Ivy League Admission Tips: Common College Interview Topics

Your college interviews are drawing near, and you want to make the best impression possible; after all, performing well on your interviews could ultimately get you accepted into your target schools.

Keep in mind that you won’t be able to anticipate all of the questions the interviewer will ask. Questions will vary from one interviewer to another, so planning your answers word-for-word is not the best use of your time. Rather than thinking about specific questions, you should consider the themes and topics that will likely come up and prepare to discuss them with specific details and examples. Thinking in general rather than specific terms when preparing for each interview is an important Ivy League admission strategy.

These are some of the themes and topics likely to be addressed during your college admissions interviews:


The interviewer may ask about your family, giving you an opportunity to highlight any interesting and unique background details that will add to your admissions narrative. You should focus on the details about your family, not just discussing the what but dwelling on the why.

Intellectual Curiosity

Much of the interview will be spent answering questions about your academic interests, both in and out of the classroom. The interviewer will likely ask about the academic subjects you are interested in. Instead of simply listing each subject, explain what intrigues you about it, what piqued your interest in it, and what you hope to accomplish in that field.

High School

The more substantive questions will relate to which courses you took in high school. Feel free to elaborate here, drawing on specific experiences to illustrate your reasoning.

You may also be asked more profound questions about your high school years. For example, the interviewer may ask you to share the biggest regret, disappointment, or failure you experienced in high school. They may also ask you what you would change about your high school.


One of the most important topics you’ll discuss in your interview is your plan for college—why you are interested in the school, what you plan to study, and why the college should accept your application. These questions require careful research and a fresh memory; the last thing you want to do is speak at length about the major you intend to pursue, only to find out that the college doesn’t even offer that major.

Extracurricular Activities & Interests

The interviewer may inquire about your extracurricular activities, hobbies, interests, talents, employment experience, summer activities, and recreational activities.

While you should generally avoid talking too much about your basic extracurricular activities and interests, do take time to discuss any activities that align with your application theme and narrative. For example, if you are passionate about a particular issue and started a nonprofit, explain why the organization is important, what it is accomplishing, and why you are passionate about that cause.

Personality and Character

The admissions interview may include questions that focus less on what you have done and more on who you are, that is, your character and personality. You may be asked to describe your strengths or weaknesses, discuss times you showed leadership, or share your dreams and aspirations. Questions like these may be difficult to prepare for, so you should just be genuine—remember, it’s okay to pause for a few moments to think before responding.

Again, the key to succeeding in your college interviews is not to memorize your answers. Rather, make sure you are familiar with all of the above topics and can clearly explain what your interests are. If you can convincingly tie in your academic goals with your unique narrative, the interviewer will likely be impressed.

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