In this post, we answer 11 questions students often ask about university interviews.  In part 2, we’ll take a look at some more university interview tips, including some of the questions you could get and how you can answer them correctly.

#1  Why Do Universities Ask for Interview?

university interview tips for international students

To better explain why universities interview their students, let’s look at what happens when you apply for a university course.

Once you have sent your online application to a university, it is the job of the admissions staff to go through your application to find out important information about you, such as:

  • Your qualifications and grades
  • The information you’ve provided in your personal statement
  • The professional opinion about you in your reference
  • Your work samples or portfolio
  • Your performance in the admissions test, if you’ve had to sit one

Now, with this information, the admissions staff are usually able to make a final decision on your application. But sometimes they may need even more information about you.

#2 How Does the Interview Help?

university interview tips for international students

By interviewing you, the admissions staff can get more information about you which will help them make a decision about your application. This might happen when:

  • There are more qualified applicants than there are places available on the course
  • The course requires you to have specific abilities or knowledge that the university can’t assess based on your written application alone
  • The admissions staff have any questions or doubts about your application

Or, the university could invite you for an interview to judge how serious your application is. If you attend the interview, they will know that you are pretty serious about studying there.   Also, the university may use interviews to show how selective the course is.  Universities know this can make you feel more motivated and enthusiastic about having been chosen.

#3 What Does ‘Shortlisted’ Mean?

university interview tips for international students

When you’re ‘shortlisted’ for an interview, this usually means the admissions staff have looked through your application and think you could be a good candidate for an offer.

Being ‘shortlisted’ for an interview is good news, whatever the reason.

This doesn’t mean you will definitely receive an offer, but you have a good chance. The interview is your chance to really convince the admissions staff to make you that offer.

#4 Which Subjects Do Ask for Interview?

university interview tips for international students

You may be surprised to hear that the majority of courses do not include an interview as part of their standard admissions process. However, some universities or subjects will always ask for an interview. Or there may be a high chance you will have to attend one.  Usually:

  • If you apply to either the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge, you will have to attend an interview before you receive an acceptance offer.
  • If you apply for a course with a top university in the UK, there is a strong chance you will be invited for an interview.
  • You should expect to be interviewed if you apply for medicine, dentistry, nursing, or teaching.
  • MBA programmes, Art & Design courses and performance-based courses such as Drama or Music tend to ask for interviews.  For performance-based course, you may be asked to take part in an audition to demonstrate your practical skills.

#5 High University Ranking Means Interview?

university interview tips for international students

You may have the impression that ‘only’ highly-ranked universities interview their students.  Or, that highly-ranked universities ‘always’ interview potential students.  In both cases, this isn’t always true.

There are a number of reputable, highly-ranked universities that are selective but that do not use interviews as part of their ‘standard’ admissions process.

Also, the opposite can happen.  You could apply to a mid-ranked university and find that there is an interview for the course you’ve chosen.

#6  Who Decides if There Should Be an Interview?

university interview tips for international students

In the UK, it is the decision of the university whether to interview some, all or none of its applicants.

Don’t be surprised if you apply for a subject and specific course believing that most universities don’t interview but find that some do. When this happens, it is normally because a course is very popular and receives more applications than there are places available.

Or, a university may be very strong in that particular subject area and therefore have a more selective admissions policy and will only accept a specific type of applicant.

Remember, there may not be an interview for your course, but ‘you’ could still be invited for interview.

#7  How Will I Be Invited for Interview?

university interview tips for international students

Undergraduate applicants will receive a message in their UCAS Track (UCAS online application portal) if they have been invited for interview. Direct applicants will usually receive an email,  and should check their email account on a daily basis.

When receiving an interview invitation, you must confirm to the university that you plan to attend.  If you don’t reply, the university will assume that you’re not interested and may withdraw your application – or reject you altogether.

If the interview has been scheduled on a day that you can’t make and you can’t change your plans, ask if they can offer you an interview on another day. Often the university can be flexible if you have a good enough reason.

#8  Will My Interview Be in the UK?

university interview tips for international students

If as an international student you live in another country and need a visa to enter the UK, you won’t usually be asked to travel to the university for your interview.

Universities are able to offer you an interview online, by phone and sometimes even in your home country.

If you’re having an telephone interview and need to give an audition, it’s usually also possible to send a recorded audition following the university’s instructions.

Some universities such as the University of Oxford may expect you to attend an interview in person if you live in Europe. But you should always find out about your individual situation before making a final decision

#9  How Long Is the Interview?

university interview tips for international students

The length of your interview will depend on what information the admissions staff want to find out about you.

Sometimes the aim of an interview will be to get to know you in a short 10 – 15 minute interview. Or you could be interviewed for 45-60 minutes or longer, if the university wants to test your knowledge and abilities relating to your chosen subject.  Group interviews or auditions may be longer.

When you receive an interview invitation, it will usually tell you how long the interview is.

#10  Who Will Interview Me?

university interview tips for international students

Who from the university will interview you all depends on which university and course you apply for.

Most of the time, interviews are done by the Admissions Tutor, the Head of the Departments or a lecturer teaching on the course you want to take. Some universities will have specific admission officers for each department and they may be involved also.

If a course has too many applicants, there may be a first interview with the admission officer and this could be followed by a more detailed interview conducted by a lecturer or other faculty member. You will normally receive more information, indicating who exactly is going to interview you.

#11  What If I do Badly in the Interview?

university interview tips for international students

Doing badly in your interview is not an option you should consider. Remember: the admissions staff will make their decision ‘after’ the interview, so make the most of this opportunity by preparing to give your best interview.

If things don’t go well during the interview, wait for the university’s decision. If they decide not to make you an offer, you could write a ‘thank you’ email to the person who interviewed you. You don’t need to apologies for not having done well in the interview.  Instead, be positive and thank them for the opportunity. It’s also a good idea to mention some of the things you may have forgotten to say during the interview.   It may not make a difference to their decision, or it may – you never know.

Finally, learn from the experience and what you could have done better to prepare for your next interview.


In this first post on university interview tips we’ve shared with you the most frequently asked questions by students.  We hope this gives you a better idea as to why a university may decide to interview you and which courses normally ask for an interview.

Remember, being invited to an interview is a good thing: it means the university is interested in you and you have a strong chance to get an offer.

Next week, we will bring you part 2 of this post.  In this, we’ll look at the types of questions you may get during your interview and how you could answer them.  We will also give you 10 more useful tips to help you prepare for and do better in your university interview.

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