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Differences between UK and US university interviews

Students who make dual applications should be aware of the differences between US and UK university interview processes and purposes. 

While many students have already had the opportunity to interview at UK universities this admissions season, US interviews may still be upcoming. However, the purpose and format of admissions interviews at US universities differs significantly from what you may be familiar with in the UK.

Here are some essential things to keep in mind when interviewing at US universities:

Receiving an interview offer in the US does not mean you’ve been short-listed. 

Unlike UK universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, American universities that hold interviews typically try to offer one to all applicants. While an interview offer in the US does not necessarily indicate a successful application, you should take this opportunity to demonstrate your interest to the admissions office and to learn more about the university. Interviews are typically not the deciding factor in the admissions process, but ignoring or rejecting an interview request will reflect poorly on your application. 

US university interviews are not subject-specific.

Instead, they’re casual conversations lasting 30-60 minutes. These interviews may be conducted by admissions office staff, but more commonly, you’ll be speaking with alumni volunteers. Unlike in the UK, American college interviews are not tests of knowledge. The person interviewing you may have a completely different specialization. US interviews are an opportunity for you to ask questions about the student experience at that university.

How to prepare for US university admissions interviews: 

  1. Keep in mind the purpose of the interview. In the US, the idea is to help you decide if a university is a good fit for you and to help universities make sure there are no red flags in your application. Alumni interviewers typically do not have access to your application materials, so you will not be expected to discuss your grades or test scores.
  2. Research the university. While you may already be familiar with the university’s website, also take the time to look at their social media. It’s a good idea to have a sense of the overall campus culture and to be able to verbalise what attracts you to this specific university.
  3. Know what kind of conversation to expect. Typical interview questions include: “What’s your favorite class in school?” and “How do you spend your time when you’re not at school?” In addition to your responses, prepare questions about your interviewer’s personal experience (rather than university administration or policy). For example, ask how they chose their major, which extra curricular activities they did in college, or what they wish they had known as an incoming freshman.

Good luck, and have fun!

While US interviews are significantly lower pressure than their UK counterparts, they should still be seen as an important part of the admissions process. If you are polite and aim for genuine conversations rather than scripted answers, then the interview will only support your application.