You’ve impressed the admissions tutors with your application and now they want to meet you in person. Beat the nerves by making sure you are well prepared
What to expect
Interviews and auditions are sometimes used by admissions staff towards the end of the application process as a means of comparing applicants that have a good chance of being offered places on their courses. They're more common in creative or care-related programmes, as well as for entry into Oxford and Cambridge.
While the form and length of the interview will vary between university and department, the majority are based on a discussion with the course tutor responsible for your chosen subject.
Depending on the subject you may need to bring along a portfolio - showing examples of your best work. This is usually for courses in the creative arts, while those wishing to study English are often asked to discuss a poem and maths applicants may have to solve an equation. The interviewer will want to keep an element of surprise but they should at least let you know in advance whether you will be expected to complete a task.
You'll usually find out about your interview through the online UCAS Track facility, although universities may contact students directly by post. In Track you have the option of accepting, declining or requesting to change the time or date.
As universities will be extremely busy, it might not be easy to reschedule the interview, so it's advisable to attend on the original date. However, if this is not possible, you can let the institution know in Track and propose a new date. The invitation will then either be updated in Track, or you'll find out by email, phone or post.
After the interview, you'll need to wait for the decision to be confirmed in Track.
How to prepare
In advance of your interview, it's important to prepare properly. You can do this by:
- sorting out your travel and accommodation arrangements within plenty of time;
- finding out exactly where the interview will take place;
- thinking carefully about why you've chosen this course, making notes from your application and reading through your personal statement;
- planning questions that you can ask yourself;
- thoroughly researching the course and university;
- ensuring that you're up to date with current affairs relating to your subject;
- carrying out a mock interview with a careers adviser or teacher to see how well you perform under pressure and to make sure that you're adopting the right body language.
What to wear
You're not being assessed on your appearance or the clothes you wear, so you can dress comfortably, with no need for a suit. However you still need to look professional, so smart trousers or a skirt, along with a shirt or blouse, may help you to make a good impression and show the interviewer that you're serious about your studies.
What to take with you
A notepad may come in handy to job down the important points, especially if you have a number of interviews lined up.
If you're choosing to study art and design or another practice-based course, the university is likely to want to see a portfolio of your work when you attend your interview. You'll usually be expected to display it and discuss what it contains.
The guidelines will vary between each university, but for many art courses, this logically-organised collection of artwork should highlight your particular interests and how your skills and ideas have been developing.
Your portfolio will typically consist of research examples, work in progress and completed pieces - but these don't just have to be related to your college work. Depending on the content, this can be housed within a size-appropriate folder, for example, A3 or A4. You should simply take a photo of any particularly large pieces you've done.
Knowing what you could be asked and planning your answers can help ease the stress of an interview. Here are some example questions:
- Why do you want to study this subject?
- Why did you choose this university?
- What did you enjoy about your A-levels?
- How would you describe yourself?
- What are your main interests?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What are your career plans?
- Why should we offer you a place?
You'll also have to think about the types of questions that relate to your specific subject and have acquired some background knowledge of what the field involves. For example, a biochemistry student might need to work through a problem relating to the differences between various recognisable compounds. For courses in English literature, the interviewer may ask you to tell them about a piece of literary work mentioned within your UCAS personal statement.
Questions you can ask
Remember, the interview is a two-way process, so use this opportunity wisely by finding out what you want to know about the course - aside from what is detailed within the university website or prospectus.
For instance, you could ask the course tutor about the programme's range of teaching methods, expectations for each year of the degree, the kinds of things they look for in a good student, as well as any tips on how to succeed.
What interviewers are looking for
They'll want to find out exactly what you have to offer, that you're taking your career decisions seriously and that you're prepared for university life and study.
By showing passion for your subject and outside interests, while having a genuine interest in and knowledge about the course and university, you will come across as a well-rounded individual who has the potential to thrive in this environment.