Tuesday, 10 April 2012

College Interview Day

I arrived at Jewel & Esk College at 0845 for my 0900 interview and at least 20 others were there already! I tried hard not to notice that they were pretty much all younger than me, but it’s quite hard to not notice when some of them have their mums with them, or are wearing school uniform!

I was feeling good, positive and reasonably confident, even if my subconscious told a different story. Last night I had my recurrent stress dream about missing the start of a race and not being able to run - with a new, added extra scene where I went to the loo and a hand came out of the u-bend and grabbed my bum!

When all 55 of us had arrived, we were lead through the building to a theatre space where we were introduced to 4 of the 5 teaching staff in the Health & Fitness Department, and the 1-year HNC course was outlined for us. First in the room, I walked straight up to the front and sat on the floor – I found it strange that anybody would want to skulk at the back but most people did, and had to be cajoled to the front so that everyone could get in the door!

There have been 200 applications for 40 places on the HNC course. Lots of the applicants were already Telford students who’d studied access courses in the last year to try to get a place on the NHC course, but we were assured that when it comes to awarding places, we were all equal.

News to me was that the college is to merge with two other Edinburgh colleges – Telford and Stevenson – in October, and as yet there’s no decision on where further health & fitness courses will be delivered. 

After a good while of listening, sticky numbers were distributed for us all to wear on our fronts. I was lucky number 40! With 40 places on the course, I do hope it’s a good omen!

The first part of our assessment was a short exercise to music class, lead by one of the tutors, Gillian. She made it clear that the point wasn’t to be perfect, but to throw yourself into it. Well, that’s right up my street, and the fact it was exercise to music was even better! Salsa moves, facing each wall, shoulder shimmies – I was in my element and grinned throughout. I suspect there are a lot of show-offs in a health & fitness class – but I couldn’t see because I was too busy being Up The Front!

Next was a bodyweight circuit with Simon – the meatiest of the tutors, and a graduate of the course. This was more challenging – squats, jump squats, press-ups, burpees and lots of static poses. Woah – I was wobbling by the end of those 10 minutes! Lots of the applicants had well-toned upper bodies and did the ‘manly’ option of jump-switching hand positions between push-ups – which is surely just showing off ;) Simon said he was impressed that nobody quit, and I suspect he wasn’t thinking too much about our technique!

We were split into groups according the month of our birthday – an exercise it getting us to speak to each other, but I’m not sure it worked. I was the only December birthday, which struck me as a bit spooky. 

Anyway, we were lead upstairs to some nice, modern, comfy classrooms with smartboards where we had a group discussion on how the fitness industry can tackle Scotland’s poor record of exercise and increasing obesity. Simon was to listen in to our discussions and assess us – he told us the trick was to keep talking and not be quiet. 

Most of the 5 people in my group managed to contribute usefully, although I found myself asking open questions, encouraging people to talk, and noticed that the others seemed to be addressing their comments to me – I didn’t *mean* to take on a tutor role but I suspect I did!

Finally, there was an interview booklet to fill in, with questions including:

“What is the difference between a health & fitness course and a sports-based course?”
“Where do you see yourself in five years?”
 “If you go to the gym, describe your typical workout, reps, weights, structure etc.”;

as well as a pie chart to fill in with details of your typical daily nutrition; a questionnaire to grade yourself on the type of learner you are (visual, auditory, kinetic); and a “fill in the name of the muscle, joint or bone” pop quiz. I wonder how many more of these I would have known the answer to if I’d done Higher PE.

Then there was a long and boring wait to be taken for a one-to-one interview with one of the staff.  My 10 minutes were with Mel, a former gym manager and currently teaching the course unit in ante- and post-natal fitness. She was very friendly and encouraging, and it felt much more like a chat about my goals and current work than a formal interview. The fact I didn’t have my 1989 SQA certificates didn’t seem to matter, she seemed happy enough to see my First Class Degree from Stirling University and my Post-Graduate Diploma from the CIPR. I don’t think there were many others like that around today.

I enjoyed my child-free time with a quick cup of tea in The Club – I’d been in the college for four hours and I was parched! I reflected that although the 200 applications for 40 places make it a tough course to get on to, I felt like I was the only one in the room who *really wanted* to get on the course – or at least the only one who gave that impression.

When I started my degree course in 1991, it was the only Film & Media course in Scotland (at that time!) and the competition was really tough. I later found out that the board had been impressed that I had Higher Physics, not that I’d been working in journalism in my year out. 

So, although it’s hard to predict what a college is looking for, if Jewel & Esk are looking for someone  smart and enthusiastic, who’s happy to throw themselves into any task, encourage others and really, really wants to be on their course,  they’ll want me on the basis of my performance today.

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