I was stuck with what to write this weekend.
My hands were poised above my keyboard for around an hour before I realised what was distracting me from blogging – an impending university interview.
For those who don’t know, I decided to ditch university for a year and head straight into the big bad world of journalism straight after school. What I didn’t account on, however, was that if I wanted to give university a try, I would have to go through the application process aaaalllll over again. And that’s where I am right now.
Because I’ve applied to 5 different unis twice, I have a fair bit of knowledge about the application process. But no matter how any times you sit through them, interviews are always tough.
So I’ve compiled a handy list of tips and tricks about the dreaded interviews
1. Express yourself with clothes
Besides your personal statement, what you wear is one of the first chances you get to show your university what you’re made of. Before you even open your mouth to tell the interviewer about your hours spent volunteering and your ‘determined and charismatic attitude’, the people you’re trying to impress have already drunk in your outfit, and made a mental note about what they think of you already.
Although she wasn’t applying to university, I once met a girl who was trying to snag a top marketing job at a massive firm. She turned up to the interview to see a line of candidates, all dressed in the same well-pressed grey suit, waiting anxiously to get seen to.
The sight of them almost made this girl turn around to go change, but she ploughed on. She walked into the interview and immediately placed a mug onto the table in front of her. It was plain white, except for the big red letters that spelled ‘I AM LUCY.’ She handed one to each of her interviewers, before placing an equally branded pencil in front of them too. Then a few mouse mats, then a box of mints, and then she shrugged her jacket off to reveal a t-shirt with even bigger letters: “I AM LUCY”.
She got the job.
How could she not? When the interviewers tried to remember the other names of the identical grey suits, they couldn’t think. The only name in their minds now was Lucy. She had marketed herself into getting the job where she would do that for a living. And it’s still the coolest, most original thing I’ve ever heard.
So the moral of the biggest point ever is to express yourself through your clothing – I’m not saying turn up in a lab coat, but wear something memorable, so that when the interviewers are making their decisions, they can say ‘Oh, I liked the girl with the space buns’, or ‘The guy with the stripy tie was really interesting, wasn’t he?’
2. Know your personal statement
Whether you’re applying to English Lit, Physics or Mechanical Engineering, you bet your ass your interviewer is going to have your personal statement laid right out in front of them. It’s basically how they know where the interview is heading.
They’ll pick things out that you had completely forgotten you’d written – in my case, one lady asked me about the first time I knew I wanted to be a journalist. If I hadn’t looked at my personal statement before I’d went in, I would have said something very stupid, rather than the equally as stupid (but very true) answer of creating a family newspaper. (Hey, the Duffy Herald was a big hit when I was seven, okay?)
So I guess that’s another point – make sure you haven’t lied.
I’m applying for journalism, so my personal statement is full of experience and my love of the subject. However, I also love learning Spanish, so I decided to put down that nifty piece of information as well. I went for an interview not too long ago, and as soon as I walked in the door, the interview had begun, but it wasn’t in English.
Thank God I wasn’t lying when I said that I knew how to speak Spanish – if I had simply put that down to look impressive without actually having known how to speak it, it could have went really, really badly.
As well as revising your personal statement, however, make sure you have extra information that you didn’t have written down. This means that when they ask about that leadership activity you took on in your sixth year, you can pull out some nifty statistics like the ages of pupils that formed your groups, and how many kids you ended up leading. If you organised a talent show or a coffee morning, talk about how much money you raised, and how you felt before, during and after the event took place.
Remember: you only had 4000 characters for your personal statement. Your character count is unlimited in front of an interviewer – they want to know everything.
3. Make a portfolio
I honestly can’t stress this enough. I’m not too sure what the jig is with mathematical stuff (not exactly my forte), but for all y’all creative people, GET YOUR PORTFOLIO READY.
Journalism, English Lit, Creative Writing, Art, Graphic Communication, Interior Design (is this just screenshots of the Sims? Cos if so I’d ACE it), Photography – literally anything that involves some amount of practical work, you have to bring in stuff to show off your skills.
I once knew a university interviewer who had seen 35 people in one day for a journalism course, and only ONE of them brought in a portfolio of work. No kidding.
If you’re sitting here thinking ‘But I don’t have anything to put in a portfolio’ then take a long, hard look at your course and decide whether you want to do it or not. If the answer is affirmative, then start frickin doing something. If you’re applying for a written subject, start writing for your school magazine, start up a blog, write columns and submit them to your local newspaper, or even use an old English essay that you’re really proud of. Just give something.
