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How to Ace Your University Interview

University interview is an important step in the application process - here's everything you need to know in order to ace it.

Oct 6, 2023
  • Student Tips
Master's student preparing for a university interview

✨ 5-second summary

  • University interviews offer you a chance to elaborate on written applications and demonstrate your fit and enthusiasm for the program.
  • Prepare well by researching the university/program thoroughly, and anticipate what questions they may ask in the interview.
  • Dressing professionally, showing good body language, and being genuine leaves a great impression.

The university interview is an opportunity to demonstrate that you're the right fit for the program, and to elaborate on the contents of your application.

Here's how to prepare so you'll be confident during the interview.

How to prepare for a university interview

Preparation is vital to leave a lasting impression. Here's what you need to do:

How to prepare for a university interview - infographic

Research thoroughly

Begin by getting acquainted with the university and the specific program you've applied to. It's important to at least know the basic information about the school and the program you're applying for.

Understand the university's ethos, its unique offerings, and why you're drawn to it.

Extensive research not only ensures you're well-informed but also demonstrates your genuine interest in their program.

Review your application

A productive preparatory step involves reviewing your application, considering which aspects to elaborate upon during the interview.

  • Do you have particular achievements you'd like to spotlight?
  • Are there potential queries about your results, experiences, or perhaps a gap year?

Anticipating these ensures you're well-prepared for the interview. This way you'll seem more prepared and put-together in the actual interview, since the interviewer will notice you've done your best to anticipate what they could be asking of you.

Sort out the practical details

Ensure you're clear on logistical details ahead of the day. Know the venue, time, and estimate your travel duration to the interview location, ensuring punctuality. Also double-check whether you need to bring any documents or tools with you.

If it's an online interview:

  • Familiarize yourself with the platform (e.g., Google Meet, Microsoft Teams) before the interview.
  • Ensure that you receive the meeting link on time - remember that being late to a digital interview is just as detrimental as tardiness for a physical one.
  • Test your camera and microphone beforehand. Preemptively checking your tech setup helps avert last-minute technical issues.

💡 Pro tip

A neat, clutter-free background and a good light source, like a lamp or window, significantly enhance your digital interview experience.

If your home set up doesn't allow for a clean background, make sure to blur it, or use a clear image as your virtual background instead.

Common university interview questions

Questions form the crux of interviews, providing insights into who you are. Practicing by saying them aloud can help calm nerves and also help you familiarize yourself with tricky pronunciations, especially if the interview is being held in a foreign language.

Here's a list of common university interview questions you can prepare for in advance.

Common university interview questions - inforgraphic

Tell me about yourself.

Most interviews commence with self-introduction. Keep your answer relevant to your academic and extracurricular achievements. Mention any work, projects, or experiences that led you to choose this field of study.

Remember that this question isn't an invitation to share your life story - it's a chance to showcase your fit for the university, so it's essential to be concise, relevant, and professional.

Why do you want to attend this university?

Be genuine in your response and relate it back to your career or academic goals. Mention specific programs, professors, or opportunities that are unique to the university. Avoid generic answers like "it's a good school" and show you've done your research.

While articulating your reasons might be challenging, it's vital to highlight specific features of the university that align with your goals and values.

Why did you choose this course or major?

Connect your choice to a passion, interest, or long-term goal.

Whether it was a particular book, class, teacher, or experience that inspired you, do your best to actually name specific professors, labs, research projects, or any other reason that attracted you to this university.

Above all, be genuine and honest about your goals, and how this specific program would help you achieve it.

It's also important to mention how you would contribute, too. Explain how the university would benefit from your knowledge, skills and life experiences.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

While the distant future may be uncertain, relate your answer to how this university or program will help you achieve your mid-term goals. Be it academic, professional, or personal growth, show ambition but also realism.

Be honest, and don't just try to give the answer the university wants to hear. Not only is it not genuine, but you're also not taking the opportunity to show your unique strengths and perspective.

Describe a challenge you've faced and how you overcame it.

Universities are looking for resilience and problem-solving skills. Detail the challenge, how you approached it, the actions you took, and what you learned from the experience.

That last point - what you learned from the experience - is usually the most important one. Universities want to know how reflective you are, as it's a sign of maturity.

Do you have any questions for us?

Always have a question or two prepared. It shows your genuine interest in the university and the program.

Focus on questions that show you've done your homework, like asking about specific courses, research opportunities, or extracurricular activities:

  • Can you detail the research opportunities available for students in this program?
  • How does the university aid students in securing internships or co-op positions?
  • What's the average class size for courses in my major?

What to wear to a university interview, and other etiquette rules

Knowing how to dress or behave during the interview isn't always straightforward. However, making a good impression relies on details like these.

What to wear to a university interview - infographic

What to wear

First and foremost, your clothes should be clean and professional.

Unless specified otherwise, you can play it safe and go for a business casual wear that communicates your respect for the occasion.

Whether it's a shirt and pants, a stylish blouse, a skirt, a dress, or a suit, everyone has different tastes and comfort levels. You should choose something that you feel authentically represents you.

Body language

Beyond clothing, the way you act and speak are also important.

Throughout the interview, it's essential to maintain eye contact and stay engaged. This not only shows your genuine interest but also shows confidence.

A friendly smile, good posture, a firm handshake, and an overall neat appearance are also crucial.

Prevent disruptions

Don't forget to silence your phone and, if applicable, your smartwatch to prevent any potential distractions from unexpected notifications. Also check for any phone alarms or reminders you may have set in advance.

In case of a virtual interview, make sure to close any widows, doors, and other potential noise sources. If you're living with other people, let them know in advance that you'll be in an interview during a specific time-slot, and that you'd appreciate if they'd be mindful of creating any noise during it.

After the interview

At the end of the interview, always make it a point to express gratitude to the interviewer, and wish them a good rest of the day. The important thing here is that these comments should be genuine - people can sense when you're being fake in order to get on their good side.

Genuine positivity leaves a lasting impression and reiterates your honesty, appreciation and enthusiasm.

Conclusion

Preparing for a university interview might seem challenging, but by following these guidelines, you're sure to be well-equipped.

Remember to be genuine, showcasing your sincere interest in joining that particular university.

Approach the interview with confidence, poise, and courtesy. After all, they were eager to meet you; now, it's your turn to reciprocate that interest.

Good luck!

Sara Evans

Author

Sara is the Content Designer at Keystone Academic Solutions, in charge of creating and curating content for students across the globe. Due to her background in UX and teaching, she's always in pursuit of new ways of presenting information more clearly.