University Interview 101

Applying to your dream university can bring you a lot of stress and questions. I recently went through it all. I applied to three different programs in my top two universities. There is one program in particular that I really REALLY want to get into. I couldn’t have done it without my Google searches and a friend who’s been through it all and selflessly offered to help me through it all. So, here I am today, trying to assist you with the interview part of your application. I know that not all programs require one, but mine did I almost lost sleep over it.

1. Search the web
This will save you. It saved me. I went on the universities’ website and FAQs but also on Reddit and Yconic. You can never research too much. I’m extra, so I ended up finding the email addresses of a few students and emailed them with my questions. To my surprise, they were all open and honest about the process and their experiences. One thing to remember is that they all went through what you’re currently going through. Try to

2. Find out the interview style
Different universities have different interview methods. Most of them will use a behavioral-based interview where they’ll ask about a situation when you “x” to see how you would react in a similar situation in the future. Try looking up behavioral questions and how to answer with the STAR method. Write your stories down following the STAR system and thank me later. Honestly, I would’ve flopped my interview if I didn’t prepare for the behavioral questions.

Examples of behavioral questions:
– Tell me about you failed
– Tell me about a time you succeeded
– Tell me about yourself
– Tell me about a time you took initiative

3. Sell yourself
My biggest fear was to sound arrogant or full of myself. The reality is that you want this university to think that they would be missing out by not offering you a spot in the program. Start your sentences with “I” and forget about the “we.” When answering, use key phrases such as “I stepped up” and trade the words “hard” for “challenging” and “stressed” for “overwhelmed.”

4. Take your time and ask questions at the end
If you need to, you can take a few seconds to think before answering. It will feel like an eternity to you but it shows maturity. One of the biggest mistakes that people make is to not ask questions at the end. This is the perfect opportunity to show that you have researched the program, the university and even the interview (to a certain extent). If they mentioned something about themselves feel free to ask for more details and look interested. End the interview by thanking the interviewer(s) and reiterate your interest.

Examples of questions to ask:
– What are the main competencies are students expected to have after their first year?
– What do you think is the key to succeeding in *insert the field*?
– Do you have any advice for me as a new student?
– What is something students didn’t expect to take away from the program?

5. Organize a mock interview
Whether it’s with the university, your parents or a friend, rehearse. Practice makes perfect. I found that practicing with parents and a friend made me come up with better stories and a tiny bit more confidence when it came to the real thing because I had my answers down and approved.

6. Be ready
I can already hear you say “most useless advice ever”, well no. If you feel ready, you’ll look more confident. Get a lot of sleep the night before your interview. Anything you don’t know by then you won’t know by prepping the night before. Pick out your outfit, hairstyle and everything else before the day of your interview, you’ll be stressed enough as it is. Have a precise idea of how to get there and leave early, you never know what could happen in the in-between so be prepared. If you’re having a Skype/Facetime interview make sure that everything works, that you paid you Internet bill and that your setting has good lighting and looks professional or somewhat adequate.

7. Send “Thank You” Notes
I read somewhere that less than 20% of applicants send “Thank You” notes after an interview. Be part of the minority and send it within two days of your interview. It shows your interest, keeps your name in their heads and is a nice attention.

You got this. You can do it. Wanting to be prepared is a having a third of the work already done. Don’t go into this experience being overly confident but at the same time, believe in yourself. I wish you the best of luck!
– Marie

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