The Dos and Don’ts of IVY College Interviews

Securing an interview at an Ivy League college is a significant achievement. It’s a critical step in your application process, where you have the chance to make a lasting impression beyond your grades and test scores. Understanding the dos and don’ts of IVY college interviews can help you navigate this process effectively and increase your chances of admission.

Many universities include optional interviews in their application process. Mostly, they are merely a means of confirming the admissions officers’ preconceived notions about the applicant; they never constitute the deciding element. Still, they could be quite important for some applicants during the college admissions process.

In many very elite universities, the admissions interview is an element of the application process. Interviews with local alumni are mandatory at Georgetown University, and many other highly selective universities either mandate or suggest them, either on campus or with a local representative. In an institution where interviews are optional, you could benefit from requesting one in order to add a more unique element to your application. Making a poor impression could hurt your chances, so if you are selected for an interview, you should put in as much effort as you can to prepare and perform well.

Key Takeaways

  • Preparation is key: Know the school’s values, programs, and recent news.
  • Be authentic: Showcase your genuine interests and personality.
  • Practice makes perfect: Conduct mock interviews to build confidence.

Table of Contents

  1. Understanding the Importance of Ivy College Interviews
  2. Pre-Interview Preparation
  3. The Day of the Interview
  4. Answering Common Questions
  5. Questions You Should Ask
  6. Body Language and Presentation
  7. Post-Interview Etiquette
  8. Common Mistakes to Avoid
  9. Using Feedback for Improvement
  10. FAQ

Understanding the Importance of Ivy College Interviews

Your chance to add personality to your application is the main goal of a college interview. This provides you with an additional opportunity to discuss why you think a particular institution is the best fit for you. Additionally, it’s a great method to find out more about a college, get the inside scoop, and determine whether or not you would fit in well on campus if you’re not sure about it. 

Anything from your community service and high school accomplishments to your college academic interests, and anything in between, can be discussed. Interviews are optional, but for those that do, they are typically used as an additional point of reference for your application. Stated differently, it’s an extra component of your application materials that an admissions officer can utilize to support you during the committee evaluation process.

Moreover, interviews for college admission are not always necessary, and many prestigious universities don’t interview their candidates. Nonetheless, some institutions use the interview as a deciding factor in admissions decisions. If you applied to a college and haven’t heard back, you should call and request an interview. Find out what kinds of interviews are offered, whether they are mandatory, and whether the results of the interview will affect the admissions decision.

Typically, interviews with alumni take place on campus or in your neighborhood. If an interview is offered, you should never decline it. Remember that your interview could make all the difference in the success of your application, so if you are provided with the contact details of a representative in your region who can arrange an alumni interview, don’t hesitate to give them a call or email. You will have a better chance of getting an interview if you submit your application early.

Furthermore, interviews provide a chance for you to learn more about the college. Engaging with alumni or admissions staff during the interview can give you insights into the school’s culture, opportunities, and expectations. This two-way street helps both you and the institution determine if it’s the right match.

Pre-Interview Preparation

Research the College

Before your interview, thoroughly research the college. Understand its history, values, programs, and any recent news or achievements. This knowledge will not only help you answer questions effectively but also formulate insightful questions to ask your interviewer.

Knowing the specific aspects of the college that appeal to you shows that you are genuinely interested. Mentioning particular professors, courses, or extracurricular activities you wish to pursue can demonstrate your enthusiasm and preparedness. It’s also beneficial to understand the college’s unique culture and how you might fit into it.

A well-informed candidate is always impressive. Your research will reflect your diligence and seriousness about your application, setting a positive tone for your interview.

Practice Your Responses

Practicing your responses to common IVY college interview questions are essential. While you don’t want to sound rehearsed, having a good grasp of what you might say can help you feel more confident. Consider questions about your academic interests, extracurricular activities, personal experiences, and reasons for applying to the college.

