Around this time last year, I received an email that stopped me dead in my tracks. It basically began like this...
The email continued on with the logistics of the interview (ie. where to park, and directions on how to get there). Up until that point, I did not know much about the MA CSE admissions process. I mean, yes, I had already done all of my online research and knew that there was an interview component in addition to the online application, but I did not know what that interview entailed, and had no one to ask. So obviously, I jumped online and dived deep into the Reddit rabbit hole, trying to dig up any possible intel on what I could expect... I didn't get very far.
If you are reading this because you recently received an email like this, congratulations! If you are simply curious about the interview process, you also came to the right place. This post is here to cover all the nuances of that interview, and my general impression of the entire process.
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS
Firstly, know that your interview occurs in the JICS building (aka, an old historic house, rather than the OISE building). You will go up the steps of an old house, and be greeted by current students. They will direct you to sign in, write a name tag, and then show you into a small room where a specific current student is already designated to greet you and simply chat with you. For this process of the interview, you have absolutely nothing to fear. There is no evaluation attached to this, and you can be as free and as honest as you'd like. This time is designed to give you a warm welcome, and to calm any jitters that you may have. I highly recommend that you use this time to ask questions, and to take advantage of the students around you. They are not getting paid to be there, rather, they are all volunteers!
You will be interviewed by two individuals (a faculty member of the program, and a teacher from the Lab School). When it is your time, a student will lead you into the office of the specific faculty member, and the interview will be conducted there. Now, this usually sounds intimidating, but trust me, my interview was very cozy. Don't be tense, because this interview is really meant for them to get to know you as a person. They will be asking you a variety of questions, like your teaching philosophy and your experience with children. Overall, I did not find any of the questions challenging.
After the interview, you will be led back to the room where you first started, and it is just one final time for you to ask the current students any lingering questions that you might have. It is also just our own way of making sure that you have been well looked after during the entire process :)
WORDS OF ADVICE
1) Be yourself
I know that this is always emphasized in every 'Interview 101' guide, but I'm not kidding when I say that the program coordinators only want to know who you are. For my own interview, I remember prepping for every kind of question possible, except for the most obvious one, "Why did you choose OISE?" Looking back, I have a million different ways to answer that question, but in the moment, I could only say what popped into my head. And no joke, this is what I said, word for word... "The reason why I chose OISE is because growing up, I liked to stalk my teachers on the OCT website, and I noticed that all my favourite teachers came from OISE." When I tell this story to my friends, they all laugh at the idea that a self-proclaimed 'stalker' made it into a program that centers around taking care of children. But the point of this anecdote is that the interview is really just for people to put a face to the application. They are making sure that you possess an openness and a warmth (plus an inquisitive mindset) to teach young children.
2) Assess the school, assess the program
Some people might be nervous while completing this interview (and that is perfectly okay!). However, I also really suggest that you take this opportunity to assess whether or not you think this program will be a right fit for you. Really think critically and judge for yourself if this is the kind of environment in which you want to spend your next 2 years. If you get accepted and you decide to come, this will be your home, and everyone will be a part of your community. Many programs don't really offer applicants this kind of an encounter, so really use it to your benefit!
PERSONAL IMPRESSION & CONCLUDING THOUGHTS
To be honest, I actually did not intend to go to this program (or even to OISE) until I had this interview. Geographically, it was the farthest away from my home, and I knew that I could have more French teaching opportunities if I stayed in York's Glendon campus from undergrad. However, I was pretty blown away by this entire interview process (from how welcoming everyone was, to the close-knit community, the excitement in the room, and just how much care was given to all the applicants). Obviously, I can analyze all of this from a marketing or a PR perspective, but now that I have been in this program for over a semester, I can definitely say that the vibe you get during the interview process is pretty much spot-on in terms of what to expect for this program. The reason why so many students volunteer during these interview sessions is because this day all left us with a lasting impression of our program. So if your interview is coming up, don't stress, don't worry about it. Enjoy the time, and I will hopefully see you in the program next year! Good luck!