How To Ace the Princeton Alumni Interview
3 minute read
Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey. It is one of the most selective colleges in the world (their admit rate in 2021 was 4.4%). Princeton is known for its academic rigor, commitment to the liberal arts philosophy, and its investment in undergraduate education.
Like many schools, Princeton doesn’t require all applicants to be interviewed by an alumnus/alumna of the school. However, given Princeton’s extensive alumni network, they have active alumni interviewers in a wide range of cities and areas. My personal experience with the alumni interview was a very rewarding experience, because the interview took place in the interviewer’s office (Bloomberg Hong Kong), and he also shared a lot about his own undergraduate experience as well as that of his daughter, who was then a sophomore at Princeton.
The Purpose of the Princeton Interview
Princeton offers optional alumni interviews for applicants after the Admission Office has received their application. Applicants can opt out of the interview in the Princeton Supplement without any disadvantage. The interviews are informal conversations lasting 30-45 minutes with Princeton alumni, where applicants can discuss their interests and ask questions. Not all applicants will receive an interview due to the availability of alumni in their area, and none of the interviews will take place on-campus. Applicants participating in the QuestBridge National College Match will be unable to complete an interview due to the timeline.
Having been an alumni interviewer myself, I can 100% attest to the fact that these interviews are meant to be “informal”. Interviewers are asked to see whether there are any significant red flags to the candidate (e.g. if there are any major gaps or inconsistencies in their profile), and they are also asked to give an honest evaluation of the candidate as a person.
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How to approach the Princeton Alumni Interview
Lots of people ask whether I prepared and rehearsed my answers to potential interview questions, and the answer is NO! These are truly informal conversations, and what ended up happening for me was that my interviewer took me into a conference room to have a 30-minute chat.
During our chat, we talked about why I was interested in majoring in the humanities, and he also shared his daughter’s experience as a sophomore at Princeton at the time. Here are some questions that sparked out conversation:
What made you want to major in the humanities?
Why did you choose to learn Latin, of all languages?
Are there any particular clubs that you’re curious about joining at Princeton?
Do you have any questions for me about my experience or my daughter’s experience at Princeton?
The main piece of advice I would give to applicants preparing for these interviews is to relax. These are not admissions officers - they are alumni who are wanting to give back to their alma maters by conducting alumni interviews with future scholars like yourself.
Prepare plenty of questions to ask them - questions about academic programs, social life, dorm life, career support - you name it!
Don’t expect them to have read your files in detail - these alumni are often very busy working adults and they may not have had time to review anything before your conversation! Be ready to tell your narrative but also make sure it’s not too rehearsed.
After the Interview
Etiquette matters! Don’t forget to thank your interviewer for their time and effort in chatting with you. Send them an email right after the interview and bring up something memorable from your conversation!
Here’s the email that I sent to my interviewer back in 2013 after I left the Bloomberg offices:
Be yourself, breathe, relax. Best of luck!
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