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How to Prepare for a University Interview

Preparing for a University Interview

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Not all universities, or degrees, require interviews as part of the application process, but for those of you who do have to interview, this can often feel like the most terrifying element of the process.

It shouldn’t be!

Our blog post takes you through some key points to keep in mind when preparing for an interview, and when actually in one.

Spend Time Preparing For Your University Interview Thoroughly

The most frightening element of the interview process is its unpredictability; in most cases, you will not be certain what will be asked of you, and the advised format may be very vague.

Of course, you can never predict the content of an interview, but you can certainly ensure that you are as prepared as possible.

In order to do this, you need to give yourself time; there is nothing worse than leaving everything until the day before the interview, as you are just going to end up feeling unnecessarily stressed and underprepared.

It is advisable to make sure you are confident and comfortable discussing everything in your personal statement; if you could not answer questions about something, do not put it in!

Practise with friends or family, getting them to ask you random and challenging questions based on things you have written; you should be secure in  your opinions on ideas and thoughts, but also able to be flexible when shown another perspective or contradictory view.

Play devil’s advocate with yourself – the more you practise this, the easier and less frightening it will seem when you are in the actual interview situation.

Be yourself, genuine and authentic

When interviewers meet you, they are of course looking for somebody who can perform well academically, but they are also looking for somebody who is a good communicator.

The university environment and learning process is very much a discursive one, and being able to vocalise your thoughts, share them with others, and engage in a collaborative discussion, is crucial.

If the idea of talking to a small group of strangers terrifies you, that is okay!

For the interview, just try and be yourself as much as is possible; interviewers would far rather see the real you, than a fabricated version.

Having said that, it may be necessary for you to fake some confidence in order to get yourself through the interview – this is okay also.

One way to try and decrease interview nerves is to remember that you are also interviewing your interviewers!

This may sound strange, but is in fact very true; you are the person who is choosing to invest in the university, to be educated by these academics, and ultimately to pay the university a lot of money!

If the atmosphere, learning style or environment does not feel right for you during your interview, that’s a very important sign to take note of (and it can be something that does not in fact become apparent until you do enter for your interview).

Vocalise Your Working Out 

Do you remember when you were constantly told in primary school to ‘show your working out’ in maths exercises? It’s now time to employ the same approach!

In your university interviews, the academics ultimately want to see how you think.

This means you need to talk through your thoughts out loud, even if you haven’t reached an answer to a question.

It is perfectly alright if you get the wrong answer to a question in your interview, or do not get an answer at all.

It is more important that you show how your thinking works, as it is intellectual ability and potential that universities are looking for, rather than perfectly formed knowledge.

Being able to both argue your point solidly, and also be flexible in your thinking, are valued qualities; try and show a balance of these in your interview.

Do not be afraid to stick to and argue for a point or perspective if you believe in it, but also do not hesitate to change your mind or make a U-turn if your thinking is pushed in another direction.

Questions are also completely allowed, as you are not expected to know everything, and often the material in interviews can be completely unfamiliar to you or beyond the level of things you are working on at school.

Asking questions (although not too many!) when you need something clarifying is absolutely fine, and it can often show an interviewer that you are willing to take on challenging concepts rather than just avoid them.

A Difficult Interview Is A Good One!

There is a great tendency and temptation to leave an interview and immediately feel disheartened and dejected if it was very difficult, or if you felt like you floundered.

It is always completely impossible to tell how you have performed in an interview; sometimes the people who feel their interview went well don’t actually succeed, and those who thought they underperformed do! It is important to do your best and then to try and be proud of the fact you even entered the room at all!

If your interview felt difficult, this is almost definitely a positive thing; interviewers may not push you academically if they do not think you have the capability, so being pushed and challenged is often a sign that potential and ability has been seen in you.

Try and embrace the difficulty and give it your best shot; the most tricky questions can often turn into the most engaging conversations, and sometimes interviewers even end up learning from their interviewees!

Whilst an interview is not the most comfortable or relaxing situation you could find yourself in, it is definitely not one to fear.

Be prepared, be yourself and be flexible, and you are well on the way to delivering an impressive interview. Create your free Degree Key account now and get access to tried and tested resources that undergraduates from leading universities used for their own interviews!

Author
About Eliza Mahoney
Eliza is in her third year at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where she is reading English. This year she has taken optional papers in the Victorian period (1847-1872) and in visual culture (art, photography and film). Her first dissertation centred around beginnings in the prose of Stevie Smith, and her final dissertation explored the relationship between dance and literature, focusing on Charlotte Brontë's 'Jane Eyre'. She is a Full Blue in dance and spent this year as the captain of the Cambridge Dance Team - she has danced for 19 years! Eliza has been accepted to study for a PGCE in Primary Education at Cambridge and looks forward to returning for her fourth year in September.

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