When you’re applying for university, there are a lot of factors you need to worry about – your application, exam stress and a portfolio, to name a few. So, the last thing you need on top of all that is to be picked apart by a top academic that might be teaching you. But today, regardless of the course you’re applying for, it’s more than likely that you’ll have to face an interview. Are they scary? Yes, but they don’t have to be. The difference is in how you prepare. Getting invited to an interview at your chosen university is a great achievement in itself. It shows that your admissions tutors are impressed with your application and are seriously considering making you an offer. But how can you make sure you stand out? Here’s some advice of what to expect in a university interview and how to prepare for it.
1. Plan Ahead
So much stress can disappear from this situation by planning ahead. You’ll have enough to remember on the day of your interview without worrying about getting lost or forgetting the person’s name of who you’re meeting. Before you even start preparing for the actual interview, you can tick a few things off your list by finding out the basics. You want to make sure you get there fifteen minutes early, so planning your journey is a must. Plan your route by the minute. Take a look on Google Maps so you can visualise where you’re going. Note down the address and the name of your interviewer on your phone or a piece of paper so you know you’ll have it with you. This will take a load off your mind. Plus, make sure you get plenty of sleep the night before.
2. Prepare for the Questions
Like any interview, it’s important to try and prepare as much as possible. Something you’ll be able to do in the lead up to your interview is predict some of the questions you might be asked. You’ll definitely be asked something about your career plans, so make sure you’ve got an answer ready for what your plans are after university. You could also be asked what elements of your chosen subject you’re most interested in, why you want to study that subject and why you want to study it at the particular university you’ve chosen. All these answers can be prepared which will make it easier for you on the day.
Obviously you won’t be able to prepare an answer for every question you’ll be asked, so in the interview, there’s no harm in taking a pause before you answer a question. This will lead to a more focused and honest response from you, something interviewers greatly admire.
3. Research Your Chosen Course and University
Showing your knowledge about the course you want to study and the university you want to attend will be really impressive. It’s all well and good having a reason for wanting to study your particular course, but what’s important is why you want to study it at that university. What makes it different here to other universities you’ve looked at?
Read through your course outline in the prospectus and on the university website so you know exactly what to expect. Think about what aspect of the course interests you the most. Is it a particular module? An assignment you’ve got a great idea for? Showing your passion for the subject is great, but combining this with why you want to study it at your chosen university is even better.
4. Know Your Stuff
University is a completely different ball game – it’s not enough to talk about what you’ve learnt in the classroom. At your interview, you need to show your interest in the subject outside of what you’ve been taught. In the days leading up to your interview, read around the subject and see what headlines there have been in the news about it lately. That would be a perfect way of starting up a natural conversation with your interviewer. They aren’t expecting you to be an expert – they don’t want to know facts and figures. They want you to talk about the subject naturally and honestly, just as if you were talking about your favourite hobby or food. They’re looking for passion, and if you can show that, you will definitely succeed in your interview.
5. Learn Your Personal Statement
You’re guaranteed to be asked questions about what you’ve put in your personal statement. It’s also 99% likely that you’ll see a copy of it in front of your interviewer. That’s why it’s important to be completely honest in your personal statement. Don’t say you’ve read a book from cover to cover when you’ve only read the blurb – chances are if it’s in your statement, you’ll be asked about it. Go through it and make sure you can remember everything. That way, when you’re asked a question about something in it, you’ll be able to elaborate on your answer. For example, if you were part of a society at school or college, your interviewer might ask what role you played in that. If you know your personal statement well enough, you’ll be able to answer questions like that with no problem. Just make sure it’s all relevant to the course you’ve applied for.
The best preparation you can do is to practice being interviewed. Once you think you’ve done as much research as you can, this is the next step. You could ask your parents to interview you, or one of your tutors or a career adviser at your school or college. Try and get as many different people to interview you if you can. This gives you the chance to practice your answers to the questions you know you’ll be asked, and you’ll also get various difficult questions thrown your way unexpectedly.
7. Remember to be Yourself
This is probably the most important preparation of all. If you’re tense in your interview, people will know about it. It’s OK to relax. The more relaxed you are, the better your answers will be. Take a few deep breaths before you go into the interview, always take a pause before you answer a question, speak slowly, and if you’re offered a glass of water, take it. The best kinds of interviews are when they’re free from formality. Your interviewer will want to know about you as a person, which they’ll only get if you be yourself. Wear something comfortable that you feel confident in. Body language is key – give a firm handshake, look at your interviewers in the eye at all times (but make sure to look at them all if there’s more than one) and remember not to slouch. Universities aren’t looking for just purely academic importance – they’re looking to see the real you- well, just a more polished and professional version.
University interviews don’t have to leave you shaking in your boots. The fact that you’ve been asked to attend one means half the battle is over. The interview is a valuable chance to impress your future tutors and show them what you’re made of. It’s not there to catch you out – it’s your chance to show what you’re like as a person, and to show your knowledge and more importantly, passion for the subject you want to have a career in.
Do you believe university interviews are tricky or fair for a well-prepared individual? Let us know in the comments section below.