Preparing for a university admissions interview

Brian Heap’s advice for students getting ready for their university interview:

University interviews may be arranged simply to give you a chance to see the institution and the department and to meet the staff and students. Alternatively, interviews may be an important part of the selection procedure for specific courses such as Law, Medicine and Teaching. If they are, you need to prepare yourself well. Most interviews last approximately 20–30 minutes and you may be interviewed by more than one person. For practical subjects such as Music and Drama almost certainly you will be asked to perform, and for artistic subjects, to take examples of your work. For some courses you may also have a written or other test at interview.

How best can you prepare yourself?

Firstly, as one applicant advised, ‘Go to the interview – at least you’ll see the place.’

Secondly, on the question of dress, try to turn up looking smart (it may not matter, but it can’t be wrong). Two previous applicants were more specific: ‘Dress smartly but sensibly so you are comfortable for travelling and walking round the campus.’

More general advice is also important

  • Prepare well – interviewers are never impressed by applicants who only sit there with no willingness to take part.
  • Read up the prospectus and course details – know how their course differs from any others you have applied for and be able to say why you prefer theirs.
  • They always ask if you have any questions to ask them: prepare some!

For example, How many students are admitted to the course each year? What are the job prospects for graduates? How easy is it to change from your chosen course to a related course?

Questions which you could ask might focus on the ways in which work is assessed, the content of the course, field work, work experience, teaching methods, accommodation and, especially for vocational courses, contacts with industry, commerce or the professions. However, don’t ask questions which are already answered in the prospectus!

These are only a few suggestions and other questions may come to mind during the interview which, above all, should be a two-way flow of information. It is also important to keep a copy of your UCAS application (especially your personal statement) for reference since your interview will probably start with a question about something you have written.

Usually interviewers will want to know why you have chosen the subject and why you have chosen their particular institution. They will want to see how motivated you are, how much care you have taken in choosing your subject, how much you know about your subject, what books you have read. If you have chosen a vocational course they will want to find out how much you know about the career it leads to, and whether you have visited any places of work or had any work experience. If your chosen subject is also an A-level subject you will be asked about your course and the aspects of the course you like the most.

Try to relax. For some people interviews can be an ordeal; most interviewers know this and will make allowances.

The following extract from the University of Manchester’s website will give you an idea of what admissions tutors look for:

  • You should remember that receiving an interview invite means that the admissions tutors are impressed with your application so far and you are in the running for an offer of a place at that university. It is an opportunity for you to discuss a subject that you and the interviewer share an interest in.
  • Interviewers will be looking for you to demonstrate how you met the criteria advertised in the prospectus and UCAS entry profiles, but will not always ask you about them directly. Some examples of criteria used by admissions tutors include: interest, motivation and commitment to the subject; the ability to study independently; the ability to work with others; the ability to manage time effectively; an interest in the university.

by Brian Heap, author of Heap 2017: University Degree Course offers and Choosing Your Degree.