12 Answers to Common University Interview Questions

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Date of Publication: 02 March 2021

Submitted your application for university? Before receiving an offer for a university course, don’t be surprised if you’re invited to attend an interview with an admissions tutor at the university you’re applying to. 

University interviews are very common in the UK, especially for subjects focusing around the care or creative industries. They’re also very often used to help select students for top universities like Oxford and Cambridge, which are extremely competitive and difficult to gain admission to. 

While the type and length of interview will vary depending on the university and subject you’re applying to, many are discussion-based, with an emphasis on finding out more about your interests about the subject and commitment to learn. 

As nerve-wracking as they may be, interviews are actually a really effective way for universities to make sure you’re making the right subject choices and applying to a university they think you’ll excel at. 

With that being said it’s also important you allocate enough time for preparation and practice. You wouldn’t want to walk into your interview completely unprepared for the questions they could ask you. 

Discover answers to 12 of the most commonly asked university interview questions to help you prepare ahead of time – so you can ensure your interview is a success and takes you one step closer to securing your dream university place. 

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1. Tell me about yourself 

A university interview question which is dreaded by so many students: “tell me about yourself.” Although this can be a fairly difficult question to answer – especially if you hate having to talk about your interests and hobbies – it’s one most universities love to ask students.

When you apply to university, you only have a short section of your personal statement to talk about yourself. Even then, you can’t go into detail about your wider interests outside of school, or explain any interesting background history. Therefore, lots of universities ask this question to find out more about you and assess whether they think you would thrive there. 

How to answer this university interview question

Want to know how to answer tell me about yourself university interview question? Take a look at some aspects of yourself you can talk about, to ensure you give the interviewer the details they really want to know about you. 

  • Don’t just focus on your academic interests – There is plenty of time in the interview to talk about your academic interests with the interviewer. When asking to find out more information about yourself, the interviewer really wants to get to know you – not just the studious version of you that you think will pique their interest.
  • Keep it to 3 or 4 sentences – Think about 3 or 4 stand-out points about yourself that you can share with the interviewer. They don’t have time to get to know your entire history and interests, so give them the ‘highlights’ that have shaped you into the person who you are. For example, what are your hobbies? Do you enjoy participating in sports? Have you ever lived in another country?
  • Prepare some examples – Remember, your interviewer will want to gauge as much about you as possible. So, when you make a point about yourself, be prepared to back it up with an example – just as you would when writing an academic essay. For example, if you tell them you enjoy practising a musical instrument outside of school, tell them more, including, the type of music you play, and any examinations or performances you have done with that particular instrument. 


2. Why do you want to study this course?

Possibly one of the most important and frequently asked university interview questions revolves around why you chose to study the course you have applied for. 

When asking this, universities are looking to see a genuine interest and passion for the subject you want to study, ensuring that you’ve chosen the right course for all the right reasons. 

How to answer this university interview question

You probably already have an idea of how to answer this interview question, especially if you’ve been dreaming about studying your particular subject or course since you were a young child. 

However, if you’re looking for some further ideas to expand your answer, here are some suggestions you could include. 

  • How the course will help you achieve your career goals – Do you have a dream career laid out ahead of you? Express your ambitions to the interviewer, explaining how that particular course will help you to achieve your career aspirations. 
  • Your enjoyment for the subject – Universities will know that students who have a genuine interest and enjoy the subject they are choosing will be more likely to study hard and commit the course at university. Use this question as a time to demonstrate how much you commit to the subject now, talking about; any wider reading you do outside of school; your engagement in extracurricular activities related to your subject; and any possible work experience you have carried out in the past. 
  • How the course can help you achieve wider goals in life – Even if you don’t have a dream career path laid out in front of you, you can still talk about how the course could help you achieve other goals in life. For example, if you want to contribute to society for the better of people, or help those who need it the most – these are all perfectly acceptable reasons as to why you may want to pursue the course. 

 

3. Why did you choose this university?

Aside from asking about the subject you’re interested in studying, the “why did you choose this university” interview question is one of the most commonly asked questions admissions teams include as part of their selection process.

Universities want to know that if they offer you a place on one of their courses, you have a genuine interest in studying there. Culture plays an important role in student and university living and they want to know you’re going to become a keen member of their community before considering your offer. 

 

How to answer this university interview question

There are a few ways you can choose to answer this question, depending on what your reason for choosing the course is.

