How to… Ace Your University Interview

Tips and tricks to secure your place following your university interview.

It used to be that University interviews were reserved for only the most sought-after schools or classes. Before that they were a formality in which students would be inducted into the College of their ancestors with a handshake and a toast. Now, thankfully, the process is a lot more commonplace and a lot more rigorous. From Medicine to Teaching, Dentistry to Business, many universities now require students to present themselves at interview to earn a spot on their course. So, grab a cup of coffee and a note pad and settle in. Here’s some advice on how to wow the panellists and secure your dream place at university.

Understand the process – and prepare

There are many different protocols in place for interviews at Universities. It’s 2019! You could be interviewed by a panel or an individual, in a group or on your own, to measure your mental aptitude for a certain course or your measurable skill in an area of study…the list is almost endless. This can cause understandable stress. The solution? Ensure you understand the process by reading your letter/email carefully, and requesting further detail if required.

Then, leave early to arrive in plenty of time, and grab a bottle of water to calm those nerves and whet your whistle. Understanding the order of the day should allow you to relax and – dare I suggest? – even enjoy the process.

Know your stuff

This may seem incredibly obvious, but you’d be amazed how many people forget the basics. Revision is second nature to modern students and you should utilise this skill for interview. Why do you want to attend this particular college or school? What about the course is particularly attractive to you? Is there a renowned library or theatre you can’t wait to visit on campus? What is impressive to interviewers is passion – something you can’t fake. So, look into the finer details of the programme of study and show off that knowledge in your allocated time with your interviewers. People listen to people who are interested; show off your engagement with their product. It will go a long way.

Be smart

Even if the dress code says ‘smart casual’, err on the side of ‘smart’. As a famous person once said, ‘You can never be overdressed or overeducated.’ And you won’t have the opportunity to become ‘overeducated’ if you don’t dress to impress. Be comfortable, and wear something that gives you confidence. If you’re not a suit-wearer by nature then perhaps opt for smart trousers and a shirt and jumper. If you’re someone who avoids wearing dresses on a regular basis, don’t squeeze yourself into a pencil skirt. Be you…just the smartest version of you. Imagine this is a job interview: you don’t want to add to your nerves by glancing around the waiting room in your scruffs and seeing a sea of shiny shoes.

Be engaging

Manners don’t cost a lot – or anything – but they can be underutilised by many students. Hold open the door for people as you enter the building, smile at the receptionist: these people may be involved in the process, but even if they’re not using your manners will leave a lasting impression. Etiquette (in the UK, at least) dictates that eye contact and a handshake are a symbol of confidence and politeness. But if you are interviewing elsewhere, it wouldn’t harm to look up local culture and find out the appropriate greeting. Use non-verbal feedback to indicate you are listening to the questions and responses of your interviewers – nodding, agreement and eye contact are all sure fire ways to engage your panel.

Ask questions

Many people assume that interviews are all about your answers to questions. In actual fact, thoughtful and considered questions posed by you are equally important. How else will you know if the course, university or country are the right ‘fit’ for you? As much as you want to secure a place, and the university wants the right sort of person on their course, you also want to make an informed decision. So air any concerns and raise any questions you need the answers to. In addition, you will look even more confident and committed if the panellists know that you are a discerning customer choosing their institution.

It may seem a lot to keep in mind, but ensure you follow the steps above to smash the interview. Good luck!