Once you’ve submitted your application, if you’re on course to meet the entry requirements most colleges will invite you to attend an interview. Just like going for a job, colleges want to know that you’re well-prepared and well-suited for the course you’ve applied to.
Few people love interviews…but they’re not nearly as nerve-wracking as you might think. If you come prepared, you’ll do really well.
What should I expect?
The exact format of interviews varies between different colleges and different departments.
Normally though, the session will begin with a welcome talk from the interviewers – they’ll tell you about the college and fill you in on how the interview session is going to work.
In some cases you might be asked to take part in a group interview before your individual one. This is likely to involve discussing a question topic with other applicants.
The individual interview is your chance to show your interest in the subject and your suitability for the course. You’ll also have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have.
What kind of questions might I be asked?
You can’t predict exactly what you’re going to be asked but you can be confident that the interviewers will cover a few obvious themes.
They’re also likely to base some of their questions on information you included in the personal statement on your application form.
The interviewers will want to know why you've chosen to study this course at their college:
- Why do you want to study this course?
- Why do you want to study at this college (rather than at other ones)?
- What is it that interests you about this subject?
- What are your plans for the future? Do you plan to pursue a related career?
This is your opportunity to talk about your relevant skills and experience:
- Why do you think you will suit this course well?
- What would you describe as your best qualities?
- You said in your application that you enjoy helping other people. Can you give an example of this?
- What achievement are you most proud of?
- What do you like or dislike most about school?
- You said that you have strong communication skills. Why do you think that will be important in this course/career?
The interviewers will want to establish that you are prepared to start college. They’ll want to know that you’ve thought about the practicalities:
- Do you intend to commute to college or will you be moving out of home?
- Why have you decided to apply to college rather than spending another year at school? (if you’ve left school after S4/S5)
- Do you hope to go on to study a higher level of qualification after this?
- How much do you know about what the course involves?
What are group interviews like?
Group interviews will be appropriate for some subjects but not for others. If you do have one, they provide an opportunity for interviewers to see how well you respond in a group situation similar to that you will experience at college.
Chances are you’ll be asked to discuss with other potential students a topic or question related to the course subject. For example, if you were applying to do an HND in Travel and Tourism, your group may be asked to discuss the question: ‘Will the Commonwealth Games leave a lasting legacy for Scotland?’
- Try and contribute to the discussion as much as you can.
- Listen to what others have to say and respond to their comments.
- Pose questions to the group. Give examples if you can to back up your arguments.
- Even when you’re not talking, show that you are interested and engaged.
How can I prepare?
Good preparation will make all the difference:
Make sure you’ve read all about the course and the college.
- Interviewers will want you to show that you understand what it involves.
Re-read the personal statement from your application form.
- Think about how you can build on the examples you included in it.
Think about the types of question you could be asked.
- We’ve included several above. How would you answer them? Practice!
Write down and revise 3 or 4 bullet points for each of the following:
- Your reasons for choosing (a) the course (b) the college
- Your most relevant skills and qualities
- Examples of when you have demonstrated these skills
- Your most relevant experience and achievements
How should I behave on the day?
- Be on time! Plan your journey in advance.
- Dress appropriately. You need to be clean and smart but you don’t need to be too formal.
- Bring a pen and anything else you've been asked to take e.g. a copy of your qualifications.
- Look interested, engaged, and enthusiastic. Make eye contact with the interviewer. And smile!
- Try and relax, sit comfortably, and take your time with your answers.
Remember, nobody’s trying to catch you out at an interview! The staff will expect you to be a bit nervous so they’ll want to put you at ease. You might be surprised by how informal it feels. Prepare well and you’ll be totally fine.