12 Tips on How to Survive Your Admissions Interview

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Getting into private school isn't as simple as just deciding to go. You must apply, which means you're going to need to submit an application, take a test and prepare for the admission interview. 

Why? Because schools want to get to know you in person to see how you will fit into their community. They have your transcripts, recommendations and test scores to give them a profile of your abilities. But, they also want to see the person behind all those stats and achievements.

Check out these 12 tips on how to survive your admission interview:

1. Plan Ahead

The interview is important, so make sure you schedule one well in advance of the interview deadlines. This also gives you time to prepare for the interview and review some potential interview questions that might be asked of you, and give you a chance to come up with some potential questions to ask your interviewer.

2. Take a Deep Breath and Relax

An admission interview can be stressful, but there's nothing to worry about. Don't be scared and don't worry about how you look or what they will ask you; we have tips to help you with all of that. Remember: almost everybody is nervous at an interview. The admissions staff know this and will do their best to make you feel comfortable, at ease and as relaxed as possible.

The trick is to not let your nerves get the better of you. Use your nerves to give you that natural edge and alertness you need to present yourself in the best light possible.

3. Be Yourself

Be on your best behavior, socially speaking, but be yourself. While we all want to put our best foot forward when we interview, it's important to remember that schools want to get to know you, not some perfectly poised robotic version of you that you think the interviewer wants to see.

 Think positively. As a rule, the school will be trying to sell itself to you as much as you are trying to sell yourself to it.

4. Leave the Technology Behind

Always turn off your cell phone, iPad and other devices before you go into the interview and put them away. It is rude to text or read messages or playing games during an interview. Even your smart watch can be a distraction, so take a temporary hiatus from technology during your interview, which usually lasts only about 30 minutes. To avoid the temptation, leave your devices behind with your parents in the waiting room (and make sure the sound is off!). 

5. Make a Good First Impression

From the first moment you step foot on campus, remember that you want to make a good first impression. Greet people you meet openly, looking them in the eye, shaking hands, and saying hello. Don't whisper, don't stare at the ground and don't slouch. Good posture makes a strong impression. That goes for the interview itself, too. Sit up tall in your chair and don't jitter or fidget. Don't bite your nails or pull at your hair, and never chew gum. Be polite and respectful. 'Please' and 'thank you' are always appreciated and go a long way to indicating respect for authority and your elders and even your peers, should you meet other students.

6. Dress for Success

It's common for students to ask, "What should I wear to my private school interview?" Let's remember that you're applying to private school, and most schools have strict dress codes and high standards for their students. You can't roll up to the interview looking like you just fell out of bed and couldn't care less about the experience. Wear comfortable clothes appropriate to the occasion. Look up the school's dress code and do your best to align. You don't have to go out and buy the uniform itself, if they have one, but make sure you're dressing appropriate. For girls, opt for a plain blouse and skirt or slacks, or a nice dress, and shoes that aren't sneakers or flip flops. Use minimal makeup and accessories. Keep your hairstyle simple. Remember that you're applying to school, not to walk the runway.

For boys, opt for a plain shirt, slacks and shoes (no sneakers) work for most situations. There is nothing wrong with expressing your individuality. Just make sure that the way you express it is appropriate.

7. Be Honest

Don't lie or panic. If you don't know the answer to the interviewer's question, say so. Look her in the eye and admit that you do not know the answer. Similarly, if she asks you a question you don't want to answer, don't avoid it. For example, if she asks why you failed algebra, explain why that happened and what you are doing about it. Showing that you're willing to own a mistake or problem and are actively working to fix it can go a long way. If attending their school is part of your strategy for improvement, say so. Honesty is an admirable personal quality which schools prize in an applicant. Give truthful answers. If you are not a top student, admit it and tell the interviewer how you plan to achieve better results. Remember, they will see your transcript! Interviewers like to see an honest appraisal of one's strengths and weaknesses. If you can point to some challenge you had in your school work, for example, not understanding quadratic equations, and how you overcame that, you will impress the interviewer with your positive attitude and approach to life. This goes back to being honest. If you are honest and truthful, you will learn more and learn more easily.

8. Ask Questions

Ask questions about the school, its programs and facilities. Find out how it can help you achieve your goals.

Determine as best you can how the school's philosophy meshes with yours. Don't feel like you should ask questions just to ask, but instead, be sure to cover the topics you and your parents want to know more about. For example, you may be an avid linguist who wants to study Mandarin. Ask in depth questions about the Chinese Studies program, its faculty and so on. It's also important to do your research before the interview though. Don't show up asking if they have a soccer team; that's the kind of information you can easily find online. Also, don't ask a question that was already answered earlier in the interview. That shows you're not paying attention. You can, however, ask for more details about something you talked about earlier.

9. Pay Attention

Listen carefully to the questions being asked and what is being said. Is what you are hearing what you want to hear or is the school just not suitable for you? You will get a feel for that early in the interview. The last thing you want to do is zone out during the interview and not know what the interviewer said. 

10. Be Thoughtful

Think before you answer. Avoid mannerisms such as 'like' and 'you know'. Careless speech patterns can indicate a lack of discipline and general sloppiness. Standard business English is always acceptable. That does not mean that you have to repress your personality. If you are a free spirit, let that side of you show. Communicate clearly and convincingly. Make your points without being rude or overbearing.

11. Reflect

When the interview is over, record your observations and compare these with your parents.

Both of you will want to discuss these observations with your consultant later. Those recollections are important because they help determine which school is the best fit for you.

12. Follow Up

It's important to follow up with your interviewer once it's over. If there's time, send a handwritten thank you note to your interviewer. It will speak volumes for your ability to follow through and your personal sincerity. It doesn't need to be long, just a quick note thanking your interviewer for the meeting and perhaps reminding him of why you want to attend the school. If you're short on time, an email is a suitable alternative if you're on a fast track for decisions with limited time between the interview and decisions.

Article edited by Stacy Jagodowski

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Kennedy, Robert. "12 Tips on How to Survive Your Admissions Interview." ThoughtCo, Oct. 10, 2017, thoughtco.com/how-to-survive-your-admissions-interview-2773309. Kennedy, Robert. (2017, October 10). 12 Tips on How to Survive Your Admissions Interview. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-survive-your-admissions-interview-2773309 Kennedy, Robert. "12 Tips on How to Survive Your Admissions Interview." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-survive-your-admissions-interview-2773309 (accessed April 21, 2018).