The hours spent sweating over your university application have paid off. “Congratulations. You have been selected for an interview!” You can’t wait to head out to your dream school, but before you make your travel arrangements, review these tips.
1. Read all the information about the interview that is provided on the school’s website or in your congratulatory email — the duration, number of interviewers and style. Will you speak with five people at once for 60 minutes, or with one person for 30 minutes? If you are unsure about the dress code, ask; adhere to what you are told.
2. Despite what you are told about your interview format, be prepared to interview under any condition. For example, you should be able to chat in a one-on-one setting instead of in front of a panel, or for 90 minutes instead of for 30.
3. Prepare for your interview: review your entire application and be prepared to speak about any part of it, write out possible answers to expected questions, and practice articulating your responses with confidence. Also practice maintaining both an upright sitting posture and eye contact with your interviewer.
4. Expect to be asked why you wish to attend this particular institution. Thoroughly research the school and your program of interest, and be ready to share at least three reasons why you are a perfect fit.
5. If you are not explicitly asked why you want to attend this institution, find ways of sprinkling your reasons for wanting to attend in the responses you give to other questions.
6. Be prepared to discuss weaknesses or discrepancies in your academic records while maintaining your composure and displaying emotional control.
7. Always paint yourself in a positive light. Do not ever bring attention to an area in which you are deficient, e.g., by saying things like “I know my grades are not all that good.” If something negative about you comes up, acknowledge it and reposition it in a good light. For example, if the interviewer says “You don’t seem to have much experience leading teams,” don’t say “I know. I just haven’t really led anything.” You can say “I have not been a leader in the traditional sense of being the one in charge, but I have given my best effort and helped my teammates and our school get good results. I think this is what a leader does — plays their part with passion and takes the team in a positive direction.”
8. Show up prepared to discuss why you are qualified to excel in this particular program, what you would gain from the school, and what your teachers, peers and the wider community would gain from you being given the chance to attend.
9. Be prepared to discuss at least a few examples of how you have excelled, grown and changed, volunteered, completed teamwork, been a leader, and recovered from failure.
10. Go armed with intelligent, positively framed and well-researched questions. This interview is a two-way street, a conversation. Scour the school’s website and the news outlets that cover the community where the university is located. Talk with current students and alumni to prepare. You can ask your interviewers for more details on course offerings or current research, for example. You can also ask them about their experience attending (if it is a student interviewer) or working at the university; this might open a door to a robust discussion that you can refer to in your thank you note.
Bonus tip: Send a sincere thank you note to your interviewers within 24 hours of completing the interview.
Let us know if you found these tips helpful, and share them with your friends.