University interviews

Terrified of being face-to-face with an Oxbridge professor? Looking for some interview tips so you really make a memorable (great) impression? It’s totally understandable, interviews are often the hardest part of the application process. But fear not, The Mix will get you prepared, whatever your chosen subject. Just read our guide to university interviews.

Two young women are preparing for university interviews. This is a full-body image.

Some universities will give you a conditional offer based solely on your predicted grades and what you wrote in your personal statement. Unfortunately, others want to see your face during the application process by conducting admissions interviews. Particularly if it’s a competitive course or one of the top universities. Luckily, you have plenty of time between being invited to an interview and actually attending to prepare. And we promise that you’ll end up surprising yourself on the day.

How to prepare for a university interview

  • Start by researching the uni and reading the prospectus for your chosen subject. The more you know about what you’ve applied to do, the better. This’ll show that you’re committed and keen to studying that course at that university.
  • Have a mock interview. Try asking a teacher or a careers advisor to go through some questions with you. This’ll help you plan answers to questions that you might get asked. For example: Why did you choose this course? What did you enjoy most on the current course that you’re studying? What subject did you enjoy least and why? Why did you choose this university?
  • Know your UCAS and/or college application inside out. It’s likely that the interviewer will use it as a basis for questions. Go over what you wrote about in your personal statement. Remember, literally any of those 5,000 characters are fair game for discussion.
  • Keep up with current affairs, especially if they relate to your subject. The interviewer may ask your opinion on current affairs. And you might even be asked if you’ve kept up to date with recent developments in your area of study.
  • Get a good night’s sleep the night before! Needless to say if you have a hangover you’re probably not gonna impress anyone.

University interview tips

  • Dress smartly, but also comfortably. Don’t feel like you have to go out and buy a suit or anything. But smart trousers and a shirt or blouse give a much better impression than jeans and a T-shirt.
  • Arrive early and make sure to phone the uni if you have any problems. Keep in mind that if you have major train delays or serious family trouble, you should be able to reschedule.
  • Be aware of good and bad body language. Read our interview body language tips here.
  • Be enthusiastic about the course. Hopefully you’re attending the interview because you’ve seen a course that really appeals to you. All you have to do is make sure the interviewer can see that.
  • Remember to be yourself. Just a slightly more polite and formal version of yourself.
  • Don’t panic about difficult questions. Take a minute to breathe deeply and then be honest. Let them know if you haven’t covered a topic they ask you about. And don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t understand a question. Remember they’re on your side.
  • Be prepared to give your opinion on something if they surprise you with a test or if they ask you to read or explain a particular passage. And when in doubt, make use of what you do know. For example, compare it to something you’ve read or heard about.

Following up after a uni interview

  • Consider whether you actually want to be at the uni. This is as much an experience for you to check them out as it is for them to see if you’re a good fit.
  • Write down the answers to your questions. This’ll be handy later on when you’re comparing your responses to other interviews you did.
  • If you want to, try discussing your experience with a teacher. They’ll be able to give you feedback on your interview. And they may also suggest ways you can improve in future interviews.
  • Think about what went well and what you could have done better. That way you know what to do for next time.
  • You’ll be sent a letter through UCAS or from the university letting you know whether or not you got in. If you receive an offer it may be conditional on you receiving certain grades.

More questions to ask at a university interview

So, the interview is about to wrap up, and they ask you the most difficult question: Do you have any questions for us? Even if this doesn’t come up, having some questions to ask will show that you’re actually interested in the course and enthusiastic about going to their uni. 

If you’ve already done well in the interview, it’s highly unlikely that being unable to think of a brilliant, thought-provoking question to ask the interviewer will completely ruin your chances of getting in. But it certainly couldn’t hurt. You can also do some research on the interviewers beforehand, especially if they’re a specific college interviewer at Oxford or Cambridge. That way you’ll be able to have a personal question to ask if you meet them.

Some ideas for questions to ask at a university interview include:

  • Can you tell me more about the course? 
  • What do you enjoy about working at this university?
  • Can you outline some of the qualities this university looks for in its students?
  • What is the university doing to address discrimination?
  • Is there something you would change about this university if you had the chance?
  • What options are available to me on this course? 
  • Does the department have any industry links?
  • What tutorial support will I have?

Make a good impression, but try to relax!

Our final piece of advice is to sit up straight and maintain a decent level of eye contact throughout the interview. This doesn’t mean you have to stare them down for half an hour. But, equally, never looking your interviewer in the eye will make a bad impression. 

So, good luck, and remember — whatever happens…will happen. If you don’t get an offer, then that university probably wasn’t for you, anyway. At the end of the day all you can do is show the interviewer what you know, and let them decide.

Next Steps

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university

By Helen Williams

Updated on 05-Jun-2022