How To Prepare For Art College + University Entrance Interviews

I get emails from students all over the world asking for advice on applying to University and College, what to have in their portfolio and what the interview will be like. So, to help any of you who are applying, I have listed below some pointers, tips and advice. Please feel free to post or email further questions / comments.

Open days are a great way to visit a University or College, look around and get a feel for the place. Making the decision to study at degree or post graduate level can be very difficult but deciding on the actual University or College can be harder. Once you have applied, and have been invited for interview, make sure you are prepared.  


Look up where you are going to refresh your mind, look at their web site and go through all the facilities the University, or College, and its course has to offer. Get your travel sorted and make sure you arrive in plenty of time so you are not adding to any stress on the day. If the interview will last a day, consider staying over and travelling back the following day. Dress smart, you might not agree that presentation matters but you will feel more confident if you present yourself well. Go through your work, sketchbook and portfolio, selecting only the best pieces and think of what to say when explaining your work. And finally, make sure you can carry your portfolio.


Students spend a lot of time preparing their work to show at interview but this depends on the background of the student. If they are a school leaver then they will have had a teacher assisting them, if a Prep for HE student on a Foundation course then they will have attended workshops on this, and if they have been studying a design subject prior then they are probably well advised and prepared, but this is not everyone who comes for interview, we know that. I share my tips on portfolio preparation here so have a read and start creating your portfolio now. 


AKA: the applicant, the nervous student, the person armed with all their sketchbooks and portfolios, the person sitting awkwardly in the welcome talk right next to their parents.  

ADVICE : My advice to you is, relax. It is all going to be OK and you are probably really prepared, you have done the hard work, now is the time to show it all off. Use this time to speak to the person who is interviewing you. Ask them about the University or College, its students, the course, the staff, the way they teach and the way they expect you to work and learn, the projects you will do and the experience current students are having. Walk around the campus and check out all the facilities, ask for a tour if there is not one on offer and see if you can meet some of the existing students to ask them the questions you do not want to ask the staff. Take phones and note to help you remember, and check out the course blog if they have one.  


AKA: the person making the decision, the staff member, the person to show off to - but do not go over the top, be yourself. Be nervous, they expect you to be.  


They will want to know a little bit about you, why you want to study this subject, on this course, at this campus, in this University or College. They will want to gain an understanding of what you are interested in, where this came from and where you see yourself going.  


If you are applying for Interior Architect then talk about a building you visit where you liked it, why? How did it make you feel, do you know how style it is in, what materials are used, etc. It is good to have thought this through beforehand as it will act as an ice breaker and start the conversation moving along.  


Then the interviewer will ask to see the work you have brought with you. Take your portfolio, or laptop, and put it on the table, open and flick through the work giving a short explanation of each piece. Try to show a good mixture of work, medium and if you have large pieces or models then bring in photographs of the work. Do not undersell yourself, your work took you a lot of time and effort so do it justice and talk about it with passion and energy. If this sounds daunting and you would like a little bit more help, we are also offering portfolio assistance so get in touch if you want to discuss. 

Try to end on a positive note, show your interviewer that you are ready and eager to join the course. Then ask any remaining questions before thanking them for their time. Good luck with your interview and application.