How to get prepared for your university interview

Been invited to a university interview? Well done – your application has done enough to make an admissions tutor want to find out more about you. The not-so-good news? Now you need to impress face-to-face. 

Having an idea of what to expect and making the right preparations beforehand will help you get interview-ready. Which? University is on hand with some practical pointers.

What interviewers look for
First and foremost, tutors want to see that you’re genuinely motivated by your chosen subject and have made efforts to research it beyond your school or college syllabuses.
 

Interview

You don’t need to know everything! Questions will often test how capable you are when it comes to developing original thoughts and arguments, and how you deal with talking around concepts you might not be familiar with - it's what degree-level studies are all about.

Your interviewer will also be checking to see that what you said in your personal statement stands up to scrutiny and that you’re up-to-date with what’s going on in the world around you.

What will it be like?
Interviews can range from an intellectual interrogation - ‘an exam out loud’ - to a cosy chat designed to encourage you to apply to this course at this university.

The format differs according to the university and subject (we’ve listed examples of interview scenarios by subject on Which? University) but in any interview, as in any conversation, there should be two-way interaction. Make sure you participate and contribute.

An interview can last anything between 10 minutes and an hour. Interviews can be conducted by one interviewer, but there could be two, three or even four of them.

There’s no such thing as the perfect interview. Be yourself and don’t be intimidated – the interview will probably be far less formal and scary than you’re imagining.

Can you repeat the question, please..?

  • ‘Who’s the most influential: Obama, Merkel or Adele?’
  • ‘Tell me about a cactus’
  • ‘You have applied for medicine. Why not nursing?
  • ‘Kylie or Dannii?’

Yep, there might be a wildcard question thrown into the mix (the above examples are taken from real-life uni interviews!). They’re not there to trip you up, but test how well you can think on your feet and apply your skills to different situations. There is always a logical reason behind a question being asked.


How to get prepared
We asked Andy Gardner, a careers adviser and co-author of the University Interviews Guide book, to share his top tips.

Run-up to the interview:

  • Look through material sent to you before the interview, so you know what to expect when you get there.
  • Re (and re-read) the university prospectus and details about the course.
  • Get someone (who hopefully knows a bit about your subject) to give you a mock interview. And maybe another one, to help you build up your confidence. This will also expose whether you have done enough wider reading or relevant work experience if you’re applying for a vocational degree.
  • Print off and re-familiarise yourself with your personal statement – there may be questions around this.
  • Think about how you’d answer basic questions such as ‘why do you want to study this subject?’ and ‘why do you want to come to this university?’.
  • Prepare a few questions to ask the interviewer(s) – ones that haven’t already been answered in information you have been sent.
  • Plan your journey. Plan your overnight stay if there’s one of those involved. Give yourself plenty of time on the day – lateness really won’t impress.
Interview

On the day: etiquette dos and don’ts
Dress code
Follow dress code recommendations provided by the university. If you are applying for a vocational degree (for example, medicine or hotel management) it is usually best to err on the side of convention and dress smartly.

Dress in something you feel comfortable in, and that won’t distract the interviewer from the points you want to make. Hats, caps and hoodies are a no-no – but you probably knew that already…

Body language

  • Don’t slouch - sit up straight, leaning forward slightly to show you’re listening (and interested).
  • When it comes to handshakes, sitting down, starting to talk, and so on, take your lead from the interviewer.
  • Make eye contact (with all your interviewers if you’ve more than one).
  • Regulate your voice level so it’s clear, friendly and at an appropriate pace.
  • If you feel your nerves getting the better of you, don’t be afraid to pause (take a sip of water if you can) so you can regain your composure.
  • Don’t chew gum.


Good luck!

TSR provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Which? University, a free and independent website packed with everything you need to find the right university course for you.