There were a few letters.. and many many sometimes anxious weeks in between them and the various test phases. The whole application process, from the application I sent in to the acceptance letter, took eight months. Consider that as eight months of suspense.
In the first phase applicants were chosen based on applications which you sent in after registering online. In the application you provided basic information, grades (math, Finnish, English) and work experience, and filled out a health questionnaire. You also included a hand-written page about yourself. The paper sheet has no lines so practise your handwriting! A visit to a doctor and a basic physical examination was required at this point. With certain conditions you had to send in a medical history. I personally had to gather documents about my LASIK surgery and have a checkup at an ophthalmologist.
The first letter came three weeks after the application period ended. 1246 applicants had registered online, 1048 sent in an application and 507 passed the first round. To be honest I was not worried at this point. I have great grades from school, I also have a Master’s degree and I had passed this phase the previous time. But of course a smile appeared on my face after I opened the letter. The first test day was awaiting in less than two weeks.
The first test day was a half-day consisting of timed aptitude tests. The tests included math and verbal problems, matrix reasoning as well as spatial reasoning in the form of the dice test, (in)famous amongst all Finnish pilot wanna-bes. The dice test sheet was filled with pictures of dice, some of which had empty sides. Your task was to figure out which way the dice are facing and fill out the empty sides. Finally, once you had pencilled your answers to a few hundred statements determining your character (Do you ever feel like you are being watched? Have you ever had an out-of-body experience? Would you rather work as a pilot or a researcher?), you were free to go home.
The second letter arrived in three weeks. Again, I was not worried, but I guess you never know until the fat lady sings. Anyway, the next test day was in two weeks, in the end of November 2011. About half of the 507 applicants were still in the game.
The second test day was a full day filled with computer-based testing. The day started with a multitasking test where you handled four tasks at the same time. During the day you got to use your memory a lot, handle joysticks, stare at a moving dot for half an hour, do some more matrix and spatial reasoning, AND answer a few hundred statements determining your character. After that you filled out some forms with personal information and wrote an essay about yourself. It was a long day, but I enjoyed it quite much, like I did the previous time.
So here I was, at the point where my journey ended the previous time. Waiting for the invitation for the interview. The letter came about a month later just before Christmas. I was anxious. I opened the letter and read the line “You have been chosen…” I have rarely felt that kind of joy and relief. The interview was to be held in three weeks in January 2012. I knew I had to ace this.
The interviews were held for three applicants at a time. It was nice to meet fellow applicants at this point. We were all chasing the same dream and you only wished the best for the others too. There were two interviews, one with a psychologist and one with four pilots. An hour was reserved for each. I had my interview with the psychologist first. If you have ever been interviewed by a psychologist you know not to expect too much reaction from them. At first I was presented a few situational problems and I had to explain what I would do. After that it was pretty much a basic interview about yourself, your motives and your goals. I felt I was able to communicate everything I wanted to and the interview felt a success. Next up were the pilots. They were four nice gentlemen. They sat behind a desk across from me. You might think it was an intimidating situation, but it was a very relaxed session. Again we discussed my motives and goals and myself, why I wanted to become a pilot and pretty much everything. Actually nearly an hour and a half passed. The other guys wondered what took me so long. I felt pretty good after I left.
Six long weeks after the interviews came the next letter. It was a pleasant letter. I had now passed all the test phases. Next up was the thorough medical examination. It was to be in mid-March, in four weeks. But I felt good at this point. I had qualified. Now I just had to pass the medical. I was so proud of myself.