So, you’ve sent off your personal statement, completed your admissions test and have received an invitation to interview! Equally exciting and daunting, this interview will be the first formal interview for many applicants. Here’s my perspective on how you can prepare and how to approach it.
My admissions experience is admittedly a few years out of date. Do keep this in mind when going through this article! (As in, don’t follow my advice as gospel, do consult other sources)
What do the interviews entail?
(For the official answer you can look here on the Imperial College London website.
“Interviews will be held with academic staff from the department on Wednesday afternoons between November and March. They will explore your motivation to study mechanical engineering and problem solving skills. You will be asked about your personal statement and your written workings from the admissions test. Interviews will be online, or may be in-person if this is possible, for those able to travel to the college.”
Although your motivation for wanting to study the course is likely to be discussed, there is no standard ‘formula’ of an interview. This variation is partly due to each member of staff having different interviewing styles (when I did my interview there was even variation on the questions and focus from the same member of staff!).
In practice, this means some academics may spend a larger portion of the interview on theory questions than personal statements, or vice versa. From your perspective, this means you need to prepare in every area, even if doesn’t end up being discussed thoroughly.
Sounds obvious, but if you have written something engineering specific in your personal statement, make sure you actually know about it. You may get asked about these statements to ensure you actually understand it rather than putting a random concept in just to impress people.
It’s hard to predict if the personal statement will create any leading questions, but you can likely see points which could create conversation (e.g. work experience may lead on to career aspirations). These are all of course going to be guesses though, and my advice is to be aware of these possible questions, perhaps write some bullet points down. I would strongly advise against writing a detailed list or script. Not only can it sound unnatural but often there’s a tendency to contort the question asked to fit the memorised answer.
Maths & Physics
Always a good idea to brush up on your maths and physics concepts from school, especially those you may have come across in the admissions test (as the website suggests questions can be asked on this). Remember, it’s more important to relay what you are thinking out loud and as long as you are receptive to guidance and have a good conceptual grounding, getting something wrong is not a big deal. (See the list of topics on the admissions test here for a refresher)
General motivation (likely to be asked in some form)
Why are you pursuing Mechanical Engineering. Why at Imperial? Whilst you don’t necessarily need a detailed ten year career plan, it is important for it to not just be ‘because my parents said’….
To help, it may be a good idea to have a quick look at the course page at Imperial and pinpointing what aspects particularly attract you.
‘Mock’ Interview (Bonus – if you can arrange one, it’s great, if not, don’t worry you can still ace it!)
It may not be possible to replicate the exact interview, but you could perhaps request a Physics/Maths teacher to ask you a question in an interview style format. The exact questions aren’t (in my opinion) the point of a mock interview. It is more to ease your nerves, so you are more mentally prepared.
Ultimately, you will probably still be nervous before the real interview. But this should help in preparing you for that feeling and how to deal with it without being flustered.
(If you’re unable to get any Maths/Physics experts to help, you can always practice some general motivation/personal statement geared questions with a classmate/sibling)
Remember, it’s also your opportunity to ask any questions you may have as a prospective student. If you feel nervous, it’s completely normal and something the admissions staff are used to. Just take a deep breath, collect your thoughts, and communicate clearly from then on.
All that is left to say is best of luck for your interview, and hopefully I may see some of you on campus next October!