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Mock interviews and personal statements

(18 Posts)
ConfusedCathy Mon 02-Oct-17 13:10:47

I volunteered to help at my old school, reading personal statements and doing some mock interviews.

I'm an English graduate, and now I'm a journalist/author/editor. Apparently there are no girls applying for English, or journalism, or media studies, or anything like that, so the head has allocated me three girls applying for psychology. I know nothing about psychology. I did tell the head this - but he said it would be worthwhile anyway and I can do general questions.

I've now been sent one of the three personal statements and I don't understand it. It's ALL about psychology and what books she's read, conferences she's been to, theories she agrees with... I thought it would be more general. And I thought interviews would be more specific - I remember mine being about books I'd read and what I thought of them.

SO, I'm close to pulling out but I wondered if anyone closer to the application process than I am (I did my UCCA form in 1992!) could offer any advice or guidance on how to approach this?

user918273645 Mon 02-Oct-17 14:23:05

Very few universities interview at all these days, outside Oxbridge, subjects such as medicine etc.

ConfusedCathy Mon 02-Oct-17 14:32:23

I think they're probably Oxbridge applicants, user.

Chaotica Mon 02-Oct-17 14:38:08

I'm not really sure you can do this if you don't know psychology. The questions won't fit what an Oxbridge interview would be like at all. (Trust me, I know.) Can the school find someone else?

ConfusedCathy Mon 02-Oct-17 14:42:51

Urgh, that's what I thought, Chaotica. I went to a RG uni (before there was such a thing as RG universities, admittedly) and my interview was really subject specific. I imagine Oxbridge would be even more so.

Kez100 Mon 02-Oct-17 16:59:56

I was recently asked to do a mock interview. I'm an employer and was happy to do a competency interview along lines we do for staff. Then they said it was for maths at Cambridge! I doubt I'd understand the personal statement so I didn't do it. It's not that I didn't want to help but it's a big thing. The student could easily think that's what it would be like and I can guarantee it won't be.

Luckily I knew someone who had more idea than me, so guided him that way.

LRDtheFeministDragon Mon 02-Oct-17 20:37:33

I think you're right to be cautious. I interview (on the university side) and I think I would have alarm bells ringing if I had a child at a school that thought this was a good idea.

We don't ask 'general questions'.

We really don't.

We don't care what D of E gold someone has, or how brilliantly they've done in debating society, or what they think of current affairs (unless they're actually interviewing for politics or similar).

We care what they think about the subject in question, and how they think about the subject in question.

Students who think they will face 'general questions' about random shite tend to be wrong-footed and nervous when they don't face those questions. It is actively mean, IMO, to prepare students to imagine that university interviews are some kind of social etiquette test, or general knowledge exam. They are not.

I wouldn't have the first clue how to prepare someone for an interview in psychology (I'm an English grad like you, though more recently). All I know is that I would do more harm than good to try.

flamingnoravera Mon 02-Oct-17 22:43:44

https://www.suttontrust.com/researcharchive/making-a-statement/

Personal statements and their impact explained here.

user1469682920 Tue 03-Oct-17 09:37:11

Couldn't agree more - I would pull out. DD had a mock interview at school from someone in business who's knowledge of the Oxbridge process was from when he went through it xx years ago and who knew less than her about the topics on her PS. A very frustrating waste of time for her in a term when they don't really have time to waste (he said he learnt a lot though !!!!)

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 03-Oct-17 09:41:23

grin user, back in the day I had a similar mock interview. A patronising teacher from the boys' school (far superior, boys, obviously ... he made this clear) spent half an hour trying to talk to me about Philip Larkin, who was obviously the greatest poet who ever lived, and about the film of the English Patient. Eventually I pointed out I really wasn't that interested in Larkin and he said snootily 'and what if I told you you had to study a module on Larkin during a Cambridge English degree'. hmm

I think my reply was something like 'wonder why they'd changed the structure of a course that hasn't changed in decades'.

Twit of a man. Luckily he was so awful it didn't make me nervous so much as just annoyed. Needless to say my actual interviews were nothing to do with listening to people witter about their favourite poets.

ConfusedCathy Tue 03-Oct-17 09:53:23

I'm about to email the head and say I'm going to pull out. HOW ridiculous is it to feel guilty about it, and feel like I'm under-performing? Clearly, 25 years after leaving school, I've still got issues!

Chaotica Tue 03-Oct-17 11:22:39

I think you've done the right thing. It is awful interviewing applicants who are totally unprepared or expecting something general. The interviewers aren't setting out to be mean but it feels that way. The psychology teacher would do a better job than you.

BubblesBuddy Tue 03-Oct-17 23:07:22

My DD was given a mock interview for Oxford a few years ago by someone who knew nothing about what she wanted to study. The school didn't have a clue what it was doing. You are right not to get involved. This is why some children are disadvantaged of course - crap advice!

Kez100 Wed 04-Oct-17 03:39:13

Don't feel guilty - they shouldn't have asked you. Having said that, I did feel guilty too, but explained why (to the parent in my case). Its a specific kind of interview and so any help or advice should come from those that understand the current process.

Out of nosiness, are "mock" oxbridge interviews a thing? (like 11+ tutoring is). I would have imagined they are best attended with whatever the specific Uni open day advice is.

girlfridayoxon Fri 06-Oct-17 07:53:32

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

GeorgeTheHamster Fri 06-Oct-17 08:11:12

Oxford interviews are, as everyone else has said, entirely subject specific. I don't think you can do this.

I'm sure you could do a great job doing mock interviews for kids who need to apply for apprenticeships, jobs, or other sixth forms. But not this!

user1469682920 Fri 06-Oct-17 09:51:56

Agree with Kez100 - there is so much good information on Oxford and Cambridge websites as well as some of the individual college websites and admissions officers at open days are very open and helpful. That's where students and parents should be going for their info as it will be accurate and up to date. DD was so frustrated with teachers not knowing deadlines or requirements and telling her what it was like in their day !!

BubblesBuddy Fri 06-Oct-17 11:44:31

I agree that some teachers are woefully out of date and think that mock interviews are good enough. In fact they are largely a waste of time. It is useful to try and ensure the applicant is confident, feels comfortable in an interview and is well prepared in their subject and this is where teachers could help. At DDs school a parent was wheeled in to do interviews in a whole myriad of subjects. DD was furious and luckily we knew it was ridiculous. The school said she was lucky to have such help as an academic scholar. No-one ever evaluated if it was useful or not.

However the greatest problem with schools not knowing what is required is that for some students this is the guidance they listen to. Especially the more disadvantaged in society.

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