How to ACE Your University Interview (In Just 4 Steps)

Your university applications are submitted and it’s time to sit back and wait for the offers to come pouring in, right? Well, maybe. But it’s also possible that you will be invited to interview with admissions representatives, current students, or alumni.

How to ACE Your University Interview (In Just 4 Steps)

Your university applications are submitted and it’s time to sit back and wait for the offers to come pouring in, right?

Well, maybe. But it’s also possible that you will be invited to interview with admissions representatives, current students, or alumni.

Sometimes these interviews are required, and sometimes they’re not. If you’re invited for an optional interview, should you do it? Yes. Interviewing with the school demonstrates interest. It tells the university that you are likely to select their school if they extend an offer, which increases your chances of being offered admission. This is especially true if you are a “bubble” student (a student who has a 50/50 chance of being admitted).

So, what do you do? How do you prepare? Follow this guide.

Step 1 - Write out your responses to these questions:

1) What do I want to study and why?

2) Why do I want to attend University X?

You will certainly be asked these questions, so have your answers on lock-down. I suggest you write your answers down so that you fully develop your responses and think through your reasoning completely.

There are no wrong answers to these questions; instead, admissions officers are most interested in your examples - the stories you tell that support your responses.

What do I mean by this?

If an interviewer asks you question number one from the list above, your response might be “Mathematics.” But this doesn’t actually say anything about you. It doesn’t allow the interviewer to understand you and your interests (which is why they are interviewing you!).

A better response is, “I want to study mathematics because I like solving problems, and I like knowing I have found the correct answer.” And, better yet, you could (and should) include a story that supports your response. “I have always enjoyed mathematics because it allows me to solve problems and to know with certainty that I have found the correct answer. Aside from my simple enjoyment of the subject, however, I also find math to be a very useful discipline. For example, I am a founding member of my high school’s astronomy club, and math has helped me with the technical aspects of tracking the night sky.”

Step 2 - Create a list of 3-5 things you want to discuss during your interview

These are your strong points, so you definitely want to discuss them during your interview. I know it seems like you will simply remember to mention them, right? Well, not always. Plus, having a firm list in your mind (with examples!) will help you answer a variety of questions. So no matter what the interviewer asks, you will be prepared. Think about your top personal qualities, your top personal values, the challenges you’ve overcome, and the achievements you’ve met.

If you don’t immediately know what you want to include in your list, do this:

-Ask your friends and family what they like about you. Ask what they feel are your strengths. What do they think is impressive and/or inspirational about you?

-Write a list of EVERYTHING you want universities to know about you.

-Narrow all of these things down to your top 3-5.

When you have completed your list, add supporting examples and stories.

In other words, don’t just include “I spent the summer interning at a bank.” Include your challenges and accomplishments. “Although I initially was not given much responsibility, after the first month, I showed interest and maturity by speaking to my supervisor about my desire to learn and do more. After shadowing her for two weeks, I was then given the responsibility of assisting clients with a range of transactions.”

Step 3 - Prepare questions to ask the interviewer

Asking questions of your interviewer shows that you are truly interested in the university. You want to write out a list of questions (you can even bring the list to the interview) that does three things:

1. Shows that you've done your research on the school.

You do not want to ask questions that are easily answered on the school website. If it seems as though you have not done your research, the interviewer will assume you are not interested in matriculating with their institution. Instead, show off your research by discussing programs, classes, professors, clubs, etc. that you are interested in learning from and/or joining. The more specific your questions are, the better.

2. Demonstrates interest in your major or degree program.

Along the same lines as number one, ask questions about your major or degree program. When possible, ask questions that show off the discipline-specific knowledge you already have. If you are applying for a mechanical engineering program, for example, you might ask about the subfield experience you would receive as a member of one of their EECS clubs.

3. Creates a personal connection between you and the interviewer.

Remember, your interviewer is a real person. Connect with them to leave a lasting and positive impression. Ask them personal questions about their experiences with the university.

Step 4 - Practice, practice, practice
Finally, when you feel prepared to discuss your strengths and interests, and you have assembled a number of examples to support your points, hold some practice interviews. Print off a list of common interview questions (you can find my massive list here) and have your friends and family members ask you questions at random. As you answer, practice incorporating items and examples from Step 2. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will be on interview day.

Or, if you want help from an expert, contact World Awaits to set up mock-interview practice. The feedback and advice will set you up for an amazing, enjoyable experience and get you one step closer to admission.

Good luck, applicants!