You've impressed the admissions staff with your application, but they want to meet you in person before making an offer - so secure your university place by being well prepared on the day

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 who have a good chance of being offered places on their courses. They're more likely to be held for 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 universities and departments, the majority are based on a discussion with the course tutor responsible for your chosen subject.

Depending on which course you're interviewing for, you may need to bring along a portfolio showing examples of your best work. This usually applies only to courses in the arts, while those wishing to study English are often asked to discuss a poem or essay they've written. Maths applicants may have to solve an equation. The interviewer will want to keep an element of surprise to the interview, but should at least let you know in advance whether you'll 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 to provide information on what will happen on the day. In Track, you'll have the option of accepting, declining or requesting to change the time or date of the interview.

As universities will be extremely busy, it might not be easy to reschedule the interview, so try your hardest to attend on the original date. However, if this isn't 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 be notified of the rescheduling via email, phone or post.

After the interview, you'll need to wait for the decision to be confirmed in Track.

How to prepare for a university interview

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 ensure you're adopting the right body language.

What to wear at the interview

You're not being assessed on your appearance or the clothes you wear, so dress comfortably. There's no need for a suit, but you'll still need to look professional - smart trousers or a skirt, along with a shirt or blouse, will help you make a good first impression and show the interviewer that you take your studies seriously.

What to take with you

A notepad may come in handy to jot down the most 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.

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, it can be housed within a size-appropriate folder - for example, A3 or A4. Provide photos of any particularly large pieces you've done, rather than trying to take them along.

Example interview questions

Knowing what you could be asked and planning your answers can help to 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 achievement are you most proud of?
  • 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 in your university personal statement or expect you to discuss what you're reading at the moment.

Questions you can ask

Remember that interviews are a two-way process, so use this opportunity wisely by finding out what you want to know about the course - aside from what you can find on the university website or in the 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 main characteristics they look for in a student, as well as any tips on how to succeed on this particular course.

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 of the course and university, you'll come across as a well-rounded individual who has the potential to thrive in this environment.

Once you've secured your place on your chosen course, see our 10 things to do before starting university.