Sometimes you may be invited for an interview before a decision is made.
- This could be the normal practice for the particular course or it could be because your application is unusual in some way and the university wants to check that your suitability (perhaps you are a mature student without the usual formal qualifications).
- In some cases interviews are not quite what they seem and as you can never be sure treat any interview as a real interview.
If you do get called for interview, we strongly advise you to attend as it is unlikely you will be made an offer if you don't turn up (unless there are very strong mitigating circumstances, in which case you need to contact the university immediately).
- Be sure that you arrive on time.
- Prepare yourself in advance, particularly for the obvious questions such as "Why do you want to study the subject?" and "Why do you want to go to this university?"
- Re-read the copy of your application form and personal statement to remind yourself of what you wrote.
- Dress smartly and comfortably an interview is not the time to make a fashion statement unless you are a fashion student.
When is an interview not an interview?
Interviews come in two forms. Outwardly both look the same, but in fact they have very different purposes.
- The first type of interview is the 'real' interview, where a genuine attempt is being made to assess your suitability for the course and your performance in the interview will make a difference to your chances of being made an offer.
- The second type of interview is the 'psychological' interview. It looks like an interview, feels like an interview, but actually doesn't make any difference. The university has already decided to make you an offer and the interview is merely a psychologically clever way of encouraging you to accept the offer. If you travel half way across the country, answer some tough questions and then get made an offer of a place, it makes you feel good, both about yourself and about the university. Hence you are more likely to accept that offer in favour of one which just arrived in the post. At least that is the idea behind the psychological interview.
The problem for you is that it is hard to tell which type of interview you are facing.
- Generally speaking, interviews for medical and medically-related professions and education are real.
- Interviews at very competitive universities such as Oxford and Cambridge are also real and will focus heavily on your academic suitability for the course, whilst interviews for applicants who have an unusual background or lack the usual qualifications are generally genuine attempts to assess suitability.
- In addition courses such as teaching, nursing, midwifery and other vocational courses have interviews or selection days to assess suitability, motivation and even check for issues such as criminal records and/or to guard against fraudulent applications.
- Interviews for less popular courses, such as chemistry or engineering, at universities other than the most competitive for these subjects are often the psychological type of interview.
Remember that an interview ought be a two-way process and it could be the ideal opportunity for you to find out some answers to some of your questions. Prepare questions of your own.
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