This article is mainly aimed towards the UK Higher Education system - application to acceptance. Therefore there might be some things included that don't necessarily apply, or lack substance, when compared to other countries. I have tried to make it as general as possible, in the hope that everyone reading will find some use of the content.
For previous articles in this series, in their respective order, please follow the links: Selecting Area of Study Choosing your University
Interview overviewInterviews. They're a necessary part of any application process. Many of you will be familiar with job interviews; Google defines it as "an oral examination of an applicant for a job." It takes place against other similar candidates, in order to select a suitable candidate for any number of positions. An interview for University is similar, although slightly more forgiving as you are applying for one of many spots on a course.
It is difficult in this article to not stray into general interview techniques. I will be providing a broad overview of what is to be expected, as well as how to act, but the subject has been explained to death on the Internet. A quick Google search will turn up answers to these sorts of questions.
PresentationPresentation is your main focus here, and this breaks down into 2 areas: You, and Your Work. Let's start with 'you'. Even though there is a bit less pressure placed on this type of interview, it shouldn't be taken lightly. You want this spot on the course, and you need to show this through enthusiasm and passion. Even if tomorrow, you decide it's not necessarily the University for you; it is always good to get them to want you, in case you need a fall-back option. You need to display a number of qualities from the moment you meet your tutor, to the end of the Interview: Appearance, Attitude, Confidence, Commitment and Passion. Appearance You need to go dressed appropriately. Pick something that is smart, but casual. Make sure you've taken pride in your appearance. This will show that you take yourself seriously, which means you are more likely to take your course seriously. Unless you have an outstanding portfolio of work/grades that will set you apart from the rest of the crowd, you need to do everything you can to impress.
A suit is not something that is required, as you will not likely be turning up to lectures in one, however, bear in mind that the higher up the league table the University, the more appropriately you will need to dress.Attitude and Confidence These two areas are somewhat linked, so I will treat them as such for the purposes of the article. In order to display to an Interviewer that you are the right person for the course, you will need to display a lot of confidence, as well as a good attitude towards hard work. Whilst some could argue that this is what your portfolio shows, you don't want to hinge entirely on that. What if your interviewer doesn't understand a certain piece of work? What if you've not tried explaining it to a person that won't grasp it right away? It's easy to convey it to peers/teachers who you are currently working with, but this level of explanation might not be enough for someone who hasn't seen it before. This is where the aspect of confidence comes in; being able to explain, not only your body of work, but yourself as an ideal student. If you can't talk about your work confidently, then trust me, it is much more difficult to talk about yourself. However, confidence is a double-edged blade. The right amount can work wonders, but there is a point where too much becomes arrogance, and this gives off the wrong Attitude. Be respectful! I cannot stress this enough, but your tutor is an experienced professional with years behind them, in their particular field. They have either come directly from the Industry, or have taught many students in the years before. Nothing gives off the worst impression by showing a lack of respect, not just to them, but also to your willingness to work. If they think that you're likely to have the wrong attitude to work, they are much less likely to take you on, as this could also affect the attitude of the other students. Commitment Your commitment to your course can be shown in many factors occurring on the day of your interview; from your arrival time, to greeting your interviewer, to asking questions and even saying goodbye. These, and many more, are all important factors that need to be taken into consideration. Whilst it is impossible to list these all, as long as you follow the advice for the previous qualities, you will surely show that you are willing to be a committed student. Passion And last, but by no means least, Passion. Interviewers love to see passion; it shows that a potential student will be more committed to achieving. Passion is unbound enthusiasm, it is what can save a bad interview from going worse. It might turn the odds in your favour, even if your subject knowledge is less than that of others. How passionate you are is not something that can really be taught, it can be overcompensated for and essentially faked, but that will eventually wear off when the work gets hard. It comes from your desire to want to do the course, and if you are feeling unsure of it at around this stage, it might not be the course for you. Still, attend the interview, you can ask questions about the aspects of the course you might not know about, and find out more about the ones you do. It might make you fall more in love with the idea of being a programmer, designer or an artist.
Your PortfolioNow that we have honed you into an Interview machine, let's take a look at your portfolio; your body of work that defines you, that shows your capability for the subject area. What we've talked about so far can be applied to your work. Any examples of your work, whether they are hobbyist or portfolio pieces, can speak volumes about you as a student. I answered a question on the forums a while back, about a student writing his/her personal statement. In doing so, I drew from my own experiences and advice given to me, and found that there were 4 HUGE benefits to what bringing your own work can demonstrate. This is especially true if the work was done in your spare time! The four benefits are your ability towards:
- Overcoming learning hurdles
- Identify faults/improvements
What you should bringNow that I've talked about the general points of bringing your own work, I'll quickly mention what you could bring, based on the type of course you're applying for. Programming If you want to be a programmer, bring along any examples of software you have made. They can be small 'I messed around with [insert Programming Language here] demo' to single level 2D games. As long as you know it will run on any machine, and bring along the source code with you, then these will make a good impression. As a side note: not every university will essentially be looking for additional programming work, if you have a solid background/grades in Mathematics, Sciences, Computing or any other relevant areas then this can, and should be, enough in a lot of cases to see you through. The additional work will aid in your chances.
It is important with executable files, to test it on as many machines of differing specifications as possible. There is nothing worse than turning up with a demo, only for it not to run. If there is a risk that your software might not run, make a video of the main features, and make sure that you have your source code, in a ready-to-show format.Art For artists it is mostly a requirement that you have a body of work for these sorts of interviews. You need to show the ability to draw, to be creative, that you have a good understanding of the human form/anatomy. Depending on the course, you might also be required to show skills with electronic art software such as Photoshop, In-Design, 3D Modelling Suites and the like. If you have done any work using these programs, then now is a good time to show it, and the techniques used in creating it. Design To be a designer is to have an understanding and appreciation of the above two areas, as well as all other apsects about games in general. It is difficult to define this one, as there are so many Game Design courses nowadays, and the level of content can vary wildly from one to the next. One good piece would be a presentation of a game idea that you have. You could define its genre, the main characters, a general plot and how the game will play. You could also include aspects of similar games, or games with similar mechanics; show what they did well that could be adapted to your idea, show what you might improve on. This shows you have ideas that are not necessarily tied to one specific genre/mechanic, and have an appreciation of the processes involved in game making. For a solid presentation, try to incorporate a couple of self-made art pieces, maybe of the main character, or a logo. Even if they aren't great, they help to convey the concept better, and that's a big part of Design.
ConclusionThe topic of how to tackle interviews is incredibly subjective. It all comes down to what you are interviewing for, who the interviewer is and what is required in the way of preparation. My aim with this article was to give prospective University Interviewees a general overview of what to expect, as well as a springboard to find out more information. My best advice; talk to the University. If you are unsure, or a letter for interview is vague, call them back, find out what they want from you on the day, and make sure you are as prepared as you can be. This is your chance to have a complete one on one with a course tutor, to show yourself off to the best of your ability. This is your last step in making the very best impression you can, to lead into a University degree programme. Finally, I hope you have enjoyed reading these articles, as much as I enjoyed writing them. Whilst I will not be writing any more sequenced entries, there might be a point where additional topics may be covered. Think of them as 'Bonus' entries. Once again, thank you.
Article Update Log16 June 2014:
- Initial release
- Added article image; under licence from Ajari: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25766289@N00/3898591046/ , sourced from Wikimedia: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Heiwa_elementary_school_18.jpg