At the time of writing this post, I have just finished my shift as a Student Ambassador working at one of many upcoming interview days for prospective students at the Law School. Few Law Schools in the UK request students attend an interview, so it can be off-putting to even apply for those that do!
It is well-known that both Oxford and Cambridge are notorious at interviewing prospective students, but few other Russell Group universities follow suit. So, why do you have to have an interview at York?
I mentioned in my previous blog that I would explain what Problem Based Learning (or PBL for short) is. But before doing that, I should firstly explain that at York, my Law degree is very different to the traditional Law degree. We not only learn the law, but our learning process involves a practical next step of applying the law. Each week, we work within our student law firms made up of 12-14 students and we are given a problem that contains legal issues. For example, our “Criminal Law and Public Law” problem may focus around the issue of ‘should children be criminalised for their actions?‘ This problem would involve us engaging with what law currently is in a certain area, and also looking at what the law should be in that area. We discuss certain things such as:
‘Is the law unjust in that area?’
‘How does our jurisdiction in this area compare to others?
‘Should the law be changed to allow..?.’
These discussions within PBL are not only useful to help improve communication and debating skills, but they also help to understand other people’s point of view. Within our Student Law Firms, we will naturally have different opinions, so when engaging in these debates it’s really interesting to see others’ understanding of a certain topic. This is especially true when you get to debate with international or mature students who may have different outlooks on the topic.
So, back to talking about the interview. First, here is the guide that the Law School produces to give you an idea of what to expect on the interview day and during the interview.
The guide explains that the reason the Law School interviews prospective students to assess their suitability for the course. Because PBL is so different, with both group work and reflective learning, the interviews are trying to get a sense of whether your past experiences and you as a person are right for the course. The whole idea of an interview can see rather daunting, and I can admit I was extremely nervous in the run up to the interview, and especially on the day itself! But, the guide outlines each of the questions so you know what to expect.
There is a warm up question which you aren’t assessed on which helps you understand and ease you into the formalities of the interview.
The next three questions focus upon your own skills, and how they make you suitable to learning through PBL. In my interview for one of these first questions I discussed group work from my Duke of Edinburgh Award. I was able to address how group work went well, but in the same way, talking about how we overcame problems showed how I reflected on my experiences as well.
The next three questions are under the heading: Logic and Structured Argument and Creative Thinking. The best advice I always give relating to these questions is that there is not a right answer. The interview is focusing on how you can make a logical argument, supporting it, evaluating and building a counter argument, then reaching a conclusion. It doesn’t matter if the person interviewing you does not agree with your point of view, it’s about bringing your points of view across logically.
To give you an example, I will focus on a question the online guide covers, and show how the question could be tackled:
‘Should the government be allowed to hold suspected terrorists indefinitely without trial?’
- First, take a stance – I believe the government should be able to do this on the grounds of… public interest / saving lives potentially.
- Back up any points made – If terrorists were let free, then an atrocity was committed, there are serious consequences.
- Consider a counter argument – But, detaining them indefinitely, isn’t that a breach of their human rights?
- Back up points in the same way – What if it turns out they aren’t terrorists and they have been detained?
- Reach a reasoned conclusion according to what you have discussed.
Although that seems easy to do when you’re out of an interview, it can be easy to forget the pressure you feel when you are in an interview. One thing to note in any interview, but most definitely the one at York Law School, is that the interviewer is trying to get the best out of you. Do not be afraid to ask for a minute to gather your thoughts so you can express and develop your arguments clearly.
Throughout the interview, the interviewer is also assessing how you demonstrate PBL-related skills, such as verbal communication skills. This seems like another hurdle to overcome, however the interviewer is simply assessing who you are and how you work. Most likely, you already have these skills from other interviews or experiences through education so it’s not something you need to focus on. If you focus on being yourself, they will most likely just come naturally!
I hope this guide helped in giving an insight into the actual interview at York Law School, and if you are preparing for an interview or thinking of options of where to study, do not let interviews put you off! The interview day at York also includes a campus tour, talks from academics and an opportunity to quiz current students so it is not aiming to be a daunting or intimidating experience!
Thanks for reading,