Preparing for a university interview (2023)

Despite impressing with your application, the admissions team may still want to meet you before making an offer - give yourself the best chance of securing your place by discovering how to prepare for a university interview

What to expect

Interviews and auditions are sometimes used by admissions staff towards the end of the university application process as a means of comparing applicants with 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, most are based on a discussion with the course tutor.

For some courses, you may need to bring along a portfolio showing examples of your best work. This usually only applies to courses in the arts, but those wishing to study English are often asked to discuss a poem or essay they've written, while maths applicants may have to solve an equation.

The interviewer will want to maintain an element of surprise with regards to the interview - but they should at least let you know in advance if you'll be expected to complete a task.

How to find out about your interview

This will usually be through UCAS Hub, although universities may contact students directly to provide information on what will happen on the day.

On UCAS Hub you'll be given the option of accepting, declining or requesting to change the time or date of the interview.

(Video) NAIL YOUR ONLINE COLLEGE INTERVIEW! How to Prep, Common Interview Questions, Engaging Conversation

As universities will be extremely busy it might not be easy to reschedule the interview, so try your best to attend on the original date. However, if this isn't possible, you can propose a new date through UCAS. The invitation will then either be updated, 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 UCAS Hub.

Online interviews

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, some institutions may still be holding their admissions interviews online. In this instance, you'd need access to your laptop and have a video platform such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams installed, as well as ensuring a strong Wi-Fi connection. The format of the interview and anything you need to bear in mind should be made clear to you in UCAS Hub or through direct contact with the university.

While they're primarily focused on interviewing for graduate jobs, you'll find that our video interview tips are still relevant to university interviews.

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
  • ensuring your laptop and webcam are all set up and working correctly - if your interview is being held online
  • thinking carefully about why you've chosen this course, making notes from your application and reading through your personal statement
  • planning questions to ask the university interviewer
  • thoroughly researching the course and university
  • ensuring 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 to make a good first impression and show the interviewer that you take your studies seriously.

This advice still applies if the interview is being conducted online, as you still need to show admissions tutors that you've made an effort.

If it's an audition for a drama or dance course, you may need to wear something that's still appropriate, but comfortable for moving around in.

(Video) Your University Interview - Advice & Tips

What to take with you

A notepad may come in handy to jot down the most important points, especially if you have several interviews lined up.

For music courses, you may need to remember to take your instrument.

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 well-organised collection of work should highlight your particular interests as well as 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, such as A3 or A4. Provide photos of any particularly large pieces you've done, rather than trying to take them along.

Discover more about putting together a creative portfolio.

Example university 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.

(Video) 10 Tips for your College Interview | Former Stanford Interviewer

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 personal statement or expect you to discuss what you're reading at the moment.

If you find that you don't understand the question, it's fine to ask them to repeat or rephrase it than try to guess what was being asked.

Questions to ask at a university interview

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, and the main characteristics looked for in a student, as well as any advice on how to succeed when taking this particular course.

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 with the potential to thrive in this environment.

University interview tips

If you're wondering how to get the most out of the interview experience, Joanna Haran, head of admissions at the University of Salford, offers the following pointers:

  • Decide if this is where you want to study - 'Applicants should consider these interviews as an opportunity to make an informed decision about their future, as well as a chance to demonstrate skills for their chosen course. It's important to get a feel as to whether the university is the right place for you by seeing the campus and where you'll be taught. Indeed, meeting our applicants is one of the best parts of an admissions tutor's role, as it gives us the opportunity to give a tour of our facilities.'
  • Be prepared for group discussions - 'We only interview for courses where we feel that there's a real benefit, or where it's a professional requirement for our healthcare-related courses. Group interviews are often used with discussion topics demonstrating some of the relevant skills required. Applicants should make sure they participate as much as possible.'
  • Showcase your skills and enthusiasm - 'Our tutors will be looking for study commitment, organisational ability, motivation, and passion for their particular subject area, but we also strive to make this an enjoyable experience where applicants are able to meet their peers and start to build relationships.'

Find out more

  • Once you've secured your place, prepare for university life.
  • Tick off these 10 things to do before starting university.
  • Consider what to take to university.
(Video) UNIVERSITY INTERVIEW Questions & Answers! (How To Prepare For A University Interview!)

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How long should university interview answers be? ›

Interview answers should be 30 seconds to four minutes, depending on the context of the questions. Your response may be short (30 seconds to two minutes) if the question is simple.

How do I pass a university interview? ›

How to prepare for a university interview
  1. Practice answers to common questions. ...
  2. Re-read your personal statement. ...
  3. Make sure you can attend. ...
  4. Remember to bring any additional documents. ...
  5. Arrive early. ...
  6. Dress smartly and comfortably. ...
  7. Prepare your own questions in advance. ...
  8. Relax, you'll interview better this way.