If you’re into photography or some sort of designing subject, whip up a few prints and stick them in a pretty scrapbook. I guarantee you the interviewers will love you.
At the end of the day, your interviewers are looking to see if you are right for their course. If you can show them physical proof that not only are you awesomely talented, but you’ve also taken the time to actually produce material outwith school assignments, you’ll really show them that you mean business.
4. Research your interviewers
You know those stalking talents that you’ve honed specifically for that scumbag ex and your snakey best friends? Well, time to use them in the real world.
LinkedIn will be your best friend – if you know your interviewer’s name, look them up.
It’ll give them a notification saying that you are looking at their profile and they will instantly know that you’re serious about that interview, and they’ll respect you for it.
It’s also great to research in terms of talking points – if you find out you have something in common with your big scary lecturer, casually bring it up! I had an interviewer that was just as obsessed with cats as I was, so the interview was a lot more comfortable after we’d gushed about how cute Mittens and Trouble were. Good times.
It’s also extremely beneficial when it comes to the end of the interview – they will always ask you if you have any questions for them. If your answer is no, then you may as well kiss that course goodbye. So many people think that a university interview is about you trying to impress the uni so you can get a place, when in actual fact, the university is desperate for you to pick them.
So don’t be afraid to speak up.
I always found asking questions difficult at first – mostly because I was too nervous and anything that I wanted to ask had already been asked. So imma help you out.
1. Did you study at this university? If yes, what did you think of it?
2. What’s the canteen like? (I genuinely asked this, and the way their faces lit up was unreal, thus beginning a 10 minute conversation on how you shouldn’t buy the chicken curry because it’s a bit chewy, but the potato and leek soup is to die for.)
3. What is the teacher to pupil ratio for the course? Is it a lot of one-on-one time? (This shows that you’re keen to get as much out of the course as possible)
4. What about work experience? Is there a specific part of the course that is dedicated to off-campus experience?
5. What is the student union like?
Grab your favourite stuffed toys, your dog, or even your mum, plonk them down on the couch and don’t let them move for the next hour. From now until three o’clock, they are the only thing standing in between you and your dream course at university.
If your subject is inanimate or can only manage a few meows, just talk straight to them. Dress them in a suit if it makes you feel better (actually that sounds adorable. Definitely dress them in a suit).
If your guest is more willing to talk, then ask them to take on the role of an interviewer and ask a ton of weird and wonderful questions that they think is relevant to getting into uni. Some snacks may need to be dished out to more unwilling guests.
Don’t limit yourself to practice your answers over and over again – make sure you learn how to naturally sit up straight, and keep smiling into the mirror until it gets a tad creepy.
Think about how you are initially going to introduce yourself. How will you shake their hand? What if your hands are sweaty? What if you rip your tights? Account for everything.
6. Pack your bag the night before
You might be thinking ‘It’s a uni interview – wtf do I need to take with me?’ Well. If you’re anything like me, your bag will most likely be full to the brim with things that you may not necessarily use, but they’ll make you feel a whole lot better. (I’ve made another list. I just love lists, okay?)
1. Deodorant – Interviews are stressful. The room will more than likely be uncomfortably warm. You don’t want smelly pits to add to your nervousness.
2. Hand sanitiser – for all those in the clammy hand gang (*waves*). Hand sanitiser is your best friend. Get a nice strawberry one.
3. Hairbrush – there’s nothing worse than leaving the house absolutely STUNNING and then it turns out to be unbearably windy and your hair is just ruined.
4. Umbrella – Do you want to be going into the biggest interview of your life completely soaked? No.
5. Chewing Gum – The interview is all about you talking. If you’re scared of smelly breath, then you’re more than likely not gonna talk. Simple.
6. Water bottle – you’re gonna be talking for a long-ass time. There’s nothing worse than a croaky throat.
7. Flats – If you’re wearing heels, please for the love of god take a pair of flats. Your heel could break or you could find yourself walking up a hill the height of Everest (especially in Glasgow. Dear God why are there so many hills in Glasgow.)
8. Spare tights – Again, nothing worse than a spontaneous ladder in your tights. Make sure you take a spare pair, just in case.
9. Make-up – Tbh, you don’t need to wear it, but if you do, make sure you take things to reapply in the bathroom. If you’re wearing dark lipstick, do not go in that interview without doing at least one re-apply.
10. Hankies – Even if you don’t have a cold, you’ll probably sneeze. And it might be messy. And even if you don’t, someone else will. If you can be Mr or Mrs Organised for one afternoon, make it this one.