Heading westwards for university? Here's a few interview tips

By Susan Ramsay

Looking to go overseas to finish your schooling? Here are some tips that can help you get in

By Susan Ramsay |

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Your paperwork is in order and now your parents are going to throw you to the lions, er, I mean the overseas teachers or agents who will decide your fate.

While everyone else can help you with choosing the schools and filling in forms, you're on your own when it comes to interviews.

Over the years, I have helped many young people get into schools in Britain and, while no method is failsafe, here are eight things that can make a difference:

Do your research

1 Before you go to the interview, take a look at the school's website and pick out things that interest you. This way you'll have something to say if asked "why do you want to study here?"

Make sure you learn the right vocabulary to talk about your strengths - sporting or academic - that will make you a good fit for the school. It doesn't hurt to have a few rough ideas of what you want to say, but don't learn the answers by rote as you'll end up looking like a robot. Not good.

Be a believer

2 Confidence is key. You don't want to come off as someone who needs to phone their parents if they don't have any tissues in their dorm, so you need to appear confident, even if you're really nervous.

The key to this is to practise standing confidently before you go to the interview. Try striding when you walk, holding your head high, straightening your neck and breathing from your chest instead of your tummy. All these will help make you sparkle.

The eyes have it

3 Speaking of sparkle, be sure to make eye contact and smile. Particularly in Western culture, eye contact is important. If you avoid it, you risk looking weak, anxious and dishonest. Practise with friends, in front of the mirror, or even when you take selfies. You know your best facial expression - duck face is not for an interview - so wear it when you walk in.

Movers and shakers

4 A good handshake is very important. Wait for the interviewer to initiate or, if you are very confident, you can reach out. Extend your arm to mid-point and hopefully they will extend theirs. Hold their hand for a count of three seconds, while you look them in the eye and say hello, and then let go.

Don't go for a "bone crusher" or a "wet fish". A bone crusher is when you squeeze someone's hand too hard. If they flinch, you know you've gone too far. A wet fish is when you have little to no squeeze, and it puts the shaker off. Oh, and no locomotives! That's when someone pumps your hand either up and down or back and forth like a steam engine.

Dress smart

5 Your attire matters. Keep it simple and respectful - so no see-through material, very short skirts or high heels. School uniform is a good idea. Make sure it's clean, neat and not torn: you want to give the impression that you're hard-working, mature and responsible.

Don't fear the interviewer

6 Remember that whoever is talking to you is a human being. There is no need to be terrified of them. One way to control your nerves and to score some points is to talk about being in Hong Kong. If the interview is here, ask if they've been here before, or where they have been. Have a few restaurants or places of interest in the back of your mind in case you need to suggest somewhere to eat or visit.

Use your hobby

7 If you're just focused on exam results you're less likely to stand out. Everyone's got great marks, and a good CV, so make an impression by talking passionately about a hobby. Also, because you are interested in something, you will most likely have a range of vocabulary, which will help you talk confidently. They want to know that you will be able to follow classes in English, so you need to show that you can.

Any questions?

8 They might ask you if you have any questions so prepare a few. This shows that you are determined to be at that school. Try not to go over stuff that is on the website. This is a chance to ask about specific clubs or areas of interest.

A good one is: "Is there any reason you would think that I am not suitable for this school?" This makes them think about that, and hopefully give you an honest answer. If you don't get in this time, you will have some information for next time.

Good luck!