What should you not say in a university interview? ›

Do not shout or argue. If you are not able to understand a question, ask the interviewer to repeat the question. Do not lie - be honest in your answers, and do not exaggerate. Do not forget to thank the interviewer.

Is it good if the interviewer talks a lot? ›

The more the interviewer talks about what is going on in their company and how you will fit in, the better. It means they are selling it to you and potentially see you as the answer to what they want.

How long does an university interview last? ›

They can last anything from ten minutes to an hour and are usually, though not always, conducted by one interviewer.

Can a uni reject you after an interview? ›

Even if you got an interview, you could be rejected.

Does everyone get a university interview? ›

While interviews are not part of every university admissions process, many institutions will ask to meet you face-to-face before admitting you.

What are the 10 most common university interview questions and answers? ›

10 College Interview Questions and Responses
  • How would you describe yourself to someone who did not know you? ...
  • What do you expect to be doing ten years from now? ...
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses? ...
  • How would you contribute to our college community? ...
  • What subject in high school did you find most challenging?
1 Aug 2019

What are 3 things you should avoid in an interview? ›

15 things you should avoid in a job interview
  • Arriving late. Poor time management decreases your ability to be punctual due to unpredictable delays. ...
  • Unexcused absence. ...
  • Too casual at greeting. ...
  • A lack of interest in the employer. ...
  • Questionable documents? ...
  • Overtired appearance. ...
  • Lack of care. ...
  • Inappropriate clothing.

What are the two things you should never mention in an interview? ›

Things you should never say in a job interview
  • Anything negative about a previous employer or job. ...
  • "I don't know." ...
  • Discussions about benefits, vacation and pay. ...
  • "It's on my resume." ...
  • Unprofessional language. ...
  • "I don't have any questions." ...
  • Asking what the company does. ...
  • Overly prepared answers or cliches.

Do universities care about interviews? ›

Admissions officers will consider the interview when evaluating your application (although they'll be much more interested in your grades, test scores, and college essays). A few schools require interviews or have a specific process for them.

What are a few of the signs that the interview went well? ›

11 Signs your interview went well
  • You were in the interview for longer than expected. ...
  • The interview felt conversational. ...
  • You are told what you would be doing in this role. ...
  • The interviewer seemed engaged. ...
  • You feel sold on the company and the role. ...
  • Your questions are answered in full.

How do I know if I impressed the interviewer? ›

8 Signs You Nailed Your Interview
  1. Your Interview Ran Longer Than Scheduled. ...
  2. Your Interviewer's Body Language Cues Were Positive. ...
  3. Your Conversation Flowed Naturally. ...
  4. You Were Asked Follow-Up Questions. ...
  5. They Want You to Meet Other Team Members. ...
  6. Your Interviewer “Sold” You on the Job and Company.
24 Jan 2022

Is it OK to let interviewer know you are nervous? ›

“I'm a little nervous.” Acknowledging that your nerves are getting the better of you might actually help you shake off your nervousness. Most interviewers have been there, too, at some point in their career and will understand.

Is it OK to sound nervous in an interview? ›

It is okay to be nervous for an interview. I think this is important to say, because it is not often included in interview preparation advice. Being nervous demonstrates that you care about the position you are interviewing for and it is something you really want. That is a good thing.

What should you not reveal to the interviewer? ›

11 Things You Should Never Reveal During an Interview
  • You despise your former employer. ...
  • You got fired from your last job. ...
  • You worry you're underqualified for the role. ...
  • You have things going on in your personal life that might impact your work. ...
  • You regard this role as a career stepping stone. ...
  • You lack confidence.
17 Jun 2021

How important is a university interview? ›

Interviews not only demonstrate your interest in a college, which can boost your acceptance odds, but you also gain a competitive edge over other applicants who opted not to do an interview.

How do you introduce yourself in a university interview? ›

Things to Consider
  1. Details about your life that show how you'd be a good match at the college.
  2. Details that reflect your individuality and help you stand out.
  3. A brief explanation of what prompted you to apply to college or select your major.
  4. Your one-of-a-kind passions or interests (connect them to the college if possible)

What questions will I be asked at a university interview? ›

Example university interview 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 to do if no university accepts you? ›

Universities don't have to give you a reason, but if the rejection has left you wondering you could contact the university to ask for feedback. Try not to take it too personally. Admissions tutors will be sifting through hundreds of applications and it might not always be obvious why it's not good news for you.

How long after a uni interview should you hear back? ›

There's no set waiting time. Some students will hear back in three days and some three weeks. This is completely normal and not a reflection of your application. Try and stay calm.

