Tips to prepare for an (admission) interview
It’s wonderful news if you receive an invitation for an interview. Whether it’s an admission, scholarship or maybe a job interview. But it can also make you nervous. I am Kwabena Frimpong Nyarko, a winner of the WUFP scholarship programme. One reason why I’m writing this piece is that when I was preparing for my interview, I searched online, but I couldn’t find anyone sharing his scholarship interview experience at WUR. Also, I thought these tips can help you with other kinds of interviews as well since it all comes down to being and believing in yourself!
I will walk you through some strategies that helped me before, during and after my interview. That said, every application is unique and the fact that your application doesn’t look like mine doesn’t mean you won’t get it. I can’t tell you the questions you are going to face. But the interview is likely to quiz you about your scholarship essay, CV and motivation letter. Here is a rundown of my TIPS.
1. Truthful and thoughtful
Honesty is key. Present yourself as you are [and not a superman]. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. That you are not perfect doesn’t mean you can’t get it.
Don’t try being someone you aren’t by saying wonderful but fake things about yourself in your application. When I received the scholarship invitation, I said to myself that WUR selects only the best and the fact I have been invited means that they’ve seen that I got what it takes to receive the fellowship. So I ‘only’ need to confirm that by showing my best self in the application. Lying and exaggerating isn’t necessary and won’t help with that.
You will probably face a question in the interview that can get you stuck and force you to ponder deeply. Trust me, I faced a question like that in my interview. I remember that before answering that question, I said: “That’s a tough question!”. Honestly, I said that to buy time to ponder before addressing the question. And the answer I gave after pondering on the question was so impressive that it attracted compliments from the interviewers. The interviewers don’t expect you to have memorized answers to every question. So, resist the urge to parrot out answers. The interviewers admire it when they notice that you think carefully before answering critical questions.
It is key to check the objective before applying. Check what the requirements are before applying for a scholarship, programme, job or whatever you want to apply for. For me, it was good to be aware that I couldn’t get the scholarship just by having the best grades in the world. I had to fit the purpose the university was seeking to achieve through that fellowship. In your application, you need to demonstrate how you are going to help the university to achieve its objectives. For me, this was that I am not only academically talented but also motivated to help build capacity in Africa.
3. Portray it
If you ask me, I will say that the strongest part of my application was how I demonstrated my points. What I mean here is that make your application practical and vivid so that the committee can see through your eyes. Instead of saying that you are hardworking for example, use illustration to portray it. We all enjoy reading stories, don’t we?
Sharing relevant personal stories is one way to make a good impression.
Another strength of my application was that I expressed a passion for my subject. Passion is attractive and it is difficult to feign. I have an unbounded interest in issues concerning urban mobility in Ghana and I exhibited that in my application. I can go all day just discussing transport issues. Thank God that during the interview they asked me many questions about mobility issues. The takeaway message here is to let the committee see that you have a keen interest in your field of study.
4. Set yourself up for the interview
Most interviews are done via Skype. Skype interviews are quite scary to me. This is because of the extra consideration that something can technically go wrong. Breaks in the internet connection, while you are answering a critical question, might be a disaster. Because I knew that the internet in my house wasn’t stable, I moved to a friend’s place for my interview.
Finally, present yourself well for the interview. Although WUFP didn’t indicate that interviewees should dress in a certain way, I wore a suit for my interview. With that said, I won’t prescribe a strict dress code, but think of how you would dress for a job interview and how you want people to see you. Your outfit can signal your level of seriousness. So, dress to impress!
I send my best wishes to you in your application :-). But hey, before you read the next post on this blog or if after the interview you feel like you have failed to answer certain questions perfectly. Trust me, that certain answers weren’t perfect doesn’t mean you won’t get it. The committee understands how stressful interviews are and so they ignore certain mistakes.