Interviews: A two-way process

Being called up for interview may seem daunting, but they are a useful way of discovering more about the course you want to do – and how it is taught

If you are going to be called for admissions interviews, now is the time to prepare for them. Most of you will not be called for actual interviews, but you are likely to receive – together with any offers the department wish to make to you – invitations to attend open days.

Dr Peter W Thomas, Admissions Tutor for English at the University of Cardiff, says that although he has far more applicants than places each year, the department staff could not cope with the demands of interviewing everybody. He places strong reliance on the open day. “We have strong feedback from students that open days are the single most important factor in helping them make their final choice of course. The open day at Cardiff, and most other universities where they occur, is a one-way process in which potential students themselves, having seen the department, the university, and the locality decide on how to proceed.”

However, there are three reasons for some departments and some institutions to invite applicants for formal interview before reaching a conclusion about them:

1) There is fierce competition for places from people with similar academic potential and the department is looking for ways of differentiating between them.

2) The courses themselves require students with a particular personality, perhaps owing to the type of career they lead to. Examples would be health-related subjects where students must be able to relate to patients.

3) There is something about a particular applicant which interests the department – so that they want to know more about them before making a judgement, such as mature students. Their situation requires individual investigation so that the most appropriate decision can be made for each individual.

At the University of Birmingham, the department of electrical engineering is popular and receives many more applications than it has places. Mrs Brenda Ansell, the Undergraduate Admissions Tutor, finds that a formal interview is a vital two-way process which allows applicant and university to discover more about each other. Mrs Ansell encourages applicants to have ready all the questions they may wish to ask both about the course and about the university in general.

Medical schools:

Interviews are an essential part of the application process for medical school. This is not only because of the high number of applicants to places, but also the need to recruit those who have the special qualities required as the basis for a medical career. Elizabeth Clark, Admissions Officer for the University of Manchester Medical School, says, “Applicants who are invited to interview here have already been through a stringent selection process. It is the candidates’ chance to help us build a picture of them which shows that they are aware of what they are letting themselves in for not just in a medical course but also in their careers afterwards.

“They must have an appreciation of significant developments in medicine throughout the century and especially of current medical issues in the headlines now. The way they present their arguments is important rather than whether they are right or wrong.

“We want to find balanced individuals who are able to take responsibility and who have hobbies or interests which will counter some of the stress which can be found in the study and practice of medicine, and are able to work well as a member of a team. Current trends in medical teaching depend on teams of students working well together.

“Those who are successful in communicating to us in the interviews that they have these qualities, will receive offers of AAB. A really good interview may, however, mean we may still give a place to candidates who find when their results are published that they have dropped a grade or so below this offer.”

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