  • University’s reputation – If you’re applying to a high-ranking university, then it would seem obvious that the reputation of the institution is what has encouraged you to apply there. Comment on how that university is considered one of the best for the subject you’re studying, placing you in the best place possible for future success.
  • The facilities available to you – Depending on your choice of subject, the facilities available at the university could be used to shape your answer. For example, if you’re studying Theatre Studies and the university has their own theatre on campus which allows you to participate in extracurricular public performances, then this could be a huge factor in your decision to study there. This is true for many STEM subjects too, where the university may have access to the latest technologies.
  • Their approach to teaching your subject – The way a subject is taught at one university to another will vary, both in the content itself and possibly, the assessment/teaching. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to talk about how their particular approach to the subject captured your interest – giving examples to explain your reasons why.


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4. What can you bring to this university?

For universities to consider offering you a place with them, they want to make sure that you’re going to contribute during your time there as a student – not just academically, but as part of the wider community. 

So, they often like to ask the question ‘what can you bring to this university’ to find out more about your wider interests as a student, and whether they align with the types of clubs, societies and causes that the university drives forward.

 

How to answer this university interview question

It’s important that you’re as honest as possible when answering this question. Remember, interviewers will want you to support any ideas you suggest with examples from your previous experience. If you hesitate or don’t seem certain, they’ll be able to read straight through you.

  • Talk about your extracurricular interests – If you haven’t yet had an opportunity to share your extracurricular interests and hobbies, then now is the time to do so. If you’re a keen athlete, now is the time to share how you are interested in playing for the university’s sports teams. 
  • It doesn’t have to be a hobby or talent – Even if your extracurricular activities aren’t something you can physically get involved in, you may be able to contribute in other ways. For example, if you are a keen organiser, then you could get involved planning events for a society or subject department – everyone’s skills can contribute to the wider community.
  • You can also talk about class time – Aside from extracurricular activities, you can also use this question to talk about how you will be able to contribute to your learning sessions as a whole. For example, if you are part of your school debating team, you can talk about how you will feel confident at contributing to class discussions. Likewise, if you enjoy giving presentations at school, then you will be a valued team member when it comes to collaborating on group projects. 

 

5. What do you want to study?

Now, this question is a bit of a rarer one to be asked during a university interview. Usually, this is asked at the start of the interview, with the interviewer looking for clarity around which specific course you are interested in studying. 

But, it also opens the possibility to set the tone for the rest of the interview. If you choose to expand on the question and start talking about why you are interested in studying the course you have applied for, you’ll demonstrate confidence and a willingness to engage in conversation. The easier you can make the interview flow, the more impressed the interviewer will be.

How to answer this university interview question

Now, answering this question is similar to answering the ‘why do you want to study this course’ question. It demands that you a) state the course you want to study and b) hint at opportunities to expand. Cover both of these points and you’ll be giving the interviewer what they’re looking for.

  • State the full course name – If the interviewer is genuinely looking for clarity around the course you have selected out of the many they have available, then state the full course name for them. This also means stating whether you are studying for an undergraduate, masters degree, or another type of qualification. As we mentioned, universities offer so many different courses and variations, the interviewer will want to make sure you’re choosing the right one .
  • Express your interest in the subject, briefly – If the opportunity seems to arise, then there’s no harm in expanding your answer slightly to include some reasons why you want to study that subject. You’ll demonstrate your willingness to engage in conversation and make the whole interview experience flow easier. 
  • Ask about other course options – If you have any queries about different course variations, or are unsure about which type of course you are most interested in, then now is the time to ask for clarity on the different course options available. For example, if you’ve applied for a three-year course but are thinking about the possibility of extending by a year to do an industry placement, then now is the time to ask a question back to the interviewer for further clarity about whether the option to transfer is possible. The answer is usually yes, but seeing your willingness to ask and look at other ways to help you succeed in the future will show huge dedication on your part. 

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6. What do you want to do after you graduate?

Asking you about your future prospects allows the interviewer to gauge how far ahead you have thought about your future and whether you see your degree playing a role in that decision. 

Your interviewer will be looking for your understanding of future career prospects and how much research you have done into the industry that interests you. They’ll also be seeking affirmation that you’re a motivated and ambitious student.

 

How to answer this university interview question

Lots of students go into university knowing exactly what they want to do after they graduate. But for some, they’re still not decided what career they may want to pursue. There are a few different ways to answer this question, and only you will be able to decide on the option which is most relevant to your circumstances. 

