The Application Process: Interviews

As part of the application process, applicants may be required to attend an interview for their chosen course or courses. The following points are intended as general guidelines for interviews. Each university may offer a specific interview format, with some requiring practical assessments and tests or a review of portfolio work where appropriate. You should check with the individual university to clarify their interview or assessment methods for a particular course.

Before the interview:

Research the course

What is it about the course you’ve chosen that made you select it over other subjects? What’s involved in the course you’re applying for? What sort of skills does it involve – practical, analytical, research? What can you draw on from your previous studies or work experience which help to demonstrate your suitability for the course? If the course leads to a professional qualification, what qualities do you have which lend well to that professional area?

Research the university  

Why are you applying to the university? What made you choose it over other universities? Ill-considered responses, such as ‘because my friends are coming here’ or ‘because I don’t have to get out of bed too early to get here’, will not be looked upon well by Admissions Tutors. 

Look the part

Ok. Let’s get the ‘don’ts’ out of the way first. Top things to consider avoiding to wear at an interview:

  • Sunglasses (Yes, I have honestly seen someone do this. No, they were not cool)
  • The outfit you’d normally wear out clubbing/ anything too revealing.
  • Anything dirty, stained or smelly. It goes without saying.
  • Underwear as outerwear. Yes, that includes those fellas who publicise their designer brand pants via the medium of low slung jeans.

So, what’s the general rule for how should you dress? Wear something you’ll feel comfortable and smart in. Smart casual is usually appropriate. If in doubt, ask the university beforehand.

Of course, if you’re applying for a creative course, such as art or fashion, the rules for what you can wear can be very different and an individual sense of style can be much more acceptable. Some courses, such as Acting, may require you to participate in workshops or physical activities so read any instructions about what to wear or bring with you carefully beforehand.

Find out how to get there

You’d be amazed of the number of people who don’t plan this beforehand and who end up lost, late or even at the wrong university! The university will typically provide you with a map and travel directions. Universities’ websites are also a good source for this information if you’ve not received it or have misplace it.

If you’re travelling by car, use a reputable online route planner to obtain a detailed plan of your journey or – you can usually get a good idea about the estimated journey time as part of the plan produced.

If you’re travelling by public transport, you will need to check timetable information for trains and/or buses. If you’re unsure of which companies cover public transport in the area where you’re travelling to, the university may be able to give you an indication of this. Give yourself sufficient time between changes to make your connections.

At the interview:

Be punctual

It gives a good impression and you’ll feel more in control if you have time beforehand to gather your thoughts. Make sure you bring a contact number for the university with you in case you need to get in touch with them en route. If you’re running late, the train’s delayed or you’re stuck in traffic, don’t panic. If you are able to do so safely (and, for those travelling by car, legally) contact the university to let them know the situation. They may be able to move your interview back to a later slot. 

Try not to feel nervous

Of course, that’s easier said than done! ‘Interview’ can seem a daunting word when you start imagining an intense grilling from academics at a university you’ve really got your heart set on. However, let’s get this into perspective: it’s not the Spanish Inquisition. Try to remember that what you’ll be involved in will be an opportunity for both you and the university to find out more about each other.

The interview’s purpose is to draw out further information about you, your reasons for applying for the course and why you’re a suitable candidate. It may form part of a broader selection process – for some courses you may be required to undertake a written assessment or other activity. The key thing you can do to improve your chances of succeeding at interview stage is to be prepared. The more prepared you are to talk to about yourself, your application and the course you’re applying for, the more confident you will feel.

Be prepared to talk about what you’ve mentioned in your application

The application form provides the university with an initial overview of you. Interviews provide a way for course tutors to find out more about you, your background and your interests. If you’re applying for a course through UCAS, you’ll be able to view your application details by using UCAS Track if you need to refresh yourself about what you’ve written.

Don’t fidget

It’s distracting and gives the impression that you’re uncomfortable or uneasy.


We’re not aiming for the full beam Cheshire Cat grin here, but smiling can help you relax and, of course, will make you come across in a more friendly manner.

Look interested

Imagine if you were talking to someone and they were looking out of the window/ at their shoes/ at the ceiling/ admiring the wallpaper – what would that make you think? Make sure you maintain appropriate eye contact with the interviewer. It helps to show them that you’re listening to them and are interested in what they are saying. 

Have questions prepared

Through all of the research about the course, department and university you’ll have undertaken, you may have thought of a few further questions you’d like to ask. The interview’s not just about the university finding out more about you, but also for you to obtain other information you need to help you make your decision. Keep the questions relevant and succinct. You may want to take a few brief notes of the responses given.

After the interview:

For full-time undergraduate courses, you can check the progress of the university’s decision on UCAS Track. The decision may take a few days to be communicated in line with the university’s applications processing procedures.

If the university offer you a place, you’ll be able to make your decision about which place you wish to accept once you have received decisions back from all of your choices.

If you don’t manage to secure a place, it’s often a good idea to request feedback on your interview to find out why you weren’t successful and identify any areas which you may need to work on. This is an important opportunity which many applicants overlook – how will you know how to perform better next time if you don’t know what things you need to work on?

Interviews don’t have to be a nightmare. With good preparation and a common sense approach, you can improve your chances of making a great first impression and succeeding.

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