Can you ask university why they accept you? ›

There is no rule keeping denied students from asking admissions officers the reason for the decision. However, it's very much likely for them to get a generic response or none at all.

What does it mean when a university offers an interview? ›

The interview is rarely the deciding factor in whether the college will accept you, but it can give a representative from the college a chance to get to know you better. And the interview gives you a chance to: Show your interest in the college. Share information about yourself beyond what's listed on your transcript.

How do you not get nervous for a university interview? ›

Prepare, prepare, prepare.

Don't convince yourself that it's fine to wing it – the more prepared you are, the less nervous you'll feel. Plan your answers to tricky questions they might ask and think of some questions of your own.

What questions should I ask at the end of a university interview? ›

Best College interview questions to ask (if your interviewer is an alum)
  • What was your experience like? ...
  • What did you love most about your college that you think other colleges may not offer? ...
  • What would you have done differently? ...
  • What DIDN'T the school do well?
31 Mar 2020

What are the 5 hardest interview questions and answers? ›

The most difficult interview questions (and answers)
  • What is your greatest weakness? Strengths-and-weaknesses interview questions are a given. ...
  • Why should we hire you? ...
  • What's something that you didn't like about your last job? ...
  • Why do you want this job? ...
  • How do you deal with conflict with a co-worker?

How do you answer the top 3 weaknesses? ›

How to answer What are your greatest weaknesses? Choose a weakness that will not prevent you from succeeding in the role. Be honest and choose a real weakness. Provide an example of how you've worked to improve upon your weakness or learn a new skill to combat the issue.

Is it okay to smile during an interview? ›

A Strong Smile is a Sign of Confidence

Being confident can definitely get you way ahead of others competing for the same job position. And a smile is the best symbol of confidence. Not only does it create a good impression on the interviewer but it can also make you happy and feel positive during the interview.

What are 6 mistakes that can be made during an interview? ›

Avoid These Six Common Interview Mistakes
  • Bragging.
  • Answering but not asking.
  • Not knowing the company.
  • Not paying attention.
  • Making a bad first impression.
  • Trying to fake it.

Is it okay to drink water during an interview? ›

Even if you're not thirsty, take it. If you're offered coffee and you don't drink coffee, politely ask for water instead. This very simple act will make the person you're interviewing with feel like a good host, put her at ease, and prime you to be able to read her well and interview accordingly.

What to say at the beginning of an interview? ›

Start the interview with a polite greeting: “How are you today?” or “I'm pleased to meet you!” Thank the interviewer for meeting with you: “Thank you for taking the time to meet with me today.” Mention who you know at the company: “I was so excited when _____ told me this position was open!”

What body language should you avoid during an interview? ›

Defensive or Aggressive Body Posture

Crossing your arms across your chest. Leaning forward a bit too assertively. Invading the interviewer's personal space. What do these gestures have in common?

How honest should you be in an interview? ›

In a job interview, it's in your best interest to be honest about your professional experience, your qualifications, as well as your strengths and weaknesses. However, as soon as your interviewer begins to ask questions about your private life, you should be very cautious with your answers.

How do you nail a university interview? ›

How to Prepare For a University Admission Interview
  1. Consider the type of interview you can expect. ...
  2. Think about how you can stand out. ...
  3. Re-read your personal statement. ...
  4. Re-read the course information. ...
  5. Plan some answers to common university interview questions. ...
  6. Know your subject. ...
  7. Practice with a friend. ...
  8. Dress appropriately.

How do you know if you're a top candidate? ›

According to Toronto recruiters, here are the signs that you've identified a top candidate:
  1. They Followed All the Application Instructions. ...
  2. They Ask You Great Questions. ...
  3. They Take a Team First Approach. ...
  4. They Embrace Change. ...
  5. They Are Actively Looking to Grow.
1 Oct 2019

Is it OK to look away during interview? ›

It is okay to look away briefly to collect your thoughts. Just do not do it for too long. It will appear more like you are making up the answer the longer you take. Look away if you need a moment, then make eye contact again and ask a follow-up question.

What does a bad interview look like? ›

None of the interview questions felt like a conversation.

If it felt like you were just checking “yes” or “no” questions, then it could be a bad sign. If they asked open-ended questions and none of them sparked a more natural conversation, you might not want to pin your hopes on it.

How do you spot red flags in an interview? ›

Here are 10 red flags to watch out for.
  1. Constant rescheduling and disorganization. ...
  2. Disrespecting others. ...
  3. Values conflict. ...
  4. Lack of clarity or consistency in answers to your questions. ...
  5. Bait and switch. ...
  6. Inappropriate questions or comments. ...
  7. Lack of connection. ...
  8. Resistance to change (even if they say they want change)
7 Jun 2022

How do you make sure an interviewer remembers you? ›

9 ways to be remembered at interview
  1. Those opening moments. ...
  2. Show and tell. ...
  3. Manage your messages. ...
  4. Sound like you're revealing all. ...
  5. Be a good cultural fit. ...
  6. Put a number on it. ...
  7. Leave a trail of energy. ...
  8. Ask stimulating questions.

