If your teen is in year 11, then autumn is college and 6th form application time! Once they have read through all the information about local options, hopefully, visited lots of places, and then submitted their applications, the next step is the interview process. I get lots of nervous questions about this part of the application process. Some young people even put off applying because they are worried about having to attend an interview. But it’s really not that bad, and a few simple things can help you and your teen feel more confident. So this month’s blog shares the top tips for college and 6th form interviews every year 11 student needs to know.
Top interview tips
The interview isn’t just there for the 6th form or college to establish whether someone will be a motivated student. It is also a chance for your teen to make sure that it is the right fit for them. The interview is (typically) quite a short meeting. 15 to 20 minutes is quite usual and one of the most common comments I get from the teens I work with is along the lines of “It was a lot shorter than I expected.” But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t prepare for the interview. So here are my top tips for 6th form and college interviews every year 11 student needs to know.
Have a conversation
It is a good idea to prepare and even practice some answers. But please remind your teen not to memorise a script. The interviewers know they will probably be a bit nervous, and it’s okay to ask for them to repeat questions or take a moment to assemble their thoughts. Encourage them to be themselves and give honest answers, rather than just saying what they might think the interviewer wants to hear.
Encourage them to do some research before applying. Then they can reread the course information and so on just before their interview, to refresh their memory. As part of their preparation, they should also double check the information about where and when the interview takes place. Then they can plan their travel so they are on time and make sure they have all required documents etc. If the interview is by phone or video call, check if the college has the right contact details and if they will need access to any particular software or an internet connection, etc.
It is useful to put a little thought into what they are going to wear too. Dressing reasonably smart shows that they take the process seriously. It is fine to wear school uniform or normal clothes. Unless of course they are asked to wear something specific, e.g., for a practical assessment as part of the interview. But they should choose something tidy, so ideally not their favourite ripped jeans with paint on and their oldest T-shirt.
One of the best things to help your teen feel calm before an interview, and shine during it, is to practice a few typical questions.
Thinking through some possible answers is a great start. However, if at all possible, they should practice with a real person. Actually answering a question out loud can feel very different from just thinking about it. They could ask a friend or family member to go through some practice questions. Or they could ask their careers adviser in school. Practicing out loud in front of a mirror also works well if they can’t practice with another person. It feels odd, but really does work.
Here are a handful of example questions to get your teen started:
Why do you want to attend this college/sixth form in particular?
Why are you interested in the subjects you are applying for?
What interests and hobbies do you have?
What are your plans after college? Do you have a future career in mind already?
What questions would you like to ask us about the college and studying here?
With preparation, it can even be fun
With some planning and preparation, interviews at colleges and 6th forms can actually be a really good experience for your teen. And a great way to find out a bit more about the college and if it’s right for them. And hopefully, these tips for college interviews will help you and your teen with this.
By doing a bit of research into the options, planning their travel, etc., and practicing some answers before the interview, they will hopefully feel a bit more relaxed and find it easier to be themselves and have a real conversation with the interviewer. Many students actually find the interview process helpful for choosing between colleges. And some students even find it fun.
And if you would like more support…
If you would like to get some detailed support on the whole college and 6th form application process including the interview process, have a look at my brand new “Stressfree College Application Kit”
Think of it as some digital hand holding through the whole application process. The kit is split into small manageable chunks, so you and your teen can easily pick out the information you need when you need it.
This mini-course doesn’t just cover the different types of colleges. It goes into detail on the whole application process, from making the most of open days, selecting courses, and completing the application form, to how to write a good personal statement, prepare for interviews, and make the final choices. It includes over 20 video sections, so you and your teen can go through the steps in your own time and not feel overwhelmed.
And so you can have the key information to hand whenever you need it, I have included downloadable/printable PDFs. These cover topics like great questions to ask at open days, a guide to writing a great personal statement, and how to prepare for interviews, including practice questions.
Year 11 is generally not the most relaxed year of teenagers’ lives (or their parents for that matter). The goal of this application kit is to make the whole process as stress-free and fun as possible by giving you both an easy step-by-step guide to the application process that you can work through and then pop back to whenever you want to check for something later on. You can find it here.