Going for an interview at college or university
Going for an interview for a course at college or university can be stressful. But preparing well can help you to succeed.
How can I prepare?
Research the course well – read the course details.
Think about your reasons for doing that course, at that college.
List your skills, qualities and experience and think how you want to present them at the interview.
Imagine that you are the interviewer – what skills would you look for?
Think of the questions you may be asked and how you will answer them.
Arrange a mock interview with a teacher or careers adviser to practise your answers. Remember to speak clearly.
Read through a copy of your application form before you go.
Think of any questions that you want to ask – make sure they are not answered in the college prospectus.
Contact anyone who has had interviews for the course in the past for advice.
Be prepared to explain:
why you want to do the course
why you would be a good student on the course
how you will manage your time, fitting in study round everything else in your life
if you are returning to study, how you will adapt to being a student.
Be prepared to talk about yourself – your interests, the courses or work you are doing now.
You may have to do an essay, test or presentation as part of the selection for the course. Ask if this is likely, so that you can prepare. Ask if there are sample tests available. If you are doing a presentation check the IT facilities. Always take paper copies of your presentation as backup in case of any technical problems on the day.
Should I take anything to the interview?
If your interview is for an art and design course, the college will usually ask for a portfolio. The college will give you detailed advice on the content of the portfolio. This can apply to other courses. If you have interesting and relevant evidence such as reports from your work experience or previous course work take it with you to the interview.
In general, prepare as you would for a college interview (see above).
You may get additional help from the university before going for the interview. Students selected for interview for teacher training, for example, will get guidelines for the format of the selection process. This usually includes individual interviews and an assessed group discussion. You may be given the topics for group discussion beforehand.
If you are going as a mature student, you may find the university has an adviser for adult students (sometimes called the adviser for 'continuous education' or for 'lifelong learning') who can help you prepare for the interview.
What questions might come up?
- Why do you want to take a degree? Why this particular course?
- Why do you want to study at this university?
- What are your long term goals?
- What aspects of the course interest you most?
If your interview is for a vocational course such as nursing, teacher training or social work you need to:
- have evidence of relevant work experience or arrange visits or work shadowing to find out about the career in-depth and do a ‘reality check’
- read around the subject to show you are aware of issues such as government policy, skill shortages and new legislation - you might be asked about these.
You may also want to contact a recent graduate or current student to get an inside view of the course. This can also give you some feedback on the current job market and network contacts for the future.
The key to a successful interview is: ‘Prepare well’.
And make sure you have plenty time to get to the interview - you do not want to be flustered when you go in!
See also separate article on Finding a work experience placement.