  • Share your dream career goals – If you haven’t yet said it, now is the time to share your dream career with your interviewer, linking it back to the degree you have applied for and how it will play a key role in helping you achieve your career goals. 
  • Express an interest to contribute to your industry Even if you have no idea about what type of career you want in the future, you can still express an interest to contribute to the industry as a whole. Wording it in a way such as; “Although I am keeping job opportunities open as I learn more during my course, I know that my passions lie in helping people for the better.”
  • Suggest further academic study – Many students choose to pursue further academic study after completing their initial undergraduate degree. You can use this question to demonstrate your motivations as a student, expressing how passionate you are to learning as much about your field as possible. 

 

7. Why did you choose your A-Levels (or the equivalent)?

By asking about the decisions which led you to applying for that university course, the interviewer will be able to to assess how much you think about the decisions you make academically and how they affect your future decisions. 

It’s a chance to prove how conscientious you are as a student, as well as a chance to demonstrate how passionate you are about studying that particular course at university. 

 

How to answer this university interview question

The interviewer will be looking for justifications as to why you’ve made these choices about education; whether you’ve thought hard about your future and what you may want to pursue as a career. Be as detailed as possible so they can gauge your motivations and get a grasp of the way you think.

  • Express how your A-Levels are helping prepare you for the course – If you selected your A-Levels with the intention of using them to help prepare you for your dream university course, then tell the interviewer this. They’ll be very impressed by the fact that you have thought carefully about your decision for many years and prove your commitment to the subject you have applied for. 
  • Explain your choices based on the skills you wanted to gain – This answer is more applicable for students who don’t necessarily have A-Levels which are specific to the subject/course they have applied to study at university. If you can’t explain how your A-Levels are directly related to your course, then reflecting on the transferable skills they’ve provided you for the future and relating them to your course will be a great answer to this question. 
  • Comment on your enjoyment and motivation to study the subjects – Demonstrating your motivations to learn more about the things which interest you suggests to the interviewer that you’ll be committed to study your chosen degree subject too. Anything you can use to express your enthusiasm for studying and commitment to furthering yourself will shine greatly in the interview. 

 

8. What are your strengths?

When an interviewer asks this question, they’re trying to determine whether you have the skills to excel on their course, and the confidence to help you succeed. 

 

How to answer this university interview question

There are a few things to think about when forming your answer to this university interview question, including what not to say. The key is to strike the right balance between seeming too overconfident and egotistical, to not compliment yourself enough – preparing one or two answers will ensure you’re well equipped for the question.

  • Pick strengths that are applicable to your course – As mentioned above, this question is all about determining if you have the skills needed to succeed on their particular university course. Pick the strengths you think are most important to help you succeed at the course to prove that you’re the perfect applicant. For example, if you are applying for a Mathematics course, you might want to comment on how great you are at being able to think through problems logically. Or, if you’re studying for an Architecture course, reflecting on your creativity and ability to think of innovative solutions will help you shine.
  • Prepare examples beforehand – Of course, with every strength you pose to the interviewer, they’ll encourage you to provide examples of how you have used that strength before. What have you been recognised and rewarded for in the past? What problem have you overcome before that left you full of pride?
  • Ask friends and family for ideas – Struggling to choose a quality? Ask your closest friends and family members to give you a couple of examples of what they see your greatest strengths are. 

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9. What are your weaknesses?

Aside from hearing about your strengths, universities will also be keen to learn more about what you consider to be your greatest weaknesses. They’ll be interested in seeing how critical you are of yourself, your studies, and work-life balance – and how that could be seen as a potential strength as a student at their university. 

In this case, deflecting the weakness and turning it into something which could be considered a positive to them could be an effective way to answer the question. 

How to answer this university interview question

There are a few ways to answer this question, and you probably already have an idea of what weaknesses you want to share with the interviewer, but take a look below for some pointers on how to answer it effectively. 

  • Choose your weakness carefully – Although it’s good to be honest with the interviewer, you don’t want to say something which could land you in hot water. For example, answering with phrases such as; “I’m really lazy” or “I easily fall behind deadline” will not paint you in the best light. Instead, choosing phrases such as “I spend a lot of time reviewing my assignments” or “If I find a topic really interesting, I find myself getting lost for hours at a time – meaning I sometimes have to complete work at a faster pace than I’d like.” 
  • Always provide an answer – Never reply with “I don’t have any.” Universities want to know that you can reflect and always look to further yourself. If you arrive ‘perfect,’ then it may give off the impression that you’re not going to be willing to push yourself further whilst studying with them. 
  • Be honest – This is your opportunity to be really open with the interviewer – and most importantly, tell the truth. Don’t pretend to be a ‘perfectionist’ if you’re not one, as it will probably be pretty obvious to them if you are lying. This doesn’t mean you have to tell them your most personal weaknesses, but don’t bend the truth or try to deceive the interviewer to make yourself come across in the best way possible. 

