How to Nail Your University/College Admissions Interview

Two interviewers interviewing a young woman

The word ‘interview’ is scary on its own, without the added element of it being your very first one after leaving school. But stop quaking in your boots! University and college admissions interviews aren’t that bad!

In fact, they’re a good sign! It means that the school’s admissions department liked your application and they want to get to know a bit more about you to ensure you’re a good fit.

But where do you start and how do you prepare for such an interview? Should you act very formal or should you just be yourself?

To answer all your questions and to make sure you get your college seat, we’ve put together this little guide to help you do just that.

Here’s how to nail your university or college admissions interview.

1. Prep Like a Boss

Preparation is key to interview success – just don’t turn up expecting to improvise your way through the process, because your nerves will get the better of you and you’ll be more likely to mess up and stumble on your answers.

Firstly, you need to read up on the school and the course you’ve applied for in order to be able to discuss why you’re interested in your chosen course, what skills you have to succeed in the particular field and why you want to study it at the specific university or college.

Secondly, you could consider preparing a portfolio, which is standard practice when selecting a creative subject. For example, art majors will need to showcase their previous work, and music or drama students will need to audition as part of the interview process.

Aside from bringing the right tools to the table, being prepared boils down to knowing two things: yourself and the school that you’re applying to.

2. Dress to Impress

How you dress for an interview is an integral part of the entire process. After all, recruiters will form a first impression of you within the first 30 seconds of meeting you – so ditch your joggers and opt for something a little more professional.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that you should wear a three-piece suit to your admissions interview; instead, choose a respectful outfit that you would wear to a family function.

Men could wear a plain shirt and smart chinos, paired with Oxford or boat shoes. Ladies, meanwhile, might wear a casual dress with ankle boots or loafers. On that note, we’ve put together a couple of hairstyle guides for both men and women that you might find useful.

3. Plan Your Route

It’s extremely important to plan your route in advance so that you don’t turn up late and in a flustered state to your interview. There’s nothing worse than driving to an unknown location for the first time and getting lost around the city, only to realise that you were right outside to the university to begin with.

To avoid any such problems, make sure you map out your route in advance and allow yourself plenty of time to get there. If you happen to arrive early, you can grab a coffee or walk around the premises and get a feel for the college or university. If you’ve got enough time, why not even do a test run a few days before so you know where you’re going on the day?

4. Be Respectful

It’s vital to be polite throughout your interview. Don’t interrupt the interviewer when they’re speaking and be sure to thank them for the opportunity of considering you as a prospective student. You want to show that you’re eager to attend their school and that you’re excited about the prospect (even if you are actually scared and you want to climb under a rock).

You should also be respectful of social cues. Your interviewer will most likely stretch out their hand for a handshake, so don’t leave them hanging if they do!

5. Memorise Your Personal Statement

If you’ve gotten this far, you most likely submitted a well-written CV and an essay along with your application. Be sure to memorise all the information you provided, as the interviewers will most likely refer back to your personal statement and other elements of your application during different points in your academic interview. This essentially helps them get a better understanding of you are, the skills that you possess and what your career goals are.

You need to be comfortable about talking about yourself and highlighting important achievements. Now isn’t the time to be shy! Put that brave face on and paint yourself in the best possible light (without bragging or fabricating things, of course!).

6. Prepare Answers to Hard Interview Questions

Just when you think that your interview is sailing, you’re hit with a curveball question like ‘Tell me about yourself’ or ‘Tell me about an obstacle you overcame’. The trick is to refer to real-life situations – and whatever you do, don’t try to make something up on the spot, as it won’t end well!

In other words, you should prepare answers to common interview questions which can include:

  • Why do you want to attend this college/university?
  • What was your favourite subject in high school?
  • What do you enjoy doing when you’re not in class?
  • What are three interesting things about you that I wouldn’t know from your application?

7. Ask Questions

The interview isn’t over once you’ve stopped answering questions. Before you leave, you have one last chance to impress the admissions panel. You’re probably wondering how you do that, and the answer is: with some killer questions of your own.

You could ask about their extracurricular programmes, placement opportunities or internship programmes. You may also wish to ask about the success rate of graduates, and how many achieved their desired role after graduation.

8. Mind Your Body Language

Body language is one of the most important things to be mindful of in an interview. In fact, Princeton University psychologist Alex Todorov says that ‘we decide very quickly whether a person possesses many of the traits we feel are important, such as likeability and competence, even though we have not exchanged a single word with them. It appears that we are hard-wired to draw these inferences in a fast, unreflective way’.

So, in order to come across as the ideal candidate, you should stand tall, sit up straight, maintain eye contact and smile.

9. Show Your Enthusiasm

If you’ve been dreaming of studying at the particular college or university you’re interviewing at since forever, you’ll naturally be bouncing off the walls at being one step closer to your dream. However, if it’s your second or third choice, you might not be as eager.

Whatever the scenario, it’s important to show your interviewer why you want to study there and how much you would appreciate the opportunity to do so.

10. Follow Up

Many school leavers often skip this important step, but it’s always a good idea to follow up after your interview with a ’thank you’ note, thanking the interviewer for taking the time to meet you. If they mentioned something during the interview that was particularly helpful, be sure to mention it – this will effectively help you build a connection and get one step closer to your academic goals!

Taking the time to prepare and polish your admissions interview techniques will help you leave a lasting impression and get that college or university seat you’ve been waiting for.

Do you have any other interview tips other students might find useful? Join the conversation down below and let us know.