How to Prepare for University Interviews

Applying to universities can be an equally exciting and stressful experience. You’ve got to write a personal statement, make sure that your grades fit the course criteria and potentially attend an interview.

One hurdle that can make or break your university application is the interview. Certain universities, such as Oxbridge and the Russel Group, are more likely to host interviews during their application process as these institutes are more competitive.

Interviews are used to supplement your personal statement and grades. Some universities like to conduct interviews for most of their courses whilst others don’t. For example, a marketing student applying to one institute might have to go to an interview, whereas a marketing applicant at another university won’t be required to do one.

In this guide, we’ll talk you through the ways that you can prepare for a university interview should you be asked to attend one. They don’t have to be daunting if you are fully prepared and know what to expect from the process.

How can I prepare for university interviews?

The first thing to do before your interview is to make sure you understand why you are applying to that particular course. It’s important that you convey your passion for the subject area and demonstrate why you will benefit from attending the university. Admissions tutors won’t want to accept someone to the course if they seem disinterested.

Another good way to prepare for an interview is to understand the types of questions that will be asked. Coming up with a range of topics will help you to assemble answers that you can immediately draw on so that you don’t hesitate for too long. You can also talk about how you got into the subject area and your favourite topics within it. This will help to build a conversation between yourself and the interviewer if you are relaxed and are talking about something that you love.

Continue reading to find out some more university interview tips. We’ll summarise the types of questions that you may be asked, along with what you should wear to an interview and some items that you should bring with you on the day.

What questions will I be asked at a university interview?

Interviewers won’t care about discussing current affairs – they want to get to know you as a person. There are a few common university interview questions that will crop up no matter what course you are applying to. These include basic questions on your interests and your personality traits.

You will likely be asked about why you have chosen to pursue that particular subject and why it interests you. Depending on your answer, the interviewers will get an insight into what motivates you.

Other common topics that you may be questioned about include your proudest achievements and your career plans. You may be asked what you hope to do after university, which will help the interviewing panel decide whether that course is right for you.

Although the personal questions should be easy enough to answer, there will be some harder topics too. The interviewers could ask your opinion on something within the subject industry or ask you to recount a time that you had a certain experience. You may be asked to give an example of the last time you worked in a team and what you learned from it, for instance.

Above all else, it’s important to give full answers. The interviewers know that you will be nervous, but you need to show them why you are a suitable candidate for their university. Answer the questions in a clear and confident manner and back them up with examples.

What should I wear to a university interview?

You will need to make sure that you present yourself well, whether you meet in person or are asked to attend an online interview. First impressions count for a lot, which is why you should aim to do your research on the course and university beforehand.

Interviews tend to be formal affairs, which is why you should dress smartly. However, you won’t be marked down if you don’t wear a full suit. The safest option is to dress smart-casual, which could be something like a shirt and suit trousers, or a blouse and pencil skirt.

You should avoid wearing low-cut or revealing clothes, jeans or slogan t-shirts. Some candidates also choose to cover their tattoos or remove piercings before their interview. This is a personal preference, but body modifications could distract an interviewer.

You should dress up even if you are just attending an online interview. The interview panel will be able to see your top half and you might find yourself in a better mindset if you have made an effort with what you are wearing.

No matter what you wear, however, you should always try to be comfortable. It will be easier to relax if you like what you are wearing.

What questions should I ask at a university interview?

Interviews are a two-way process. As much as the interviewer wants to find out about you, it’s also important that you find out whether the university is the right place for you.

You should come prepared with a list of questions to ask the admissions team. These could be on the teaching methods at the university, the examination process for your chosen subject or a query about your course tutor. No matter how much research you have done, it’s always helpful to get a personal opinion on the institute from people who work there.

Aside from your university course, you could even ask questions about other aspects of student life. These could range from anything you want to know about the societies, to class sizes or support networks. Keep the questions relevant, but don’t be afraid to ask something that isn’t directly related to your course. It will show an interview panel that you are genuinely interested in the university, as a whole and would therefore be an asset to the student body.

Remember too that you can ask interviewers to repeat or rephrase their questions. They would prefer that you understand the question and are able to give a proper answer than misunderstanding and giving a poor answer. The interviewer wants you to do well and therefore they will be more than happy to help you if you ask for it.

How can I appear more confident at university interviews?

A good way to feel confident before your interview is to take a look at the university’s website and research the course and the university. This will give you ideas as to what you can talk about, or what questions you can ask.

Also, you should arrange a meeting with your school’s or college’s careers adviser before your interview to help you get ready. They should be able to give you some interview techniques that will help you feel more relaxed. For example, you may want to write some notes on cue cards or listen to calming music whilst you wait to be called in.

Another good way to prepare yourself is to practice. Ask a family member or friend to conduct a mock interview with a few example questions. This will help you to think of the kind of answers you might want to give in the actual interview. The family member or friend can then give you their opinion on your responses.

An important aspect of any interview is body language. Avoiding eye contact with the interviewer could make it seem like you aren’t being truthful. Eye contact shows that you are interested in what the interviewer has to say and that you are friendly. Equally, you shouldn’t slump in your seat. It’s important to keep a good posture because you will look more confident and eager.

Should I bring anything to a university interview?

Universities will sometimes ask applicants to bring specific items to interviews. These could include a creative portfolio if you are an art student, or a case study if you want to study science. The admissions board like to see physical examples of students’ work so that they can make informed decisions, away from the formal setting of an interview.

Other items that you may want to bring to the interview are copies of your CV and personal statement. Although you have already submitted these to the university, it’s always safer to bring your own versions in case you want to refer to them during your interview. It’s also a good idea to confirm that your contact details match the information that the university has on file.

You could also bring your results from your GCSE or A-Level subjects (if you have them) or any other qualifications that you have. If you don’t have any current results, you could also bring a list of your estimated grades.

Some applicants may also be given tasks to complete on the interview day. For example, maths applicants could be given an equation to calculate, whilst an English Literature applicant might be asked to critique a piece of writing. These types of tasks are to test your knowledge as much as they are to see how you perform under pressure. It’s advisable to bring your own notebook and pen in case you are given tasks like these. Being prepared will show that you are well-organised, and may help you feel more relaxed.

Summary

There is no such thing as a perfect interview. As hard as you try, there is no way to know fully what the interview will be like. Everyone gets nervous, but that is to be expected. A good way to handle the situation is to do research on the course and the university so that you have some idea of what the interview will involve.

The admissions panel are only interested in getting to know you and finding out why you would be a suitable addition to their university. They’re not trying to trip you up, which means that you will only be asked questions that you should know the answers to or have an opinion on.

One of the best ways to prepare for a university interview is to go over a few example questions beforehand and make notes on what your answers could be. This will make sure that you have something to fall back on if you get stuck on the day. You can even ask a family member or friend to help you roleplay the interview so that you can also work on your body language and practice making eye contact.

As well as working out what answers you can give at the interview, it’s also worthwhile coming prepared with a few questions of your own. Aside from helping you to find out more about the university, this will also show interviewers that you are interested in their institute and want to learn more.

Although it is easier said than done, try to remain calm and think about your final goal. Applying to universities can be a fun experience, especially if the process ends with you accepting a place on the course of your choice!

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