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How can I Prepare for a Private School Interview?

Mary Elizabeth
Updated Feb 19, 2024
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In addition to the application, recommendations, and test scores, a school interview is often a key factor in gaining private school admission. It is likely that the family of the applicant will be invited to the school both to look around and to have a conversation, formal or otherwise, with an admissions officer and/or other staff. Depending on the child’s age, the admissions officer may hold a private interview with the child, or focus on speaking with parents.

A school interview can be helpful to both parties: it helps the school personnel gain more of a sense of who a child is. At the same time, since such interviews often take place in the school and may even include a school tour, the family can get the “feel” of the school much more than through its publicity material.

When students are old enough to be the key person in a school interview, they are often asked about their goals and aspirations, what they’re seeking in a school, their previous educational experiences, their strengths and weaknesses, and why they believe this school is a good fit. When parents are part of the conversation, they may be asked to describe their child and why they see this school as a good match, as well as what they hope will change for their child through experience at this school.

In preparing for a school interview, it is a good idea to explicitly address with your child what the expectations are. This conversation should include the etiquette of an interview, such as greeting, leave-taking with thanks, shaking hands, and appropriate dress, which will depend on the school’s style. If it is likely that your child will be asked questions directly, you may wish to practice, turning the topics in the paragraph above into questions such as, “What are your educational goals?” or “Why do you think you would do well at X School?” and giving your child a chance to formulate a response.

Two other important elements to bring to a school interview are honesty and curiosity. If there is a bit of the interview that is likely to be difficult for some reason, there’s nothing wrong with carefully preparing the best way to couch it. Instead of saying, “I got a D in French last term,” one might talk about the serious challenges of learning a language and how new approaches and techniques were now leading to improvement—if that’s the case. Besides being straightforward, showing an active interest in finding out more about the school is also a good interview strategy. You may wish to have your child practice asking, as well as answering questions, even preparing a list, if that might be less stressful than trying to remember.

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Mary Elizabeth
By Mary Elizabeth , Writer
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to writing articles on art, literature, and music for WiseGeek, Mary works as a teacher, composer, and author who has written books, study guides, and teaching materials. Mary has also created music composition content for Sibelius Software. She earned her B.A. from University of Chicago's writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont.

Discussion Comments

By anon287022 — On Aug 23, 2012

The admission process at a private school not only consists of an interview, but most schools also give assessments to students to help them make the admission decision. ERB is an institution that provides schools with achievement data to help track the admission of applicants, as one important part of the overall admission.

ERB has developed these assessments in collaboration with ERB members, school administrators, teachers and admission officers.

It's important for the potential student to become familiar with the type of testing that given for private school admission.

By sneakers41 — On Jul 09, 2010

Sunny27- I agree with you. I know it is so hard waiting for the acceptance letter. When I went through this process with my son, I checked the mail box every day. I was driving my husband crazy. But the waiting is really nerve racking.

I know I’ll feel this way when he goes to college, but that is a long way off yet. At least I don’t have to worry about that for a few more years.

By Sunny27 — On Jul 09, 2010

Great article- I just want to add that when I have taken my children to a private school interview, it is usually on a second visit. The first visit is simply to get acquainted with the school and learn what the school has to offer.

If the parent feels that the school provides a good environment for the child, then the parent might take an application and fill one out. Upon completion of the application, the parent is then offered academic testing and later an interview date if the testing was successful. That has been my experience, but I know not all schools are the same.

Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth


Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the...
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