Conduct mock interviews with a teacher, counselor, or family member. This practice can help you refine your answers and become more comfortable speaking about yourself. Remember to focus on delivering your responses naturally and confidently.

It’s also important to prepare for unexpected questions. Think about your strengths, weaknesses, and unique experiences that set you apart. Being able to adapt to different questions shows your ability to think on your feet.

Prepare Your Questions

Asking thoughtful questions during your interview demonstrates your interest in the college and can leave a positive impression. Prepare a list of questions about academic programs, campus life, and opportunities for personal growth.

Your questions should reflect your research and genuine curiosity. Avoid asking about information readily available on the college’s website. Instead, focus on topics that matter to you personally, such as specific courses, research opportunities, or student organizations.

Good questions not only show your enthusiasm but also help you gather information to make an informed decision. The interview is an opportunity for you to assess whether the college is the right fit for you.

The Day of the Interview

Dress Appropriately

Your appearance is the first impression you make during an interview, so dressing appropriately is crucial. Aim for business casual attire unless otherwise specified by the college. A neat, clean, and professional look conveys respect for the interviewer and the process.

For men, a collared shirt with slacks or khakis is usually appropriate. Women might consider a blouse with a skirt or pants. Avoid overly casual clothing such as jeans, t-shirts, or anything too flashy. Your goal is to look polished and serious about the opportunity.

Comfort is also important. Wear something that makes you feel confident but is also comfortable enough to sit through an interview without distraction. Proper grooming is also essential; make sure your hair is neat and any accessories are minimal.

Arrive Early

Punctuality is a sign of respect and responsibility. Aim to arrive at least 10-15 minutes early for your interview. This buffer time allows you to settle in, collect your thoughts, and handle any unforeseen delays.

Arriving early shows that you value the interviewer’s time and are serious about the opportunity. It also gives you a chance to observe the environment and get a feel for the campus if the interview is in person. If it’s a virtual interview, ensure your technology is set up and working well in advance.

Use this extra time to relax and mentally prepare. Take deep breaths, review your notes, and focus on the positive aspects of the upcoming conversation. A calm and composed demeanor will help you perform at your best.

Bring Necessary Materials

Having the right materials on hand can make a positive impression. Bring extra copies of your resume, a list of references, and any other documents the college might have requested. This preparedness shows that you are organized and proactive.

Additionally, bring a notebook and pen to take notes. Jotting down important points or questions during the interview demonstrates your attentiveness and interest. It can also be helpful to refer to your notes if you need to follow up on something later.

Having everything you need within easy reach will help you feel more confident and prepared. It’s a small but significant step in presenting yourself as a professional and serious candidate.

Answering Common Questions

Tell Me About Yourself

This question is often used as an icebreaker and provides an opportunity to set the tone for the rest of the interview. Focus on your academic and extracurricular achievements, highlighting aspects that align with the college’s values and programs.

Start with a brief introduction, including your name, high school, and any standout achievements. Then, delve into your interests and experiences that have shaped your academic journey. Highlight what drives you and how you have pursued your passions.

End with a statement about why you are excited about the opportunity to attend the college. Connecting your personal story to the institution’s offerings can make your response memorable and relevant.

Why Do You Want to Attend This College?

This question assesses your fit for the college and your genuine interest in attending. Use the research you conducted to provide a well-rounded answer that includes academic, social, and personal reasons.

Mention specific programs, professors, or resources that attracted you to the college. Explain how these align with your academic and career goals. Additionally, discuss any extracurricular activities or campus traditions that resonate with you.

Personalize your response by tying it back to your experiences and aspirations. Showing that you have thoughtfully considered how the college can help you achieve your goals demonstrates maturity and foresight.

What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?

When discussing your strengths, focus on qualities that are relevant to the college environment. Traits like leadership, problem-solving, and collaboration are often valued. Provide specific examples to illustrate your points.

For weaknesses, choose something that you have worked on improving. Discuss the steps you have taken to address this weakness and how it has made you a better student or individual. This approach shows self-awareness and a commitment to personal growth.