What does good luck mean after an interview? ›

The HR saying "Good luck" might just mean that the HR wishes you luck ahead for the process. Typically, for one open position, the companies interview a few candidates and then pick the best one among them. It purely depends on how your interview went. Do not ponder a lot over this.

How long should written responses to interview questions be? ›

The right length for interview answers depends on the type of question. Answers for basic/introductory questions should be 30 to 90 seconds. Answers for behavioral questions should be at least 2 minutes but not more than 4 minutes.

How long should your about me answer be? ›

Keep it focused and short, ideally less than a minute, and no more than 2 minutes. You won't be able to fit all of your great qualities and resume high points into 2 minutes, so you'll have to spend some time thinking about how to present yourself in a way that starts the interview on the right note.

How long should my application answers be? ›

So what is the ideal Short Answer length? You'll get cut off before you go over the limit, but you should use the space you've been given. If the limit is 150 words, then shoot for something in the 125- to 150-word range.

How long can you think about an answer in an interview? ›

The length of your pause is dependent on each specific situation. In a classic management consulting case interview, it is acceptable (and expected) to pause for 30 to 60 seconds before giving your first answer.

What is the star technique in interviews? ›

The STAR method is a structured manner of responding to a behavioral-based interview question by discussing the specific situation, task, action, and result of the situation you are describing.

Which of the following are common mistakes made in an interview? ›

The 10 Biggest Job Interview Mistakes
  • Skip Your Homework Before the Job Interview. ...
  • Neglect to Prep for the Interview. ...
  • Arrive Late to the Interview. ...
  • Dress Inappropriately. ...
  • Forget to Bring the Appropriate Materials. ...
  • Project Negative Energy During the Job Interview. ...
  • Talk too Much About Yourself. ...
  • Badmouth Former Employers.
30 Apr 2021

What is your greatest weakness sample answer? ›

Correct Example: My greatest weakness is time management. I have always been very detail-oriented, so it sometimes takes me longer to finish a project than I initially think it will. This is why I started using time-tracking software in my last job.

How do you introduce yourself at a university interview? ›

How To Answer The 'Tell Me About Yourself' Question In A College Interview
  1. Provide an informal introduction. ...
  2. Talk about family and upbringing. ...
  3. Mention your general activities. ...
  4. Talk about quantifiable achievements. ...
  5. Give some unique personal information. ...
  6. Explain why this opportunity is important for you.
12 Jul 2022

Is 3 minutes too long for Tell me about yourself? ›

'Tell me about yourself': An example of the perfect answer

There isn't a standard rule for how long your answer should be, though a general guideline is to keep it under two minutes.

How do you end Tell me about yourself? ›

“A good place to end it is to give a transition of this is why I'm here,” Dea says. You want to be absolutely certain your interviewer is left with the impression that it “makes sense that [you're] sitting here talking to me about this role.”

How long should short answer responses be? ›

Typically, a shorter response will be one to two paragraphs and often your assignment or exam will give you a specific word limit. A key difference between an essay and a shorter response is length; this means you must be very concise and focused.

What would you do if you don't know an answer to the asked question in interview? ›

This is a tried and true “fail-safe” response when you don't quite know how to answer a question. It's very likely that by simply asking the interviewer to rephrase the question or explain it in more detail, he or she will end up touching on a topic that you would feel more comfortable speaking about.

How long should interview answers be for Tell me about yourself? ›

Now, to recap, here's the most important tips on how to answer “tell me about yourself…” Structure your answer in a way that makes sense. Stick to the past-present-future format, and you're all good! Keep it relevant and brief (1-2 minutes max).

Is it OK to pause before answering an interview question? ›

It's fine to take your time to think before answering a question but if you start every answer with an 'er…' and a long pause, the interviewers will think that you haven't done much preparation.

How will you know if you pass the interview? ›

11 Signs your interview went well
  1. You were in the interview for longer than expected. ...
  2. The interview felt conversational. ...
  3. You are told what you would be doing in this role. ...
  4. The interviewer seemed engaged. ...
  5. You feel sold on the company and the role. ...
  6. Your questions are answered in full.

Is it okay to not prepare for an interview? ›

In not preparing for a job interview, you won't understand how to present yourself as the best fit for that vacant space. In other words, if you want to nail the interview process, you must be confident in your understanding of the business and its job description.


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