Does Princeton Interview Everyone?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Old university building surrounded by trees.

When it comes to students that are trying to get into some of the most competitive and prestigious schools in the United States, such as Harvard, Princeton, or Yale, the question of how to gain an upper hand in the admissions process typically arises.

The truth is that, no matter what you do and how impressive of a student you are, nothing about applying to Princeton is guaranteed. It is an incredibly challenging and daunting task. However, that does not mean that knowledge and tools about the process do not help. For example, a lot of good candidates who get into Princeton are able to improve their standing with the admissions committee by taking part in a positive interview experience. But does Princeton interview everyone?

Young man being interviewed by someone in a room.

An undergraduate admissions interview is a rather rare aspect of the application process across the entire spectrum of colleges and universities in the United States, but they are rather common at top schools – such as the eight schools that make up the Ivy League. These interviews, which are either hosted by members of the school’s alumni or current students at the school, allow applicants to connect with someone directly involved with the school and the admissions process. But we’ll get into the details a little bit later on.

At AdmissionSight, we consider it our primary goal to help the high school students that we work with every single year get into the schools of their dreams. While we are able to help students with many different aspects of the application process, including some important aspects regarding their actual high school education, the most common role that students ask us to fill is that of an admissions consultant. That means offering students the tools and information that they need to improve their chances of getting into the best and most selective schools in the country.

Over the years, our experience and knowledge of how these selective and elite schools carry out their admissions processes have helped our students gain a very real advantage compared to students who decide to go it alone. That is why 75% of the students that we work with end up getting in to an Ivy League school, like Princeton, Yale, or Columbia, or a top ten school that is not in the Ivy League, such as Caltech, the University of Chicago or Stanford.

So, if you are wondering, “Does Princeton give interviews?” or want to know more about what you can expect from the interview process at Princeton, then you have absolutely come to the right place. Let’s break down the important information regarding this unique and exciting aspect of the Princeton application process.

Does Princeton give interviews?

Does Princeton give interviews to undergraduate applicants? The simple answer is yes! Just like many of the top schools in the United States, Princeton’s undergraduate admissions process is incredibly in-depth and holistic.

A holistic admissions process basically means that everything the school gets from an applying student – whether it be the grade point average from their entire high school education (which is of course required) or an art portfolio (which typically is not required) – will be considered. Of course, different components are weighted differently and it is not all equal, but holistic means that everything will be considered in varying levels of importance.

Now, you may be wondering, does Princeton interview all applicants? The answer to that question is actually no! The interview component of a student’s application to Princeton is not required, and sometimes it is not even offered to certain students based on where they live.

Basically, the chances of an applying student getting an application interview have hinged on the number of available alumni in their area. However, Princeton does seem to take the interview aspect quite seriously and has historically made it a priority to ensure that every applicant has the chance to interview if they so choose to take part.

One nice aspect of the major changes that have had to take place in recent years due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is the loosening of the rules regarding virtual interviews. In the past, technology and the ways in which schools approached the interview process made virtual interviews impossible. In recent years, virtual interviews have become a lot more common. This has led a lot more applicants to Ivy League schools and other competitive schools to get the chance to take part in this unique process.

So, if you are planning on applying to Princeton in an upcoming application cycle you may be curious about how you can go about setting up your Princeton University interview. Luckily, the process is quite simple. Whether you are applying via early admissions or regular admissions to Princeton, you can expect to be contacted about an alumni interview via e-mail shortly after you send in your completed application.

The e-mail will be from the school’s undergraduate admissions office and will contain the contact information of the alumni that you can expect to be contacted by to set up the interview. Shortly after that, you can expect to receive an e-mail from that alumni along with details on when and how they will contact you. From there, all you have to do is confirm your availability and interest in the interview process then you will be well on your way to meet – either in person or remotely – your Princeton interviewer.

How much does the Princeton interview matter?

Now that you know the answer to the question, “Does Princeton interview everyone?” is no, and that the interviews themselves are in fact not required, you may be wondering how important these interviews actually are.

Young female student talking to an interviewer in an office.

After all, how much of an impact can something really have if it is not a required aspect of the application process? Well, consider this. When it comes to the interview itself, it is essentially seen as a way for the school to gain more information that the admissions officers at Princeton can utilize to determine whether or not you would be a good fit at the school as an undergraduate student.

While there’s no doubt that a student’s grade point average, test scores, personal essays, and extracurricular activities are perhaps the most important components of their application, the interview can play a very important role.

Essentially, the interview can offer more insight into who a specific application is as a person beyond just the grades and scores on their application documents. This can shed important light on whether or not that student would be a good fit at Princeton in terms of who they are and what their unique point of view is of the world. While interviews certainly give the students an opportunity to learn more about the school and gain information that comes from direct experience from the Princeton interviewer that they are speaking with, they are more geared toward getting new information about the student who is applying and filling in any gaps that may exist in their application.

If you are curious about what the school thinks about the interview process, take a look at the question that they offer for students wondering about how much weight an interview really carries:

“We try to offer each applicant the opportunity to have a conversation with an alumnus/a volunteer,” the school states. “This is a chance for you to learn more about the Princeton experience, and for us to learn more about you. After you submit your application, a member of the Princeton Alumni Schools Committee in your area (if available) will contact you to arrange a convenient meeting time and place.

We include the interviewer’s comments in our review of your application. Interviews aren’t required as part of the admission process, but we encourage candidates to accept the invitation. Don’t be concerned if interviews are not available in your area; we will give your application full consideration without an interview.”