Balancing your answer with both strengths and areas for improvement provides a holistic view of your character. It also demonstrates your ability to reflect on your experiences and learn from them.

Questions You Should Ask For IVY College Interviews

Academic Opportunities

Asking about academic opportunities shows that you are serious about your education and eager to take advantage of what the college offers. Inquire about specific programs, research opportunities, or faculty members whose work interests you.

For example, you might ask about the availability of undergraduate research positions, study abroad programs, or interdisciplinary courses. Showing that you have thought about your academic future at the college can leave a strong impression.

These questions also provide you with valuable information to help you decide if the college is the right fit for you. Understanding what academic resources are available can influence your final decision.

Campus Life

Understanding the social and cultural aspects of campus life is crucial. Ask about student organizations, housing options, and campus traditions. These questions show that you are interested in the full college experience, not just academics.

You could ask about how students spend their weekends, what types of clubs and activities are popular, or what support systems are in place for new students. This information can help you visualize your life at the college and ensure it aligns with your expectations.

Engaging with your interviewer about campus life also helps build a personal connection. It shows that you are considering how you will integrate into the community and contribute to it.

Career Services and Alumni Network

Questions about career services and the alumni network indicate that you are thinking ahead and planning for your future. Ask about the support available for internships, job placements, and networking opportunities.

Inquire about the college’s career fairs, internship programs, and the success of its graduates in finding employment. Understanding the resources available to help you transition from college to your career is essential.

Learning about the alumni network can also provide insights into the long-term benefits of attending the college. Ask about how active and supportive the alumni community is, and how it can help you in your career path. This shows that you are proactive and serious about leveraging the college’s resources to achieve your goals.

Body Language and Presentation

Maintain Eye Contact

Maintaining eye contact during your interview is crucial for building a connection with your interviewer. It demonstrates confidence, attentiveness, and sincerity. When you look someone in the eye, it conveys that you are engaged and interested in the conversation.

Practice maintaining natural eye contact in your daily interactions to make it feel more comfortable during the interview. Avoid staring, which can seem intense, and instead, use a mix of direct eye contact and brief glances away to appear relaxed and composed.

Remember, your goal is to create a positive rapport with your interviewer. Consistent eye contact helps build trust and shows that you are present in the moment, valuing the interaction.

Exhibit Positive Body Language

Your body language speaks volumes about your attitude and confidence. Sit up straight, with your shoulders back, and avoid crossing your arms, which can appear defensive. Use natural hand gestures to emphasize your points, but keep them controlled to avoid distracting movements.

Smiling is another powerful tool in your body language arsenal. A genuine smile can make you appear approachable, friendly, and enthusiastic. It helps create a positive atmosphere and can make both you and your interviewer feel more at ease.

Pay attention to your posture throughout the interview. Lean slightly forward to show interest and engagement, but avoid slouching or leaning back too casually. Your body language should convey that you are attentive, respectful, and eager to engage in the conversation.

Control Nervous Habits

Everyone has nervous habits, but it’s essential to be aware of them and manage them during your interview. Common habits include fidgeting, tapping your foot, playing with your hair, or repeatedly clearing your throat. These actions can be distracting and may give the impression that you are anxious or unprepared.

Practice staying still and composed, focusing on your breathing to help calm any nervous energy. If you find yourself fidgeting, place your hands on your lap or on the table in front of you. Being mindful of your nervous habits and consciously working to control them will help you present a more confident and polished demeanor.

Use deep breathing techniques before and during the interview to stay calm and focused. Remember that it’s normal to feel nervous, but how you manage those nerves can make a significant difference in the impression you leave.

Post-Interview Etiquette

Send a Thank-You Note

Sending a thank-you note after your interview is a courteous gesture that can leave a lasting positive impression. It shows your appreciation for the interviewer’s time and reinforces your interest in the college. A well-crafted thank-you note can also provide an opportunity to reiterate key points from the interview.

