How to make an impression

Look, I get it, it is an admission interview, you spent ages fillings in the application, putting the portfolio together and is probably nervous, but what can you do to help the situation?

It is that time of the year when Part I students are applying for their Part II course, and given the current economic climate, it is understandable that studying is a good option rather than trying to find a job.

I have been involved with Part II admission interviews recently and have the experience of sitting on the other side of the table. Here are some tips I would like to share with you when preparing for your Zoom interview.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

You spent ages filling in the online application, went through the pain of digging out your passport, exams result and probably spent a week to prepare your online portfolio as part of the application. It is a huge relief to receive an email from the University to invite you for an interview via Zoom / MS Team. 

Before the big day, you should do the following prep work to ensure a smooth interview. These include,

  • Check and test out your internet connection! I know this sounds boring, but there is nothing worse than having technical issues when logging onto the interview. I have had students who appear on screen with no sound, then trying to find his/her headphone while I look at a blank wall for 5 minutes, or we were greeted with an upside-down screen and he/she sounds really surprised and bemused on why that should happen. On both occasions, the student panicked and got stressed, we were running behind and ultimately have to reschedule the interview. While I assured them it will not affect the outcome of their application, but ultimately, their confidence got knocked and will be anxious about how it will reflect on their chances to get an offer.
  • Test out your equipment and the presentation with a trial run beforehand, if your internet speed is slow, think of an alternative way to connect, i.e. switch off your camera before you share your screen or use your mobile phone to dial in while you are presenting to avoid these potential technical issues.
Plan A, B, C, D

There is likely a timeslot for your interview so you know how long you have to make an impression. The likely format for the interview will be split into two halves, the first half will be about your portfolio where you will do most of the talking and the second half is a discussion about you as a person. Be prepared and make plans for these scenarios – what if I only have 5 or 10 mins to show my work? Which project(s) should I be concentrating on? What if they ask me to start with my best project / best drawing? You should always have backup plans and be adaptable to the situation. There is nothing worse than overrunning your allocated timeslot where the interview needs to be wrapped up quickly and you feel being rushed and dejected afterwards.

 

Nobody can resist a good story

So you have your amazing portfolio on screen, ready to impress the panel on the other end. You start telling them the amazing library you designed on your third year, then whizzed through to a primary school proposal you helped to put together on your year out before showing them a set of renderings of the five competitions you have entered for the past year, all under 5 mins and you are pleased with yourself. 

The truth is, we have no idea what you have done for the past few years. What we want to know is why they were done that way, what influence your ideas, what are the important factors that drive you or what specific event has made you mad/sad/happy/inspired that influence your design decision. 

The bottom line? It is always better to fewer projects with more details and you need to develop a narrative on what makes you tick, what is the story of this building you spent a year designing as nobody can resist a good story.

 

Research and ask us questions

An admission interview is not a one-way conversation, while we would like to find out more about you as a person, it is also YOUR chance to find out about us. As you cannot physically attend an open day, naturally you will have questions about the studio or facilities. However, it is also important to do your homework and look at the course structure, taught modules and ask yourself if that is what you are after for your Part II education?

I have had potential students with an exquisite portfolio – full of beautiful and carefully crafted buildings with amazing details, then expressing their desire to further hone their skill for the next two years, only to learn the focus of the first year is dealing with complex social, economic and political issues within the city. This may be something that you will enjoy but it makes our job so much harder to be convinced that the course is right for you. So do your research and craft your portfolio and narrative around the modules that will be taught in the school.

Finally, think of a few thoughtful and meaningful questions to ask the panel beyond the ‘Do you have a social drinking club?’ (In most cases is a yes! Otherwise, how are we going to celebrate your amazing achievement after a big crit?) It will show you have done some serious soul searching and will make your mark among the interviewing panel.

I wish you the best of luck!

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