In the end, the real reason why we get encouraged by the students that we work with to take advantage of interview opportunities at any of the schools that they are applying to is that all of these schools are famously incredibly hard to get into. Let’s look at some of Princeton’s admission statistics from the 2021-22 application cycle to give you a better idea of just how competitive this school really is.

In the 2021-22 application cycle, the acceptance rate was actually withheld by the school from public knowledge. However, based on estimates that trained professionals have made, the acceptance rate was believed to be between just 3-4 percent! The year before, the acceptance rate was reported and came in at just 3.98 percent! That should give you an incredibly good idea of just how hard it is to get into this school.

For that reason, students who are committed to giving themselves the best chance possible to get into this school need to take advantage of every single opportunity presented to them to improve their chances, no matter how small. That is really why the interview should be considered a basic requirement.

While not taking an interview will not necessarily hurt you, as students get into Princeton each year who do not – for one reason or another – take the school up on the opportunity, sitting down with a Princeton interviewer and having a discussion about yourself, your goals, the school and more can absolutely help improve your chances!

What are Princeton interviews like?

So now that you know the answers to questions like, “Does Princeton interview all applicants” and “How much do Princeton interviews matter” you may simply be curious to learn more about what the actual interview process is like!

Well, luckily, we’ve got you covered. Let’s break down the basic information regarding what you can expect from your Princeton interviewer and from the interview in general.

Overall, these interviews are not known to be overly formal and intimidating. After all, they are not meant to be a hurdle that an applicant feels that he or she needs to jump through, but rather an opportunity for the applicant to let the school know more about who they are as people as well as to learn more about the school! Typically, these conversations are about 30-minute to 45-minute conversations that give applicants a great opportunity to show their unique personalities and point of view!

Female student talking to a male interviewer.

As you already know, Princeton’s interviews take place either near the applicant’s hometown or remotely. The school does not offer on-campus interviews.

While it is not uncommon for students to feel somewhat nervous before their interview, part of the Princeton interviewer’s job is to put the student at ease so that he or she can put their best foot forward.

Typically the interview will begin as a pretty normal conversation, with both members introducing each other with a bit of small talk. Then, the interviewer will likely get into some simple questions such as a student’s extracurricular involvements, hobbies, and favorite books. Of course, it is up to you to choose specifically what you answer with these questions and want to make sure that you do not have very long-winded responses. It is better to have somewhat brief but thoughtful responses!

What is most important is to remember that you should be honest with your interviewer rather than simply give them answers that you think they want to hear.

For example, with the favorite book question (which is quite popular across many different schools), you may feel inclined to answer with something like “The Great Gatsby” or “The Grapes of Wrath” because you read those books in class and think the answer might impress. However, interviewers can usually see through these kinds of answers. Instead, simply answer with the truth!

When it comes to some specific questions that you can expect beyond the obvious ones like “Why Princeton,” “Describe your top activities during high school,” “What are you interested in studying at Princeton,” and “What is your proudest high school achievement,” here are some other common types of questions that you can expect.

  • Reflect either on something that doesn’t come as naturally (i.e. English class for the STEM kid) or a particularly difficult experience in the thing you love
  • Tell me about an influential person in your lives
  • What do you do for fun?
  • What do you hope to gain from your undergraduate experience?
  • What can theater offer that other performance forms don’t? What are its possibilities?
  • Can you remember a really great discussion from your English class?
  • Do you have favorite subjects you like to write about?  Why?
  • Is there a cause that you feel particularly strong about?
  • What is a memorable experience from a community service project?
  • Do you create art for yourself or for an audience? What aspects of your life have influenced your art?
  • Tell me about some interesting places you have visited. Can you talk about the cultural differences you observed?
  • What was it like adjusting to a new community/school?
  • How do you imagine yourself getting involved with music at Princeton?
  • What aspects of chemistry/biology/physics/etc. are particularly interesting to you?
  • What do you like about individual/team sports?

Princeton interview tips

Before we wrap up, we wanted to go over a few basic tips that can help you feel confident and in control before and during your Princeton interview.

Dress business casual

One great way to put yourself in the right headspace for your interview is to dress sharp but comfortably. Wearing a button-down shirt and slacks, or a nice blouse can be a good way to show the person you are meeting with that you know that this is an important meeting while also not going overboard.

Young man smiling at her female interviewer in a room with a window.

Focus on making a personal connection

Don’t waste the precious minutes of your interview by simply reiterating the information that is already on your application. After all, the admissions officers at Princeton are already well-versed in your application and do not need more information on the matter. Instead, you should be focusing on making a connection with your interviewer so that they can go back and report to the school that they had a fantastic experience speaking with you and that you are a wonderful candidate to be offered a spot at the school.

Don’t be afraid to think before you speak

One thing that some students believe is that really thinking before answering a question that is presented to them will give off a sense that they are not prepared and are unprepared. However, the truth can actually be true! After every question, especially if the question comes as something of a surprise to you, don’t be afraid to take a breath, really think for a couple of seconds and then offer your answer. Responding immediately only to find out that you’re somewhat lost in your answer is not the best way forward!

Shaking hands during an interview.

Succeed in the Princeton interview

While taking part in a Princeton interview is not going to be the single deciding factor in whether or not you end up getting into the school, a great interview can certainly help your chances! If you want to learn more about how to prepare for your Princeton interview or any of the other aspects of the application process, contact AdmissionSight today to schedule a free consultation.




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