By the SMU Social Media Team
So you made the cut and have been shortlisted for an interview. Are you planning to simply “wing it” and “go with the flow”? For a university like SMU, which believes that academic grades aren’t the only measure of a student’s ability, interviews are a key stage in the admissions process. Whether you’re a straight-A student or have borderline grades, it’s best to be fully prepared for this important admissions stage. And who better to provide some insider tips than SMU’s own alumni and seniors, who have personally experienced—and survived—the all-important interview?
1. There’s no right or wrong answer, it’s more about your thought process
While it’s helpful to be a little kiasu (translated into English as “afraid to lose out” from ‘kia‘ “afraid” and ‘su‘ “lose”), memorising scripted answers to common interview questions might be counterintuitive.
“My take is that the interviewers are not looking for right or wrong answers,” says Henry. “Instead, they are more interested in how prospective students derive their answers, and what their thought processes are like. I believe the interviewers are looking to better understand prospective students’ perspectives and personalities, in addition to their paper qualifications.” – Henry Tang Ji Rui, School of Information Systems (Class of 2015).
2. Research and share your reasons for choosing SMU
Interviewers want to know that you’re a good fit for the school, and have done the proper research to decide why you want to be part of the cohort.
“Have a good understanding of why you would like to do accounting, and why at this particular university,” says Ronald Neo, School of Accountancy (Class of 2017).
He adds, “Be mindful that the University looks out for certain qualities in their candidates, such as leadership skills or active participation in voluntary work. Personally, I learnt that the curriculum is rigorous, relevant to the industry, and very useful in helping me understand the discipline of accountancy.”
Besides browsing through the university website, critically analyse your personal reasons on why you want to enrol in a particular school.
“Read up more (both in breadth and depth) on the social sciences, as well as on related topics that interest you,” says Lee Ci En, School of Social Science (Class of 2019).
“Prepare your answers for typical interview questions. You will be better able to leave a deep impression if you are confident and articulate. When preparing your answers and reading up on relevant topics, take some time to pay attention to your personal values. I think self-awareness is important. Don’t try to put up a façade during the interview, especially if you are unsure of certain topics.”
3. Open up and share your interests so that the interviewer can get to know you better
Remember that the interviewer will always pose general questions to get a sense of who you are. Don’t even think about mumbling pedestrian, forgettable answers and, instead, aim to convey your personality through your responses.
“Be sufficiently prepared for the interview,” warns Sharon Chan Zi Yin, School of Economics (Class of 2015).
“Make sure you’re able to articulate why you applied, your interests, your strengths and ‘unique selling points’. Demonstrate that you have a good understanding of the course/school that you are hoping to gain admission into. Have this information at the forefront of your mind, but be sure not to script or over-rehearse your answers. A genuine, spontaneous response is what you should aim for.”
4. Take the opportunity to ask questions and initiate a group discussion
Don’t think of the interview as a one-way monologue about me, myself and I. Instead, show your ability to engage with your professor and peers.
“I think prospective students should not be afraid to voice their concerns during the interview.”
“Instead, they should take it as an opportunity to initiate a group discussion. They should also remind themselves that it is a group effort, and not drag others down in order to make themselves look better. Through the interviews, we as potential candidates get the chance to experience being a part of a group task and discussion, which is similar to SMU’s learning and assessment style.” – Verna Goh Shilei, School of Law (Class of 2017).
This is also your chance to interact with professors and get that opinion about the course of study and campus culture.
“The interviews are also a chance for the professors and prospective candidates to get to know each other better,” adds Verna. “It is a great opportunity for candidates to ask any questions they might have about the school or discipline.”
5. Don’t rush to speak for the sake of it. Endeavour to contribute meaningfully.
It is natural to want to hog the limelight and stand out during an interview. But showing the ability to listen and communicate well is also a great plus.
“When the interview began, I spoke up quickly so as to be the first to give my opinions, but ended up rambling on about things that were not related to the article being discussed,” recalls Qi Ming.
“Thankfully, I managed to calm myself down. I focused on what others were saying, contributed to the discussion, and tried to give a closing answer that evaluated everyone’s points fairly. This seemed to impress the professors and I felt quite good after the interview.” – Lee Qi Ming, Lee Kong Chian School of Business (Class of 2018).
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