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How to Survive an Interview at Imperial College London

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When I got the email from Imperial College London inviting me for an admission interview, my first thought was: “Jesus Christ, I will get lost in the building!” Before that visit, I’d only seen Imperial from the outside, and it looked really scary with all that glass and metal at the main entrance. So I was really scared… But at the same time I was really proud. Imperial College London is a world-class university and getting an interview there means you are among the very best students of your age. So I booked a flight ticket and arrived in London on 11 November. 

Of course I could not sleep the night before the interview, I guess nobody can… When I got up early in the morning, I drank a coffee and took some vitamin pills. After that, I checked the tube service on the internet. I’d heard that it is advisable to get there early, since it takes extra time to find the Chemical Engineering Department inside the labyrinth of the South Kensington Campus. The latest update said “good service”, but I still left half an hour earlier, just in case… 

Arrival and introduction to the department

When I arrived at around 10am, with the map of the campus on my phone, it actually took less than five minutes to find the department. This meant I was the first to arrive, which was a little awkward. I was sitting there alone for almost 20 minutes, which was a little more awkward, and the program only started at midday.

I was quite nervous at the end of all this sitting-and-doing-nothing, because I just wanted the interview to be over. But the first session was an introduction from the “Admission Someone”, who told us everything about the department and the course and the lectures and the exams and the four years. Basically everything we could possibly need to know. After that, we had a chance to meet some of the current students, who told us that Imperial College London is a fantastic place, though even they were still impressed by the fact that it ranked joint second in the world.

The admission interview and after-shock

At around 2pm I was finally called for my one-to-one admission interview. The interviewer was a really nice professor who talked about his research and subject. He asked a few chemistry-related questions too, but at the end of the 20 minutes I felt like he talked more than me. I asked others about their admission interviews and it seemed like mine was one of the lightest. The others were asked about calculus and trigonometric functions, while I was only asked about the Haber-Bosch process. 

After all the admission interviews, we had a tour around the campus. This made me sad, because I thought I would never have a chance to study there after my interview (now I know this is only the normal after-shock feeling). The campus is beautiful, especially the tall clock-tower in the middle. 

At the end of the day, I felt exhausted and nervous, though I knew I would only get an answer in a few weeks’ time. And just when I almost started to feel a bit better, I got an email from the University of Cambridge inviting me for an admission interview there, too… 

What is the end of the story? I got a conditional offer from Imperial College London on 5 December, just at the very minute when I switched on my phone after my interview at Cambridge. And I’m now preparing to travel back to the UK to start my chemical engineering degree at Imperial later this year.

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Written by Dora Petra Olah
Dora is from Hungary and preparing to start university in the UK. She will study chemical engineering because she loves chemistry, mathematics and physics. She is also a huge environmental enthusiast. Do not ask her about the cardinality of number sets, because she can talk about them for infinity! She blogs about chemistry, mathematics, university and life in general here.

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