10. Tell me about a book you’ve read that’s had the most profound impact on you.

For students applying to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, prepare to delve into conversations around wider reading in relation to shaping you as a learner. 

This is often rated as one of the most popular questions asked by tutors at these institutions, but many other universities have also begun asking questions like this to gauge a student’s critical thinking – especially in subjects which require a lot of creative thinking. 

How to answer this university interview question

This university interview question gives you an opportunity to talk about a book you’ve been inspired by, but in a way which has helped shape you for the better. 

  • Select a book which is relevant to your skills for the future – A good way to tackle this question is to include a book which has helped you develop a new way of thinking or even a skill. Even better, think about whether that book has impacted you in a way which will change your approach to life, or even make you a better student.
  • Prepare to recall a synopsis or quote – Especially if you’re introducing a text your interviewer has never heard. For a book to have had an impact on you, tutors will expect you to recall your favourite section or even quote – so always try to have an example saved up your sleeve.
  • Be honest – Even if you’re not a keen reader, never lie on your question. Your interviewer will want to engage in a detailed conversation with you regarding the literature you raise – don’t bring up a book you’ve never read or they will see straight through you. Remember, tutors have read a lot of books and are often aware of many of the popular titles out there, never try to deceive them as it could backfire on you.

 

11. What do you enjoy most about school?

It’s not uncommon for university interviewers to ask about your current experiences at school. This is so they can gauge what motivates you as a student and whether your interests mirror those which the university prides itself on. 

For example, do you enjoy having a range of extracurricular clubs and activities to enjoy? Or is there a gigantic library of books you can explore during your lunch break? All these offer great insights into you as a student.

How to answer this university interview question

Like many of the questions on this list, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer to this question. Instead, the effectiveness depends on how you choose to explain your answer. Follow the tips below to make the most out of your response. 

  • Don’t think you have to focus on academia – This question is all about gauging what motivates you as a student and doesn’t necessarily require an academic response. If your favourite thing about school is the ability to see your friends each day, then say it – just remember to word it in a way that makes you sound like a collaborative team player, rather than someone who procrastinates a lot when they should be studying. 
  • Be specific – If your favourite thing about school is the gigantic library, then why is that? Is it because you discovered the incredible collection of Shakespeare works? Or maybe it’s because you enjoy finding time to concentrate and immerse yourself in your work fully. Always offer an example for the interviewer. 
  • Think about how your experience shapes you as a student – Sometimes, the thing we love most about school doesn’t always make us the best student. For example, if your favourite thing about school is playing football with your friends at lunchtime, it doesn’t tell us much about your commitment to learning. Although you can mention things like these, remember to include traits that could make you seem like a better student. 

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12. Why should we offer you a place?

Finally, the university interview question most students have nightmares about: why should we offer you a place?

Not only is this question incredibly difficult to answer for those who hate to talk about themselves and their achievements, it’s also dependent on all the other conversations you’ve had in the interview.

 

How to answer this university interview question

Usually, this question is asked towards the end of your interview, after you’ve had an opportunity to talk through your reasons for applying for the course, as well as your strengths and weaknesses as a student. Therefore, you want your answer to incorporate a combination of everything you’ve spoken about during the interview. 

  • Recap everything you have already highlighted – Briefly recount all the great things you’ve told the interviewer about yourself, including your passion for learning, future goals, and why you’d love to study at that particular university. 
  • Ignore any weaknesses – Even if you’ve spoken about your weaknesses in the interview, don’t remind the interviewer of them here, unless you’re reflecting them as a strength. You want your interviewer to remember your final remarks as positive ones – ensure you do that by playing on your strengths. 

Summary

As daunting as these university interview questions may seem, with enough preparation and practice, you’ll have the confidence to walk into the interview ready to answer whatever comes your way. 

Remember, authenticity and honesty goes a long way. Your university interviews are an opportunity for the tutors to really get to know you as a student and ensure you’re making the right choices both in terms of subject and university location. 

Try not to put too much pressure on yourself. As long as you can demonstrate your passion for your learning, outer interests, as well as knowledge about the university and subject field as a whole, you’ll come across as a well-rounded student with the potential to thrive on their course. 

 

Prepare for your university interview with professional help

Applying to university soon? Or already have your interview booked?

Discover Melio, our sister company and online learning platform. Offering a bespoke, one-on-one university Guidance programme with an experienced tutor, you can gain practical tips and insights about the university interview and application process as a whole. 

Alternatively, if you want to experience life at a top UK university this summer, then take a look at the summer courses we have, available for students aged 13-24 years-old.

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