So you have made your application and secured an interview at your desired university, now learn how to prepare yourself so you can make the most out of the opportunity with ARTS THREAD’s guide to the university interview.

Gaining a coveted place on a design course is the first step into a career in the creative industries. Many courses are ‘over-subscribed’ and it is quite common for some universities to have just one place for every ten applicants of more. To stand a fighting chance of gaining a place on a reputable course, design education expert Joyce Thornton offers the following tips.



An excellent, well-presented design portfolio is, for most courses, essential and you should give lots of time and attention to compiling your portfolio.

For information on how to compile your pre university portfolio read here.



Prepare by practising showing your portfolio to a friend or family member. Prepare some possible discussion points – scan the newspapers and trade press for current topics. Question that you are likely to be asked include: 

  • What inspires you and your work?
  • Who are your favourite designers?
  • What are your aspirations for the future?
  • Where would you like to see yourself in 5/10 years time?
  • What would you say are your personal strengths?
  • What would you say are your weakest points?


Be prepared for this last question particularly and ensure that you phrase your answer in a way that shows that you self-aware and capable of improving and growing. Turn what could be a negative response into a positive one. For example, instead of “I leave everything until the last”, say instead, “I have a tendency to leave things until the last minute, but I realise that by doing this, I often don’t do myself justice and I’m really trying to rectify this by planning and pacing myself”.



Ensure you know exactly where you are going, plan your route and make sure that you have a contact telephone number for the university/college so you can ring in case of unforeseen problems. Allow for the unpredictability of the weather and transport failures or delays. Have a ‘Plan B’ route.

Remember that many university campuses are quite sprawling, so that even when you arrive, it may take you another five or ten minute to get to the actual interview location. Don’t leave anything to chance. Arrive late, breathless and agitated sets you apart for all of the wrong reasons.



Nowhere is this more relevant than in the image-obsessed design sector. In any interview, image and body language are said to count for a massive 70% of an interviewer’s impression of a candidate and these judgements are made in the first five minutes of an interview. Plan carefully what you are going to wear, and arrive early.



Listen carefully to the interviewer’s questions and prepare to be asked, “Why do you want to study here particularly?” Ensure that you have done your research into the university and the particular course. Talk enthusiastically about why you chose it. Try to remain calm and recall your all-important preparation. If you have done enough preparation, it will give you lots to draw on for your responses in the actual interview.

Relax, but don’t be too relaxed, as this will lull you into a false sense of security. You should aim to create an impression of being keen with lots of energy and ideas, interested and informed about both your chosen specialism and also the broader areas of art and design.

Finally, don’t forget the simple but really important things such as eye contacts and smiling. Good Luck!


Text courtesy of ARTS THREAD: The online portfolio platform that promotes you to the creative industry worldwide.