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.