5 Common Private School Interview Questions

Questions to Prepare for the Interview

Schoolgirl (9-11) in classroom, schoolboy (8-10) in background
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If your child is applying to private school for the older grades (usually fifth grade and beyond), he or she will have an interview that allows the admissions committee to add a personal dimension to the application. While each student will have a different experience during the interview, and each school varies in what it asks applicants, here are some common potential questions that many applicants to private school face.

Your child can practice answering these questions to be fully prepared for the interview:

What has happened recently in current events that interests you?

Older students are expected to follow current events and know what’s going on. During an election year, students may be asked about the issues involved in the election. To answer this question in a thoughtful way, students should read their local newspaper, as well as an international or national paper such as The New York Times (which owns this site), or the Economist. In addition, students can use this site to brush up on world news. Students should think through their views and speak knowledgeably about events happening in the U.S. and abroad. Many private school history classes require students to read the newspaper regularly, so it’s beneficial for students to start reading the newspaper even before entering private school.

What do you read outside of school?

Even if your student prefers to spend time on the computer than curled up with a paperback, they should develop the habit of reading and have read three or so age-appropriate books that they can speak about thoughtfully in the interview.

While it’s acceptable to speak about books students have read in school, they should also have read some books outside of class. Here is a list of books to inspire you. Students should develop an idea of why these books interest them. For example, are they about a compelling topic? Do they have an interesting protagonist?

Do they explain more about a fascinating event in history? Are they written in an engaging and suspenseful way? Applicants can think about how they might answer this question in advance.

Other reading material might include books related to a child's hobbies or recent travel that the family has done. These books can help the admission officer better connect with the applicant, and provides the student a chance to speak about specific passions.

Tell me a bit about your family.

This is a common interview question and one that is unfortunately filled with minefields. Applicants can talk about who’s in their immediate and extended family, but they should steer clear of difficult or potentially embarrassing subjects. It’s fine to state that the child’s parents are divorced, as this fact will be obvious to the admissions committee, but the applicant shouldn’t speak about topics that are too personal or revelatory. Admission officers expect to hear about family vacations, what holidays are like, or even about family traditions or cultural celebrations, all of which paint a picture of what the home life is like. The goal of the interview is to get to know the applicant, and learning about family is a great way to do this.

Why are you interested in our school?

Admissions committees like this question so that they can assess how motivated the student is to attend their school. The applicant should know something about the school and which academic classes or sports he or she might participate in at the school. It’s compelling if the student has visited classes at the school or spoken to coaches or teachers to speak in a first-hand, vivid way about why he or she wants to attend the school. Canned, clichéd answers such as, “Your school has a great reputation” or cynical answers like, “My dad said I would get into a really good college if I went here” don’t hold much water with admissions committees.

Tell us more about what you do outside of school.

This one is a no-brainer. Students should be prepared to speak eloquently about their area of interest, whether it’s music, drama, sports, or another area.

They might also explain how they will continue this interest while at the school, as admissions committees are always looking for well-rounded applicants. This is also a chance for an applicant to share a new interest. Private schools tend to encourage students to try new things, and sharing with the admission officer a desire to try a new sport or get involved with art is a great way to show a desire to grow and learn new things.

Article edited by Stacy Jagodowski