No one likes going for an interview…
And if someone says they do, they’re either lying or they’re a sociopath. So our advice is to run away from that person as fast as you can.
Any sane person knows that interviews are daunting and nerve wracking, because there’s a lot riding on those 20 minutes you’ll spend in that room. That said, university interviews don’t have to be the worst experiences in the world. Unless something goes dreadfully wrong, you’re going to come out alive and well – remember that.
The only thing that creates nerves is the unknown. You’ve probably never experienced an interview of this intensity before, so you’ll have no idea what to expect. The only presumptions you have about university interviews are based on anecdotes and scenes from films where the student is sat in a dark room behind a huge oak table, opposite a terrifying Head of University who looks and sounds like Severus Snape.
Well, guess what? Unless you’ve applied to Hogwarts, your university interview will be nothing like that. In fact, it’s probably going to be very different from what you have replaying over and over in your mind. So, below we’re going to tell you exactly what to expect with as much detail and experience as we can give and we’re going to load you full of advice and tips to help you get accepted. You can thank us in your graduation speech.
Before the interview
Practice with a teacher. Organise a mock interview with a teacher that you’re a little bit scared of, as they will be able to instill the same level of nervousness and they’ll also be able to effectively set a similar tone.
Don’t dress like a lunatic. Prepare a smart and simple outfit. Now is not the time to debut a brightly patterned suit. You don’t want to do anything that will distract the interviewer from what you’re actually saying.
Find out the format of the interview (phone/in person) and find out if you need to bring anything with you or prepare a presentation etc. You will be informed in advance if this is the case.
Do your research! Research the course and the university and the person who will be interviewing you. But don’t try stalk them on Facebook or find out where they live and drive past their house – a look at their profile on the university website will suffice.
Reread your personal statement. Sounds obvious, but the interviewer will refer to your PS, as this is their only impression of you thus far.
Take your head out of the sand. You’re going to talk about your subject – so brush up on what’s happening in the chosen field. Eg. If you’re studying Maths, then make sure you’re up to date with all the funky new maths trends. (I didn’t study Maths. I don’t know if Math trends exist.)
Zzzzzzz. Get a good night’s sleep the night before. Drink a mug of disgusting Horlicks, listen to meditative music – do anything you need to rest.
Know where you’re going. Make sure you know exactly where the interview is and how long it will take you to get there. Then add an extra 30 mins on to your time for safety. One hour if you’re a terrible time keeper.
Eat. Don’t go in on an empty stomach, but also don’t eat anything that smells strongly.
Check yo’self. Take a look in the mirror. If you have pen on your face, the interviewer will only remember you as the candidate with pen on their face.
Switch off. Turn off your phone or leave it with someone else.
At the interview
Arrive a little bit early so that you can enter the room ready and composed.
Be cool. Walk in calmly, stand tall and prepare to shake the person’s hand.
Smile and be normal. Remember that the interviewer is just a person and if you’re anxious it will make them feel anxious too.
Reign in the crazy. Don’t twitch, tap your foot or move your body a lot. These aren’t the actions of a confident person and will be distracting.
Take your time. Talk slowly and clearly.
Be enthusiastic. Talk passionately, but don’t ramble. Let the interviewer ask questions.
Be a showoff. Remember that this is an excuse to tell someone how brilliant you are. Don’t be modest.
PMA. Positivity is key. Use words like “excited” and “fascinating”. Praise the university and show off your knowledge about the course.
Eye see you. Make eye contact but don’t stare the person out like a psycho.
Be honest. If you don’t understand something or if you need a question repeated, just ask. This will create an ease and a dialogue between you and the interviewer and it will show humility, which is an admirable trait.
???? At the end of the interview, you might be asked if you have any questions. Try to have something prepared. Ask what graduates of the course went on to do afterwards. This will show that you are serious about studying, rather than just the experience of university.
After the interview
Don’t bang your head against a wall everytime you think of something you could have said. It doesn’t change anything. It’s too late.
Remember there is no right answer. The interviewer will be more influenced by how you spoke on a certain topic rather than the details of what you said. (Unless you said something completely ludicrous. They’ll remember that. Sorry. That doesn’t help at all.)
Go home and relax.
What university interviewers are looking for
A confident candidate who is passionate about their chosen subject and enthusiastic about attending the university. Some one who is hardworking and likely to stay on the course for the entire duration and graduate.
Questions you will probably get asked at your university interview
Q. Tell me about yourself? A. Where you’re from, what you study, your hobbies, your interests.
Q. Tell me about your academic achievements? A. Talk about what you’re studying, any impressive exam results or awards. If you got a D in coursework during your GCSEs, just don’t mention it.
Q. What are your career aspirations? A. Have a specific goal in mind. Don’t say ‘I don’t know’.
Q. How would your teachers describe your work? A. “They would say that I’m hard working, determined, consistent and that I’m a high achiever.”
Q. What are your strengths/weaknesses? A. Always have a weakness prepared, preferably something small and specific. Don’t say: “I’m a massive panicker and I always have enormous mental breakdowns in the middle of exams.”
Q. Do you have any hobbies? A. “I’ve been going to dance lessons since I was five. I find it really helps me unwind. And I noticed that XXX university has a dance society which I’d love to join.”
About the course
Q. Why do you feel you could be successful on this course? A. “I’m extremely motivated and passionate about International Relations (I don’t know what you’re studying. I ain’t psychic.). I’ve read about the modules and find them all fascinating and really think I could excel here.”
Q. Are you good at working under pressure? A. “Yes, I’m an incredibly organised which helps me deal with all levels of stress and pressure.”
Q. Why do you want to study (the subject you have applied for)? A. “Because I love the field of veterinary science and feel that I could carve an amazing career for myself in this industry.”
Q. Why this course in particular? A. “I know that the standard of learning at this university is particularly high. I really enjoy the atmosphere here and this course has been recommended to me a number of times by professionals in the fashion design industry.”
Q. Do you have any questions that you would like to ask us? A. “Yes. I would love to know how many graduates from this course are likely to get jobs in the specific industry. Are there any pathways this course can lead to that I might be unaware of?”
Q. Why should we offer you a place? A. “Because I’m bright, intelligent, hard working, enthusiastic, determined, passionate and the best person in the wooooorrrrllllddd.” Or something to that effect.
Good luck if you have any interviews and Tweet us @Unibaggage to let us know how you got on.
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I'm the blog editor for Uni Baggage! I write about university life and all things student related.