What does it really take to get into the Ivy League? Part VIII: Interviews4 min read

This is the foliage of destiny.

So, by this point you’ve made the grades, taken the tests, done the extracurriculars, gotten your recommendations, written your essays, and sent the whole thing off to the school of your dreams. You’re done, right? Not so fast. You might have to do an interview.

What do I say? How do I act? What do I wear?!! The questions scream through your by now exhausted brain. Never fear, all will become clear in this eighth (!) installment of What does it really take to get into the Ivy League? 

To begin with, not everyone gets an interview, so you might not even have to deal with this. Don’t worry if you don’t get an interview – Columbia didn’t interview me and I got in, while Princeton did interview me (and it went really well) and I didn’t get in. If a school does choose to interview you, you should consider it to be a good sign – it means they’re seriously considering you, and you’re pretty high up on their list of possible freshmen. If you don’t get an interview, it doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in you. They might not have someone available near where you live, or they might have already decided to accept you. Who knows?

When I did my interview for Princeton, I was invited to the home of a Princeton alumnus living in my hometown, and we basically just chatted for a while, mostly about my accomplishments and all the stuff I included in my application and essay. I also brought a recording of a piece of music I wrote, which I believe made a nice impression. Overall, he was very friendly and it went very smoothly. If you follow a few basic guidelines and adhere to common sense, I see no reason why your interview should be any different.

To begin with, wear business casual clothing – no jeans or t-shirts – to show that you take the interview seriously. When you arrive, smile and shake the interviewer’s hand, and ask them how they’re doing. Your interviewer will then introduce him/herself and start asking you questions, such as: “Why do you want to go to this school?” “What makes you a good candidate for going to this school?” “What are your interests?” “What are your dreams?” etc. He or she may ask you to explain a concept that has to do with one of your interests, or tell a story about something you put on your application.

You’ll be ready for your Charlie Rose appearance before you know it.

The key is to talk about how great you are without sounding like you’re boasting, and to sound intelligent and articulate as you converse. Try to come up with a few stories about impressive things you have done: how you won an award, how you got elected president of math club, how you organized a fundraiser, how you played a concerto with an orchestra, etc. Also, remember, you get to talk about whatever it is that interests you most, so you’re on your home turf, so to speak. If you stick to topics you know and care a lot about, you’re bound to sound intelligent, passionate, and dedicated.

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You might try practicing for the interview with a friend or parent. Just have them ask you the above questions and talk about your accomplishments. Most of this will all be stuff that you’ve already included in your application, so it should all be fresh in your mind. Just relax, and try to be the most polite, friendly, and polished version of yourself that you can be.

After the interview (if there is an interview), that’s it. You just have to sit tight and wait for that envelope in the mail to arrive. Next time on What does it really take to get into the Ivy League?, I will do my best to provide you with a convenient checklist summarizing all of the preceding posts. Until next time, keep studying!

This post is part of a series. Other posts in this series include:

What does it really take to get into the Ivy League? Part I: Grades

What does it really take to get into the Ivy League? Part II: PSAT, SAT, and ACT

What does it really take to get into the Ivy League? Part III: AP, IB, and SAT II Exams

What does it really take to get into the Ivy League? Part IV: Extracurriculars

What does it really take to get into the Ivy League? Part V: Essays

What does it really take to get into the Ivy League? Part VI: Recommendations

What does it really take to get into the Ivy League? Part VII: Application Strategy

What does it really take to get into the Ivy League? Part VIII: Interviews

What does it really take to get into the Ivy League? Part IX: Checklist

What does it really take to get into the Ivy League? Part X: Epilogue

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