Your college interview

How should you approach your sixth form college interview and get the most from the experience?

Following my previous posts How to choose a sixth form and How to make a strong college application, here is some advice about getting the most from your college interview. This relates to Newham Sixth Form College (NewVIc) interviews as other colleges may have different processes.

Your interview is the most important stage in your application so far. It isn’t a test where you have to get the right answers. It is an in-depth conversation about your future, a conversation between two experts; you are the authority on what you want to do and your interviewer is an expert on what the college has to offer and what is needed for different careers and university courses.

By now, you’ve visited the college, studied our prospectus, researched your options and made your application. You’ve told us about your ambitions, your interests and your achievements in and out of school. We also have your school reference in front of us, which tells us about your attendance, punctuality, behaviour, achievements and of course your predicted grades based on your GCSE mocks. So we know a lot about you on paper but we haven’t yet talked to you about what you want.

The conversation will cover what you’ve said about your future plans, what you hope to study and your wider interests. If you’ve brought a record of achievement or a portfolio of work we are always very interested to look at this and discuss it with you. We often ask about your extra-curricular interests and what you enjoy reading and why. We might discuss particular aspects of our student development offer which might interest you, such as the sports academy, music academy or leadership programmes.

We expect you to be able to justify your course choices, to be realistic about what you need to do to get where you want to be and to be open minded about alternatives which we might suggest. This is a great opportunity to ask questions about any aspect of college life and to check anything you might be unclear about. There are no stupid questions, it is quite natural that there will be many things you’re not sure about and we are here to help explain things to you. We might even look up some university entry requirements online with you to check that you are choosing a programme which keeps the options you are considering open.

Throughout the conversation, your interviewer will be filling in the interview record sheet and you will be given a copy of this to take home and discuss with your family. This gives you some feedback on your application, highlights particular interests or talents you have and outlines the programme which has been agreed and any particular issues or conditions attached. It also shows how we’ve timetabled the courses in your programme as we always offer course combinations which are possible. Although we hope that the outcome is the right one for you, there is still scope for changes and amendments.

By the end of the interview you should have a conditional offer. This means that we are offering you a place on the specific programme agreed on condition that you meet the entry requirements, these are in the prospectus and will be explained to you, they are often a combination of an overall minimum average GCSE point score (eg: a minimum of 4.9 points to do 3 A levels) and minimum grades in specific subjects (eg: a minimum of grade B in Maths to do A level Maths). This offer will be confirmed by letter to your home address.

Your conditional offer is not a guaranteed place at NewVIc. If we do not hear from you again, we will assume you are not planning to join the college. To ensure that you have a guaranteed place, you need to do 3 things:

  • Formally accept the offer by signing and returning the offer letter to us (can also be done online)
  • Agree to attend summer induction* (unless you are going to be abroad)
  • Pay the deposit.

You should only accept your offer if you are serious about coming to NewVIc. Once you have a guaranteed place, we assume you will join us, we keep in touch with you and we book you in for priority early enrolment on GCSE results day and the 2 days immediately following it in August

We don’t expect you to make your final decision at your interview. We understand that you may be applying to other places and can’t make that decision until you’ve had all your interviews and offers. However many places you’ve applied to, in the end you can only enrol at one and you need to make this decision in good time. So don’t leave this too late or you might find that the programme you want is full.

Deciding where to study post-16 is a major life-changing decision. This is your future and deserves to be taken seriously. We will be delighted if you choose to study at NewVIc, but you must only do so if you feel that this is where you will be happy and successful. If you do join us I’m sure you will be – like thousands of successful students before you. But it’s your decision and our role is to inform and advise you, not to try to persuade you.

So we hope that you enjoy your interview and that it is a helpful part of your decision-making process. You should feel that your questions have been answered, your options are clearer, you are even more focused on your future and one step closer to making the important decision about where and what you want to study.

See also: How to choose a sixth form and How to make a strong college application

Coming soon: Induction and enrolment

*at NewVIc, summer induction is an opportunity to start working on your chosen programme and to get to know your teachers and fellow students and experience college life. We will set you reading and tasks over the summer which will help you to prepare for college level study.


About Eddie Playfair

I am a Senior Policy Manager at the Association of Colleges (AoC) having previously been a college principal for 16 years and a teacher before that. I live in East London and I blog in a personal capacity about education and culture. I also tweet at @eddieplayfair
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