Hello! My name is Elishna and I study French and Latin at the University of Cambridge. This means I got to have two different interview experiences and so as you can imagine I was terrified as I didn’t know what to expect. However there are certain things I did which helped me enormously once D-Day came.
1) Take advantage of your teachers:
If you know there is an area that you’re weak in, ask if they would set you some more specific work or do a quick 30 minute revision session over X grammar point.
2) Be Passionate!
You will hear this time and time again, but there is no point applying if you aren’t passionate about your subject! So go to talks that interest you, watch films on the topic, go to themed events – whatever you are studying you have to make sure that the frustrating restrictions of A levels and the like don’t sap you of your keenness.
3) Practice, Practice and Practice:
Practice with people who will be brutally honest with you – people who will say “you are sitting to rigidly” or “stop biting your nails” or “take your time”. Even if you seem perfect I would recommend practice interviews as it makes you feel more prepared which your brain will massively appreciate on the day.
4) Never lie:
Don’t put down anything on your Personal Statement which you haven’t done/read and know what you’ve written thoroughly, even if you don’t get asked anything on it that’s better than being caught out on something so simple.
5) Don’t obsess:
This is perhaps the most useful advice I could give anyone as it saved me a ton of stress on the day: by all means read even more around your subject, keep yourself informed and interested, read your notes as many times as you feel necessary before the day BUT, the moment you enter that building put it all away! Distract yourself in whatever way you possibly can, I found talking to people helped me the most. In fact, when they called my name I was shocked at how the time had flown by so I actually didn’t have time to get nervous – it was much better than wallowing in the corner and agonising over whether or not I would remember to say X and Y point.
On the Day:
Once you enter the room your adrenaline will take over and you will have little opportunity to have use pre-learned lines, so don’t bother with that. This is where doing practice interviews comes in handy, because you genuinely do go on auto-pilot and you will forget the majority of what you will have discussed. I remember finding it challenging but weirdly enjoyable because I was finally free to discuss my subject freely and go on as many tangents as I wanted with this intelligent supervisor who knew her stuff more than I ever could. That would be the last thing I would say: the interviewers DO NOT expect perfection, or even near-perfection. They are merely trying to see how you two would get on if they taught you, are you enthusiastic and teachable, those are the only real criteria that they are looking for. If you think you know everything there is on their expert subject and say it all mechanically and uninterestingly, it doesn’t matter how great your grades are – who wants to teach that person?
So go for it, try and have fun with it, and above all BREATHE – it is all over in the blink of an eye, so don’t waste months worrying about it.