Aim to send the thank-you note within 24 to 48 hours after the interview. Keep it concise and sincere. Mention specific topics discussed during the interview and express your enthusiasm for the college. If you interviewed with more than one person, consider sending individual notes to each interviewer.

A thank-you note can be sent via email or as a handwritten letter. While email is faster and more convenient, a handwritten note can add a personal touch. Choose the method that you feel best suits the context of your interview.

Reflect on the Interview

After your interview, take some time to reflect on how it went. Consider what went well and areas where you could improve. Reflecting on your performance can help you prepare for future interviews and identify any patterns in the questions asked or your responses.

Write down any questions that stumped you or areas where you felt less confident. Think about how you might handle similar questions in the future. Reflecting on your interview experience can help you build your interview skills and become more comfortable in these situations.

Also, take note of the information you gathered during the interview. Reflect on how it aligns with your expectations and aspirations. This reflection can help you make a more informed decision if you receive an offer of admission.

Follow Up if Necessary

In some cases, you might need to follow up after your thank-you note. If the interviewer mentioned a specific timeline for hearing back and that time has passed, a polite follow-up email can show your continued interest in the college.

Keep your follow-up brief and respectful. Reiterate your enthusiasm for the college and politely inquire about the status of your application. This demonstrates your proactive nature and eagerness to stay informed.

Following up also provides an opportunity to address any additional questions or concerns that may have arisen since the interview. Ensure that your follow-up communication is professional and courteous, maintaining a positive impression.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Being Unprepared

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is arriving at your interview unprepared. This includes not knowing enough about the college, being unfamiliar with your own application, or failing to anticipate common interview questions. Preparation is key to presenting yourself as a serious and competent candidate.

Ensure you have done thorough research on the college, its programs, and its culture. Be ready to discuss your academic and extracurricular achievements confidently. Practicing your responses to common questions and preparing thoughtful questions of your own can help you feel more prepared.

Being unprepared not only undermines your confidence but also gives the impression that you are not genuinely interested in the college. Taking the time to prepare thoroughly shows respect for the interview process and your future academic aspirations.

Overemphasizing Grades and Test Scores

While your academic achievements are important, overemphasizing grades and test scores during the interview can be a mistake. Ivy League colleges are looking for well-rounded individuals who can contribute to their community in various ways. Your interview is an opportunity to showcase your personality, interests, and unique experiences.

Focus on sharing stories and examples that highlight your character, values, and passions. Discussing your involvement in extracurricular activities, leadership roles, or meaningful experiences can provide a more comprehensive picture of who you are.

Remember, the interview is a chance to demonstrate qualities that are not easily captured by numbers. Showcasing your interpersonal skills, creativity, and enthusiasm can set you apart from other applicants.

Being Disrespectful or Overconfident

Maintaining a balance between confidence and humility is crucial. Being overly confident or disrespectful can create a negative impression. Show respect for the interviewer and the college by being polite, attentive, and grateful for the opportunity.

Avoid interrupting the interviewer or dismissing their questions. Listen carefully and respond thoughtfully. Demonstrating good manners and respect for the interview process reflects positively on your character.

Confidence is important, but it should not come across as arrogance. Be proud of your achievements, but also show that you are eager to learn and grow. Humility and a willingness to embrace new experiences are valued traits in any academic setting.

Using Feedback for Improvement

Seek Constructive Feedback

After your interview, seek constructive feedback from trusted mentors, teachers, or counselors. They can provide valuable insights into your performance and suggest areas for improvement. Feedback can help you refine your interview skills and better prepare for future opportunities.

Ask for specific feedback on your answers, body language, and overall presentation. 

Constructive criticism can be instrumental in identifying any weaknesses and developing strategies to address them. Being open to feedback demonstrates your commitment to personal growth.

