Masters in Psychology – Tips for your interviews
South African universities who offer Masters in Psychology will be inviting successful applicants for interviews as part of their selection process. WITS was one of the first universities to select applicants for interviews which take place early next week.
As I always say in my blog posts about Masters, I am not on a selection committee for any university and my personal experience of the process is limited to Stellenbosch University (back in 2001!). The reason for me sharing this information is that I realise that there is a great deal of mystery around selection. Aspiring psychologists often are instilled with fear about “not getting in” by university admissions departments, lecturers and fellow students.
Being selected for the interview process is a great achievement – well done! Your application showed the university that you have the academic and emotional potential to cope with the challenges of a Masters in Psychology. On paper, you are a strong candidate, so now you need to show the selection committee that you are an even stronger candidate in person!
What does the interview process entail?
Each university is different about how they structure their interview process. Many include a one-on-one in-depth interview, a group activity and a panel interview with the Psychology department. Some universities include role-plays (with applicants in a mock individual and/or group therapy setting). Remember that you will need to be the therapist (not the client!) in these mock sessions. Certain selection processes include psychometric testing and possibly an academic activity – this may be a written essay or research-based. The best advice is to find a student who has been through the university’s selection process recently and find out what the interviews entailed.
Tips to remember during selection:
- Breathe! Selection is like a job interview and with that, comes nerves. The best advice is to be as relaxed as possible so that the selection committee can get to know you better.
- Questions in the interview process may be around what you wrote in your application (your autobiography, for example). Be prepared to discuss certain aspects in more detail.
- The selection committee wants to assess you as an individual, but also see how well you work in groups. During a Masters in Psychology, you work closely with 8-10 students in your class. In a group activity, they will be noting how you interact with fellow applicants.
- As a postgraduate student, you need to show that you are able to think critically about issues or topics. They want to hear more than facts – they want to know what you think about the facts.
- If you do a mock therapy session, don’t forget to show basic counselling skills of empathy, warmth, reflection and building rapport. The committee do not expect you to be a trained therapist (that’s what you’ll learn in Masters) but they want to see how you connect to other people.
- Enjoy it! The interview process can be daunting, but try to enjoy the experience by connecting with other students and learning more about the university and their Masters programme.
Keep Calm and Carry On
Remember that not everyone that is interviewed can be selected – places are limited. Each person invited for interviews shows potential for getting into Masters. Many students are only selected after going through the process a few times. If you aren’t successful, the experience will help you be more prepared for the next interviews! Make sure to ask the university what areas you should work on to strengthen your application for the following year. Always have a PLAN B if you’re not successful – perhaps it’s an opportunity to gain work experience, travel or even lead you to a different career path.