will make you a more memorable candidate.

 

My interviewer slightly surprised me by asking about my high school experience and what I was most proud of. I gave an answer about my personal growth that I now realize was a bit too general. You can start with a broader response, but then try to hone in on a specific example. For instance, if you’re most proud of your commitment to your religious community, you could give an example of a fundraiser or service initiative you started at your local place of worship. Like on your application or in your essays, give a quantitative idea of your impact – how much money did you raise? How many people were you able to help through your initiative?

 

The interviewer also asked me some Princeton-related questions, such as whether or not I had visited campus. This question is key in establishing your interest in the school; however, visiting is not feasible for everyone, especially if you live across the country. In my case, since I hadn’t visited, I mentioned that I had taken virtual tours. I would suggest doing this and taking note of any parts of campus that stood out to you, as this could make for an excellent conversation starter. They also asked me what I was looking forward to, something I was unable to answer specifically as I had not done research. A stellar answer to this question would involve specific people, places, and events specific to the school that you look forward to engaging with. 

 

Another key portion of the interview is when the alum asks if you have any questions for them. Unfortunately, I was feeling shy and only asked about their favorite part of attending Princeton, which didn’t spark much follow-up and the interview ended up being only 20-25 minutes long. For questions, I suggest asking things that indicate that you’ve done your research; for example, asking about lesser-known traditions or campus spots. Asking about their favorite or least favorite parts of their college experience can be a good kickoff, but you need to have more in-depth queries that allow for a deeper discussion. Here are more ideas of questions to ask your interviewer.

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Tips for the Princeton University Interview

 

In retrospect, my interview experience coupled with my current knowledge of college admissions has allowed me to formulate some tips for students in the upcoming application cycle. For one, I suggest doing your research! This means more than a cursory Google search or a minute-long perusal of the website (that may or may not have been my approach).

 

Take a virtual campus tour and really reflect on where you would see yourself at the college, look into different departments and their respective internship opportunities. If you’re interested in trying to study abroad or joining a specific club, make sure you know enough about the program to discuss it for at least two minutes. 

 

Come prepared with questions for the interviewer that express a genuine desire to learn more about their experience and the school, and be prepared for tangential discussions rather than a strict question-answer interview style. 

 

While interviews are considered for Princeton, they are by no means a large part of your admissions decision. Your grades, recommendations, tests scores and essay all hold much higher precedence, so don’t sweat it if your interview isn’t the best conversation you’ve ever had. A good interview will certainly give you a small leg up in the process, but a bad one won’t necessarily strike you from the applicant pool (unless it’s truly bad, i.e. you said something offensive). Just do your research, be yourself, and the rest will come naturally!

 

If you have more questions about the college admissions process, check out our free Q&A forum. You can ask any college-related questions, and get answers from peers and verified experts. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account to get started!

 

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Priya Desai
Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Priya has been working at CollegeVine for two years in various capacities, including mentoring students, editing hundreds of essays, and creating blog content. She has also interned in healthcare consulting. She is extremely grateful for all the help she received as an applicant and wants to pay it forward by demystifying the admissions process for others.