University interviews and how to prepare for them

University interviews are conducted by a faculty member or alumni (previous student) and offered to applicants. These are often optional and serve several purposes.

  • For the university, they provide a chance to get to know and evaluate applicants on a more personal level.
  • For the student, university interviews offer a chance to gain a better understanding of the university, and a platform to showcase suitability for a chosen course.

Don’t stress if you aren’t offered an interview. Universities receive thousands of applications, and it’s not always feasible to interview every applicant.

University interview
University interview being conducted online

How to prepare – ahead of time

  • Review the below questions and thoroughly contemplate your reasons and responses. An interview is a conversation, don’t memorizing your answers. Use the questions to think about who you are and why you’ve applied to this university.
  • Conduct comprehensive research on both the course and the university.
  • Prepare a list of questions to ask the interviewer (having these written down demonstrates preparedness)
  • Stay up-to-date on current affairs relevant to your field of study; have at least two recent articles or developments front of mind to chat about.

How to prepare – on the day

  • Ensure you have a notepad and pen (plus a backup)
  • Double-check that your laptop, internet connection, and webcam are set up correctly and plugged in for charging, and secure a quiet, uninterrupted area for the interview.
  • Dress in business casual attire – a collared shirt is a good default choice – and maintain a well-groomed appearance.

Examples of questions in university interviews

Remember, this is your chance to demonstrate preparation and express your desire to attend this university.

Tailor your answers to the institution and try to avoid generic responses. Be authentic; let your true self shine through, as the interviewer is seeking to understand who you are beyond your application.

Here are some example questions:

Questions about the university

  • Why do you want to attend XYZ University?
  • Why do you want to attend this university as opposed to others that offer this subject?
  • Can you share your knowledge about this university, particularly regarding the facilities available?
  • What are your thoughts on relocating to XYZ for college? Do you have any concerns?
  • What are your top three ideal qualities or requirements for a university or college?

Tips on answering:
These questions are designed to assess the depth of thought and research you’ve put into your application.

Showcase your research and be specific to the university. Have on the top of your mind 3 stand out factors that appeal to you.

Emphasize the university’s academic strengths, which may include professors, learning facilities, range of degrees, research achievements, student support services, internship opportunities, and alumni success stories. This information can be easily accessed on the university website or through online searches.

Questions about your chosen degree and career plans

  • Why are you interested in studying your chosen subject?
  • What are your aspirations for your career?
  • How do you envision this degree aligning with your future career goals?
  • What is your understanding of the experiences of others who have pursued this degree?

Tips on answering:

These questions are to gauge how much thought you’ve put into what you want to study. Is this a passion, are you going to go on to do great things and make them proud?

Show that you’ve considered the pros and cons of this subject.

While it’s acceptable to convey uncertainty about your future career path in university interviews, you should be able to explain why you’re choosing this subject and whether it will help you make informed decisions regarding your career.

Questions about your high school career

  • Tell me about your school and community.
  • What aspects of high school did you find most challenging?
  • Reflecting on your high school experience, what did you enjoy the most?
  • How do you anticipate college life differing from high school?
  • What are your thoughts on the best qualities of your high school?
  • Tell me about your favourite teacher. What makes a good teacher?

Tips on answering:

These questions are to better understand you, where you come from and how that’s going to shape where you’re going. Be descriptive, use anecdotes and small (true) stories to build a picture of who you are and where you come from.

In case your response involves a challenge you faced, discuss the difficulty encountered along with the lessons learned.

Questions about yourself

  • Tell me about yourself
  • What do you believe your friends would say about you?
  • What are your primary interests, (and can you share a story linking them to your subject choice or career goals)?
  • Could you discuss your strengths and weaknesses, (along with examples of how you demonstrate them or strive to overcome them)?
  • Why should the university offer you a place (and what unique qualities do you bring to the table)?
  • Can you narrate an experience where you faced a challenge, demonstrated leadership, or made a difference?
  • Tell me about some of the things that are important to you and how those shaped who you are today.

Tips on answering:

This is your opportunity to show self-awareness and stand out. Really think about your answers and your USP (unique selling point).

Have a +/- 3-minute elevator pitch prepared (you can Google “elevator pitch”).

Share about yourself with the interviewer through small stories, being descriptive to draw them in. Try to avoid short answers that don’t encourage conversation.

When discussing strengths, provide tangible examples of how you’ve demonstrated them and explain how they will benefit your studies.

When discussing weaknesses, demonstrate self-awareness and describe how you have either attempted to overcome them or have successfully done so.

Questions about the wider world/industry

  • If you could have conversations with three individuals, who would they be, and why?
  • Who do you believe have significantly impacted the world, and how?
  • What are the current trends in engineering (for example) that interest you?

Tips on answering:

These can be difficult to prepare for as they could be anything. What’s important here is to remain calm, take time to think about your answer and don’t be afraid to show you don’t know something, “Wow I’ve never heard of that, but it sounds really interesting, I’ll have to go and do some research.”

Questions to ask in university interviews

Remember, university interviews are a two-way street. You’re making a crucial decision about your future! Construct questions beforehand, and ensure they’re not easily found online – this demonstrates preparedness.

Here are some examples of questions you could ask an alumnus. Remember, they are passionate about the university, volunteering their time to interview you. Ask them questions that speak to their time there and their fondness for it. People enjoy talking about themselves and their own stories!

  • Could you share your journey to joining this university?
  • How do you believe attending XYX impacted your life?
  • What is it about XYZ University that makes you continue to be actively involved in the alumni association?
  • Thinking about XYZ University, what is your fondest memory?

Here are some questions you could ask a faculty member:

  • Could you share your journey to joining this university?
  • What teaching methods does the program employ?
  • How does the university support students?
  • What is the culture between students and professors at the XYZ faculty like?
  • How would you compare university XYZ to the university you attended?
  • What is the overarching goal of the faculty?


The university interviews are a unique opportunity. Remember to do your research, present yourself in the best light and enjoy it!

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