Attending your Higher Education interview can be a nerve-wracking experience, but with practice and research you can improve your technique, gain confidence and become better at controlling those nerves!
All applicants will go through an interview process at some point and places for courses may be short in some disciplines. Because of this you should be looking to improve or brush up on your interview technique as much as possible to give you a competitive edge!
Apply for courses that match your skills, qualifications or experience.
You should be applying for courses that best match your skills, abilities and personal qualities. This makes it much easier to talk about relevant experiences and training during the interview. It will also make you and the interviewer feel more comfortable. Recent research has found that many young people have a scattergun, random approach to university/employment applications. Make sure you know why you are applying for your chosen course. If you are struggling with your choices, a college careers adviser can help you explore your options and highlight the relevant skills and personal qualities for a particular course.
Lots of students worry that they won't know what to talk about at an interview. But remember, if you got an interview, your UCAS application must have stood out. Well done! You should be confident from this alone. Because of this, the interviewer already knows a little about your subjects studied and a little about you from your personal statement. Now they just want to know more about these aspects. You should remember what you put on your application (specifically your personal statement) so have a re-read over it before the interview. If you aren't getting interviews, your personal statement or qualifications may not be appealing to institutions. Consider all angles, ask the institution for feedback and keep a positive attitude.
First impressions count
First impressions are vital as the interviewer(s) will make an assumption on you based on how you appear to them. Because of this make sure you are early for your interview by a minimum of 15 minutes and be pleasant to everyone you meet. Smile, shake hands and talk to people in a polite way. This has the added benefit of putting you at ease by being in a chatty, sociable frame of mind. Make sure you have plenty of time to get ready before the interview and plan your journey to the interview so you know where you are going. Make sure you plan for any eventualities such as traffic delays etc. You must present the best version of yourself at interview so make sure you and your clothes are clean. If you are unsure if the interview is casual, dress smart anyway. Every little thing counts when up against others and by dressing professionally it shows you are professional, respect the interviewer and you are serious about your future.
Fake it until you make it
You may be nervous but you can turn that nervous energy into positive energy with effective body language. By acting confidently and happy to be there your mind can be tricked into feeling positive. Lift your shoulders, walk tall, smile and tell yourself positive messages in your mind. Handshakes and greetings should be firm and clear and you shouldn't slouch when sitting. You can even demonstrate positive body language when listening to others by nodding which shows you are listening to the other person speaking. If you are unsure about your body language, practice eye contact, smiling and check your posture in the mirror before you attend your interview. Demonstrate good eye-contact to people you see and be freindly to everyone you meet. If you create this kind of experience, you'll feel much more in control and comfortable on the day. Remember, everyone is in the same boat so be confident in yourself and you'll be ahead of the crowd!
The interview itself:
Remember that the point of a Higher Education interview is to find out if you are a good fit for the course. Because of this there will be a range of questions based on your personal qualities as well as what you know about the course/industry you want to work in. You will be asked to talk about yourself, demonstrating an awareness of your strengths or weaknesses and will also be required to talk about your current studies. Here you can talk about what you have enjoyed, what you are looking forward to learning more about and where you want to progress career-wise. There may be a panel of interviewers or just a couple of staff members. Either way, you should be prepared to have an in-depth conversation about yourself. Because of this you might want to prepare by watching interview advice videos online or by having a mock interview with a student adviser in college.
Your answers should always be related to the question you were asked and a good interviewee backs up what they say with an example. This is usually done by talking about study experience or work/voluntary experiences. If you think you won't have much to talk about in an interview now is the time to act! Get involved with a community/voluntary project to add a conversation piece to your interview. There are lots of voluntary opportunities available in college through the student ambassador scheme and externally through various voluntary agencies. Again, speak to an adviser should you require support.
The interview is your chance to show a university what you are made of. You should look to ask them questions about their course, student employment rates, where students go, aspects about the course, or anything else to appear interested. Attending an interview means you've impressed them on your UCAS application so now it's up to you to act professionally and enjoy the interview day. And remember, if you don't get in, don't be too downbeat. There is always feedback available from the institution. Maybe you froze on the day, maybe the competition was so fierce that all other candidates had work experience. No matter what happens, attending an interview should be a growth experience that gives you experience and confidence that will last a lifetime. We can always help you apply for another institution, another course or to re-apply for future intakes. So get to work, study hard, research university interviews and access support should you need it.