Remember to thank those who provide feedback and consider their suggestions carefully. Continuous improvement is key to becoming a more effective and confident interviewee.

Analyze Your Performance

Take time to analyze your performance objectively. Reflect on your answers, your body language, and your overall demeanor during the interview. Identify any patterns or recurring issues that may need attention.

Consider recording yourself during mock interviews to review your performance. Watching yourself can reveal habits or behaviors you might not be aware of. Pay attention to your tone of voice, facial expressions, and any nervous habits that may have surfaced.

Self-analysis is an ongoing process. Each interview is an opportunity to learn and improve. By regularly reviewing and refining your performance, you can build your confidence and become more adept at handling interviews.

Implement Changes

Once you have gathered feedback and analyzed your performance, implement the necessary changes. Practice new strategies, refine your answers, and work on any identified weaknesses. Continuous improvement will help you become a more effective communicator and interviewee.

Set specific goals for your next interview based on the feedback you received. For example, if you struggled with maintaining eye contact, practice this skill in everyday conversations. If you found certain questions challenging, prepare more thoroughly and practice your responses.

Implementing changes and seeing progress can boost your confidence and prepare you for future interviews. Each step you take towards improvement brings you closer to presenting your best self.


Always remember: Never lose sight of the fact that the interviewing procedure for college admissions has the purpose of putting your application into perspective—no one is there to confuse you or find an excuse not to admit you. Being ready and leaving a positive image are important, but applying to colleges is a multifaceted process. Much more important is doing well in educational institutions, making a positive impact on your surrounding area and clubs and organizations, and creating great applications. 

Given that you are speaking with a real adult with real responsibilities and that your responses will have an immediate influence on your prospects of getting into college, interviews can often be extremely scary. Thus, the most crucial recommendation we can provide is to just stop and breathe for a bit. Most of the people who conduct interviews for you, particularly students and alumni, do it willingly and want to see you succeed. They aim to locate kids who share their enthusiasm and are passionate about their institution.

Be the best version of yourself, then, and you will succeed in your interview. Ease into the talk, practice breathing, and maintain your composure, and the interview will proceed well.


What should I wear to an Ivy college interview?

Aim for business casual attire. For men, this typically means a collared shirt and slacks. For women, a blouse with a skirt or pants is appropriate. Avoid overly casual clothing like jeans and t-shirts. Comfort is important, so choose an outfit that makes you feel confident and comfortable.

How should I prepare for common interview questions?

Research common interview questions and practice your responses. Conduct mock interviews with a teacher, counselor, or family member to build confidence. Focus on delivering your answers naturally and confidently, and be prepared for unexpected questions by reflecting on your strengths and experiences.

Is it okay to ask questions during the interview?

Absolutely. Asking thoughtful questions shows your interest in the college and can leave a positive impression. Prepare questions about academic programs, campus life, and career services. Avoid asking about information readily available on the college’s website; instead, focus on topics that matter to you personally.

How soon should I send a thank-you note after the interview?

Send a thank-you note within 24 to 48 hours after the interview. Keep it concise and sincere, mentioning specific topics discussed and expressing your enthusiasm for the college. You can send the note via email or as a handwritten letter, depending on the context of your interview.

What should I do if I don’t know the answer to a question during the interview?

If you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s okay to take a moment to think before responding. Be honest if you are unsure, and try to relate the question to something you do know. Demonstrating your thought process and willingness to engage with challenging questions can be impressive to interviewers.

How can I improve my body language for interviews?

Practice maintaining eye contact, exhibit positive body language by sitting up straight and using natural hand gestures, and control nervous habits by being mindful and using deep breathing techniques. Record yourself during mock interviews to review your body language and make necessary adjustments.

What are some common mistakes to avoid during Ivy college interviews?

Avoid being unprepared, overemphasizing grades and test scores, and being disrespectful or overconfident. Thorough preparation, focusing on your unique experiences and qualities, and maintaining a balance between confidence and humility are key to a successful interview.

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