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    University Admission Interviews Explained

    So you’ve worked hard to achieve good grades, excelled on an English language course and put the finishing touches to a fantastic personal statement. It’s been a long hard slog, but now that exciting but nerve racking time has finally come – university admissions interviews!

    While not all universities and courses hold admissions interviews, top universities such as Oxford or Cambridge will always expect to meet with prospective students before making an offer, as will highly competitive vocational courses such as Medicine. Interviews can seem terrifying, but look at it this way; if you’ve got to the interview stage you’ve already impressed with your qualifications and personal statement. Your interviewers know you have potential, they just want to check you’re a good fit for your course.

    We don’t need to tell you that planning your journey (interviews are NEVER a time to be late), dressing smartly and eating a good breakfast are vital before meeting with your interviewers, but there is also a good deal of research and practice that should be invested before an admission interview. After all, if you’ve been invited to a top institution, failing to prepare just won’t cut it.

    Dentistry, Medicine and Veterinary Science

    You may have worked extremely hard building up extensive work experience, excelling in your subjects and dreaming of ‘Dr’ before your name, but it really does all rest on the admissions interview where Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary science are concerned.

    Firstly, it’s important to know, even if you have a fantastic personal statement and a stunning sweep of top grades, these courses are so competitive that the best of the best can still get rejected from all of their chosen universities. If this is the case, don’t worry and persevere, many first year doctors, vets and dentists-to-be have taken a gap year as they didn’t get in on their first application. It’s no reflection on how awesome you are, it’s just very competitive!

    Questions to prepare for:

    • The obvious ones! Why do you want to study Medicine etc, etc. You obviously have a good answer or you wouldn’t be applying! Hone your answer, make it fantastic and knowledgeable about your sector. Then pitch it to your careers tutor.
    • Ethical questions. When dealing with human and animal health, an understanding of ethical issues is deemed as highly important. Research recent cases and develop a well-informed opinion (again, you may wish to run it by a careers counsellor). Obviously with Veterinary Medicine, issues such as fox hunting are the sort of topics you can expect.
    • Expect to draw on your work experience, what you learnt and why it was rewarding. Admissions tutors need to know you fully understand the profession you’re entering.
    • How do you react to stress? In the medicine, dentistry and veterinary science trio, handling stress effectively is a necessarily personal trait.
    • The Student Room have a handy breakdown of what you can expect of Medicine interviews at a variety of universities.

    Top Universities

    You may have heard tales from a friend of a friend of a friend about how they attended an Oxbridge (Oxford-Cambridge) interview only to be chucked a rugby ball to gage their reaction (this may or may not be true!). Some questions you get asked at these interviews may be a little strange, but that’s because these top universities expect a calibre of student that can think innovatively and not just regurgitate facts from a textbook.  Incidentally, apparently the right reaction would be to catch the ball, all to do with thinking on your feet (or something…)

    Thought processes and your passion for your subject are your real selling points when trying to get a place at a league-topping institution so expect to offer some unique insights. We heard of one Archaeology student who read a university professor’s book and then emailed him questioning him about various aspects and engaging in discussion! When the student’s interview came, she came across as passionate, knowledgeable and insightful and was promptly given an offer.

    Questions to prepare for:

    It is difficult to prepare for Oxbridge interviews as the very nature of the interviews is to get prospective students thinking on their feet so there isn’t really any ‘typical’ questions. Maths and engineering students are often given a difficult problem to solve so their strategy can be seen, whilst students for arts courses are required to show flexibility (this is where the ‘unusual’ question may come in!)

    • Have a trusted friend/family member conduct a mock interview with you prior to your interview. This will help unearth any bad habits, such as looking at the floor or fidgeting, so you can address them in time for your real interview.
    • Have your mock interviewer throw in some really scary questions! How do you react? Preparing for the unexpected can help you prepare for those inevitable tricky curveball questions.
    • Think of some insightful questions before your interview and tailor them if necessary according to what’s been discussed in your interview. Questions for questions sake should be avoided, remember, you’re an insightful and valuable addition to their student body!

    Finally, smile! There are some great resources out there for preparing for admissions interviews, and your careers counsellor should be able to point you in the right direction. Remember; prepare, practice and perform under pressure, and if worrying about your English language skills is holding you back, get in touch with a supportive school such as New College Manchester.