Going Higher: Be prepared and pass the interview

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Indy Lifestyle Online
QUESTIONS GOING through the applicant's head will be: What are they going to ask me? How many tutors will interview me? How should I prepare for the interview, what should I read or know about? What form will the interview take?

There are several points to bear in mind. Firstly, admissions staff are not there to trick you, they simply want to know whether you are suitable for the course, what you expect from the course, and whether you will be happy studying at their university or college.

Secondly, the interview is something the majority of students will not have to worry about because not all universities or colleges interview; it often depends on the course.

Interviews are compulsory for subjects like teaching and medicine. Tutors will want to find out how committed you are, whether you have done any work experience in the field, and for art and design courses, they will want to see a portfolio of your work.

UCAS Customer Support Manager, Caroline Russell, says interviews are more the exception than the norm.

She said: "There will probably only be a couple of people at the interview. Most of them are pretty straightforward, but the important thing is to have a copy of your application form to hand.

"They are likely to ask you questions based on it, and the interview may take place several months after you filled it in, so it is best to have the information with you so you can refer to it."

Graduate Rebecca Burns, 25, remembers her interview to study Theology at the University of Exeter. She was surprised by just how informal the meeting was.

She said: "I was quite nervous because I'd had several interviews at other universities and they were all quite formal.

"But the interview was really relaxed, the tutor put his feet up on the table and made me a cup of tea. It took the edge off my nerves, and that's partly why I decided to go there.

"I wasn't given any tips by my school, but read up on the subject beforehand and dressed reasonably smartly."

Allison Farrell, of Sussex Careers Services, said the secret of interview success is "really to be up on your subject".

She added: "You will always be asked why you have chosen to do the course, and those are issues that should have been addressed on your UCAS form.

"You should definitely read the prospectus about the course. If you don't know it's a modular course then they won't be very flattered if you don't know it is.

"Read around the subject, particularly if it's a new subject to you, watch TV programmes about it, read newspaper articles. It's also good to get work experience if it's relevant to your studies.

"It's never wrong to be smart, if you are going for a course that will lead to a professional career, you should really dress as though you were going for a professional interview for a job.

"When you get there just go with the flow and be prepared for anything, just relax and smile when you go in. If you get asked a question you don't understand, get them to rephrase it or clarify the question. They are not there to trick you or have a go."

Alex Watts

Interview tips

Practice in advance. Some schools hold mock interviews to help students, otherwise get your friends and family to interview you.

Prepare answers in your mind. Often the hardest question to answer is "Why do you want to do the course?", and although you may know the reasons, practise putting them into words.

Make sure you read course literature beforehand. Tutors may ask you why you want to do this particular course.

Smile when you go into the interview - this relaxes you and the interviewer.

Read around the subject including newspapers and course books eg if you are going to take archaeology, you should be aware if there have been any big finds recently.

Get work experience if it is appropriate to your course, this is very important for popular courses like medicine, media studies or drama studies.

Dress smartly. If you have a suit wear it, otherwise wear your smartest clothes. This is particularly important if your course leads directly to a professional job like teaching, medicine etc.

Take deep breaths beforehand if you are nervous. Try to relax during the interview.

If you do not understand a question, ask for it to be clarified. Some tutors

may not be the clearest communicators in the world.

Try to maintain eye contact and sit forward on your chair - it makes you

appear more attentive.

UCAS help desk

Q: How do I find out the entrance qualifications for any of the courses in the UCAS Handbook?

A: There are several sources of information. Particularly recommended is University and College Entrance: The Official Guide, 1999 Which is published by UCAS. Most schools, colleges and careers services have copies. Further detailed information is available from university and college prospectuses and many institutions also have their own websites which are accessible through the UCAS web address at www.ucas.ac.uk

If you are still unsure that you have, or are taking, the correct qualifications why not ring the university or college and ask to speak to an admissions tutor? They are happy to speak to students and are there to help you make the right choice. Remember that if you apply for a course and are not taking the correct entrance qualifications you may be wasting a choice. Making the extra effort to be sure that you are, or will, be qualified pay dividends.

Q: Once my UCAS form has been considered or I have been for an interview how will the institiution tell me if they are making an offer?

A: All offers are made through the UCAS system. The university or college will send details of the offer to UCAS and then UCAS will send the offer to you at the address you entered on your UCAS form. The UCAS offer letter will be either an "AS3" or an "AS6" letter. Most offers are conditional upon obtaining certain examination grades or scores, for example A-Level grades as follows: C in Chemisrty, D in Mathematics, D in Biology or Advanced Level GNVQ, Distinction in Engineering. Institutions may also make unconditional offers to applicants who have already achieved the entrance requirements of the course.

Some universities and colleges also send their own letter to applicants in addition to sending the offers to UCAS and in these cases applicants will receive a letter from UCAS and also a separate letter from the institution. If this is the case remember that it is the UCAS letter that is the

"official" one.

Q: Do I have to enter all examinations taken on my UCAS form?

A: Yes.

If you have any questions or comments, please send them to: "Go Higher", PO Box 4014, The Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, London, E14 5BF