Admission day

I had my Imperial interview almost exactly a year ago. It’s rather unbelievable that an entire year has just flown by… But it didn’t really hit me until the first admission day. About a month ago we got an email from the department that we can volunteer to help on the admission days, and I – of course – applied.

Admission day is a lot more than just interviews: the applicants are shown around the campus, they have lab tours and they visit the Pilot Plant, too. When I volunteered to help, I didn’t know that it would be this shockingly amazing experience. It was not only good because I could help make the interviewees less anxious but also because as I was taking them to the offices and watching them nervously chatting with each other, I remembered my admission day…


12th November 2014

I couldn’t really sleep, so I woke up at 7 am. Then I couldn’t really eat, so I only had a coffee. I had never been to the South Kensington campus before, so I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be late: I had to be there by 11.30, therefore I was already there at 10.30. Despite the common belief that the ACEX building is difficult to find, it took me less than 5 minutes. Nobody was there yet, so I sat down on the sofas and waited… Waited… Waited… Then the other interviewees started to arrive, and I realised everyone wears suits or formal clothes – except me. I read on some website that “on the interview day you should wear whatever you feel comfortable in” hence I was wearing a blue hoodie, jeans and red training shoes… It was soooo embarrassing! I tried to be as invisible as possible, but you can’t possibly disappear in red shoes…


When I was looking at the students this year, they were all wearing formal. I think I was the first and last one who thought red trainers are a good choice for an interview in Imperial…


After we got our “welcome packs” (a folder with all the useful information about Imperial, accommodation, the course and the admission day), we went into a lecture theatre to listen to a “welcome talk”. That lecture theatre was the most high-tech classroom I have ever been to: two projectors, six whiteboards, 150 chairs, audio system, everything was clean and white, it looked all professional, it all looked an “excellent place to study”. 


This is the ACEX250 lecture theatre, where I spend 50% of my life these days. I still like it, I love to be the first one to enter the room in the morning, because the lights are motion sensing and it’s funny to be the one who illuminates the whole room… There is only one unfavourable thing about it: the temperature. Even if it’s warm outside I have to bring a coat, because I would freeze to death during four lectures. It’s so cold one could say it converges to 0K from below…


The welcome talk was very impressive. I wanted to study in Imperial more and more minute by minute. Finding out new things about the course, the department, Imperial, the opportunities after graduation – I was astonished. Suddenly I realised I can’t mess up my interview because this is where I want to belong, Imperial is the most awesome place I had ever come across. And that realisation made me even more nervous…


In the past couple of admission days, I was watching the faces of the interviewees when they left the lecture theatre after this welcome talk. They looked amused and nervous: just as I did last year. The only difference is that they were talking with each other, while I was just following the crowd in silence and embarrassment due to my red training shoes…


The next thing was the free food. Yes, there is free lunch on the admission day 🙂 We had about half an hour to eat some food and ask some questions from the first/second year students who were there. I talked with some of them and I got even more nervous… I looked around the room full of top students from all over the world, and I started to lose the faith that I would ever get an offer from any UK university. Everyone looked so much smarter than me (red trainers weren’t helping…) and they were all talking about super-intelligent stuff and I could only understand half of what they said because of my poor English. This was the first day when I had to speak English for longer than an hour. It was exhausting – I had to concentrate really hard to understand what others said and I had to ask them to repeat it again a thousand times. After a while I gave up: I was just smiling, nodding and hoping it was not a question…


Being on the other side is better than I thought. Now that I was that first year student who walked around, mingled and answered the questions, I could see how nervous I could have been last year. I was trying to tell jokes and make them loosen up but I knew that’s an impossible mission. Most of them asked about the interview, a few of them about studying and during the three admission days I took part in I only had one question asking about how much free time I have…


After the free lunch, we started the tours. First we had a campus tour: we saw the library, Beit Hall, Princess Gardens, Ethos, the usual stuff. Then we had the long-awaited Pilot Plant tour! I think I fell in love with Imperial definitely on that tour. Our lovely Pilot Plant is such an amazing place, it’s a state-of-the-art carbon capture plant where we can practice all the skills we will need in real life. It’s a very unique thing and a huge opportunity for Imperial students. And you can make amazing selfies in those hardhats 😀 After that we also had a lab tour where they demonstrated some experiments we would do in second year.


To be honest, Pilot Plant is still the coolest thing in Imperial. Every morning when I enter the ACEX building, the first thing I see is the super-modern control room with these huge screens and colourful charts. We will have a longer Pilot Plant project next year, but we have already had an introductory session when we had to find all the heat exchangers. And there was also a competition for the best selfies…

Pilot Plant <3

Finally, we had our interviews… My interview was on the 6th floor of the Roderic Hill building – in other words: at the end of the world. It took us 5 minutes to get there and my nervousness started to increase exponentially. When I entered the room I didn’t really know what will happen, I had never been in an interview before. And I was still in my red trainers! The professor was very friendly, he asked a few technical questions (I couldn’t answer the first one…) and then the rest was more personal: he asked me about my motivations, plans after graduation, my family, my high school, these kind of things. Overall, it was a very nice experience, and I shouldn’t have worried at all! When I went back to the common room (after getting lost in the building about three times), I asked the other interviewees about their interviews. I realised all interview was different, because every professor asked their own set of questions. Some of them were more maths-focused, others were physics-related. But everyone said it went terrible, and nobody was satisfied with their performance…


After one year, I see my interview from a different perspective. It was more about testing my motivations and that I am really as enthusiastic as I said in my personal statement and less about technical skills. So, for all those prospective interviewees out there: don’t worry! If you get an interview invitation, you are on the right track! The funniest experience on the admission days was when I had to take students to the exact same office where I had my interview, to the exact same professor who interviewed me and who is now my personal tutor. It was hilarious, because I could see myself in all those students, in all those worried faces, and also in all those relieved faces after the interviews.


After speaking with quite a few interviewees, I wanted to call my family. But when I switched on my phone, there were two new emails on it: one from the University of Birmingham giving me a conditional offer and another one from the University of Cambridge inviting me for an interview. I could have thought: OMG!!! But at that very moment there was only one thing in my mind: sleeping. I spent an awfully long day speaking solely in English (which gave me a decent headache) and I had my first ever interview, so many things happened, so many new experiences… I was so tired I almost took the tube in the other direction… On the way home I was trying not to think of the results, but it was really difficult. I wanted to get an offer from Imperial really badly, but I didn’t know if they found my interview and my personal statement good enough to give me one. Would I get one? Wouldn’t I? Before that day I was nervous because of the interview. But almost immediately after that, I started to worry about the offer…


Well, it’s quite obvious I indeed got an offer from Imperial after all… 😀 I will never forget that day: I just finished a terrible interview in Cambridge when I checked my phone and there was an email from Imperial, saying:

Dear Dora Petra!

Having met you and assessed your application, we are convinced that you would do well in our Chemical Engineering course. Admissions are extremely competitive and the course is oversubscribed by nearly a factor of ten. We are therefore delighted to be in a position to make you an offer and congratulate you.

2 comments for “Admission day

  1. Veronica says:

    Dear Dora,

    Thank you very much for sharing your story during your application process. I´m looking forward to gain an offer for the Msc Advanced Chemical Engineering.. I´ve been so nervous about so many things… about my personal statementand other things I can strongly got identified while reading your post.

    Hope you can keep pushing in and hope to hear the news that you graduated as MEng.

    With best regards

    1. Dora says:

      Dear Veronica,
      Thank you for commenting, and I do hope you get an offer for the MSc course 🙂 You shouldn’t be nervous at all, I am sure your personal statement is excellent!
      Dora

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