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UK school interviews: what to remember

At this time of year, lots of UK schools are starting to interview prospective students for the next academic year. This is a daunting prospect for many students, but with a little preparation it needn’t be.

It is important to remember that interviews are an opportunity for the school to get to know the student and to see if they would be a good fit for their school. They are not a test; academic assessments will be done through the school entrance tests and there are no real right or wrong answers to most of the questions. Students should therefore, as far as possible, see the interview as a conversation, not an assessment. It is a chance for the student to speak about themselves, why they want to go to the school and to ask anything they want to know. It should be a two way conversation, not a monologue.

Whilst being clear on the purpose of the interview is vital, students should also remember a few key things. The first thing to think about is the physical aspects of the interview. It takes just one-tenth of a second for us to make a first impression and so those first moments of the interview are crucial. Students should enter the interview confidently, with a smile on their face, good eye contact, a firm handshake and a clear, polite greeting. Body language throughout the interview is also very important. The interviewer wants to see an engaged individual and expressive body language and emotion can help convey this. Students should sit up right, use appropriate gestures and smile - it shouldn’t all be serious as remember the interviewer wants to see the student’s personality.

The second thing to think about is the answers given. Some students fall into the trap of trying to memorise answers. This is a bad idea. It can make the student sound like a robot and mean they don’t answer the questions asked as they’re so wedded to what they want to say. Students should therefore be familiar with the sorts of things they want to say, but not rehearsed. It is important for students to take time before answering. The pause is never as long as it feels and it will make the answer better. Answers given should be full and positive, providing explanation.

The final thing to think about is doing research. The interviewer is likely to ask why you want to come to their school and if you have any questions for them. Answers should be as specific as possible, rather than generic responses that can be used in every interview. Schools want to feel like the student is committed to them so students should look at their website, speak to any alumni or read any information they have been sent.

Interviews don’t have to be scary. They are a conversation and an opportunity for students to show why they are a great fit for the school they are applying to. Students should be confident, be themselves and try and enjoy it!

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