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Getting to university – interview and admissions advice

Securing your place at university is a challenge. Once you’ve got the grades, then there are application forms and even interviews to get through before you can celebrate. So here’s some advice to help guide you through this academic minefield.

Personal Statement

The personal statement is possibly one of the most important parts to your application – no pressure here then – so if you think it’s never read then think again. This is your chance to put into words why you ought to be at that university.

Tell the reader what drives you to study this subject. Perhaps there’s a specific field that interests you? And what skills or experience have you had that the course could build on? And for essay tips on structure, then check out tools and advice available online.

References

References are an important part of any application. For those going with your UCAS form, it’s important whoever is writing yours knows you. If it’s a teacher who has no idea who you are then be proactive and schedule in some time to talk about your university application. In particular, explain to them about why you want to study that subject.

Now, depending on your course, it could be that the application process includes that other stress-inducing obstacle: the interview. So if this is you, then here are some tips for this stage of the process.

Prepare

Don’t just turn up and think that’s enough. If you’ve been asked along for an interview, it doesn’t mean your place at the university is secure. You’re going to have to impress the interviewer and stand out from all the other applicants they’re seeing that day. Part of this comes down to decent preparation.

UCAS and Prospectus

Go through your UCAS form and remind yourself of what you included, specifically what you noted in your personal statement. Reread the prospectus and familiarise yourself with the university as some take pride in a specific element or area of academic work.

News

Has the university been in the press recently? Check to see if there has been any research or even activities on campus that have been reported. This question could be thrown at you and if you know what the interview is talking about it shows that your interest is high.

And while you’re at it, read up what’s in the news. What’s topical? It doesn’t necessarily have to be student or university related but it will show that you’re an informed citizen.

Questions

Consider the questions that could come up, and write your answers. There’s no way to knowing exactly what you’ll be asked but you still prepare. It could be that you’ll be asked why you chose to study a certain subject.  And is there a specific point you want to make? Perhaps you have experience in the field you wish to highlight?

It’s About You

The interview is a chance to get a sense of you so there’s every chance that you will be asked beyond your academic achievements. This could be as seemingly conversational as talking about the last book that you read, or it could be much more intense like giving your opinion of the work the university does. Whatever is thrown at you, it’s important not to panic. Take a breath and consider the question before answering. Hold eye contact and remember to smile and be enthusiastic. Universities are looking for people who are interested in their chosen subject and aren’t just there because they feel they have to be.

Now, it could be that you don’t know the answer. Don’t panic. You’re not expected to know everything on a subject. Try asking the interviewer to explain what they mean might help. Or just be honest and say you don’t know.

And finally, it’s worth preparing a few questions to ask your interviewer. Asking questions shows that you’re keen and interested.

Sarah MacLennan freelances for a variety of different websites and frequently writes for UKEssays.com. Since it was set up in 2003, it has helped students from all over the globe with essay writing, offering expert guidance and useful tools.

 

Personal Statement, what do I do?? Questions Answered

Hi Nicola, I am currently studying at University and I have been asked to write a personal statement for a work placement as part of my course – I have no idea where to start as my original personal statement to get on my course reads like a biography, help!!!

Steve, Manchester

Hi Steve, Many thanks for your question. First of all it is great to hear universities are actively encouraging work experience placements for students, I cannot think of a better way to gain some relevant work experience whilst you are studying and this will certainly help you once you have graduated and are looking to start work.

The importance of such placements does bring some pressure to make sure you can piqué interest  with the best employers in your field to ensure a worthwhile placement, reassuring them you can do the job albeit in a junior capacity will make the difference between being actually picked for the role and also the duties that you will incur on the placement. You don’t want to be brewing up and making photocopies there right!

To start I suggest you talk a little about yourself in a work capacity, how you ended up taking the course and how you have utilised your skills so far. Use examples of putting the theory into practice whether it has been in paid work or for family and friends. Make sure you research the employer to understand what their USP (Unique Selling Point) is and match up your abilities and skills in this area. Then you should look to introduce what skills you have gained on the course and how you wish to progress in your specialist niche. Make sure you keep referring to particular projects the employer has worked on and start to introduce specific skill-sets; it is also good to touch upon the software you may have been using and your general ability to pick up new software packages. As this is a personal statement I also recommend you talk about why it would mean so much for you personally if you were picked for the placement, don’t go over the top with compliments to them but get a balance of your respect for their work and genuinely why you want to work there. Conclude with a paragraph about how you see your career progression once you have graduated and gaining specific work experience will assist you in reaching your goals.

I am assuming you will be submitting your CV with your personal statement, therefore let the CV be the formal part of the application and allow a more personal feel to the statement itself. Good luck!